We are what we eat.

A thought-provoking presentation on the role of food in our society.

The last time I used this title for a post was back on July 20th.  However, the topic then was very different to today’s theme.  Then I wrote about how the genetic modification of our food represents as big a danger to the long-term survival  of man as does the damage to our biosphere.

So this comes as a very pleasant contrast.  I am indebted to Yves Smith’s blog Naked Capitalism for drawing this presentation to my attention. As was written in that NK post,

This is a super presentation by Ray Patel for Michael Pollan’s class at Berkeley, Edible Education 103. The presentation and the question period together come to about an hour.  Ray Patel follows after Michael Pollan handles administrative stuff and then does an introduction.

There are plenty of charts, but I really enjoy the anecdote on Northern Malawi at minute 43:54 — too long for me to transcribe, so I’ll quote Patel’s closing line:

What makes it really sail is not just the democracy, but the joy which comes through people cooking together as equals and eating together as equals.

Bon apetit!

Published on Dec 7, 2012
Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist, and academic. He has degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics, and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO, and protested against them around the world.

He’s currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies, an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. He is currently an IATP Food and Community Fellow.

He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee and is an Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. In addition to numerous scholarly publications, he regularly writes for The Guardian, and has contributed to the LA Times, NYTimes.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Mail on Sunday, and The Observer. His first book was Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and his latest, The Value of Nothing, is a New York Times best-seller.


Raj Patel’s website is a great reference so do spend a little time wandering through the material.  For example, this item jumped off the page for me.

What I Did This Summer

By Raj on 08/11/2012

The good folk at Canada’s Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece called “What I Did This Summer.” Never having written one before, I thought I’d channel my inner 12 year old.

Cuzco, Peru: This summer I started to write a book and film a documentary with my hero. His name is Steve James. He filmed ‘Hoop Dreams’ which was about basketball and hope and disappointment and race and inequality and America. Our film is called “Generation Food”. It is about how we will eat in the future.

So I went to Japan. People used to live long lives in Okinawa because of the traditional diet. Lots of people lived until 100. Now grandparents are burying their children. They don’t eat as they used to. When the Americans came with their military base, they brought fast food for the GIs. Everybody eats it now. I visited farmers who plant crops on US bases. They did it so often that the Americans gave up and just let them do it. I ate goat sashimi because it would have been rude not to.

Won’t reproduce it in full as I haven’t sought permission.  So do go here to read it.  But I just can’t resist offering you Raj Patel’s closing words.

I have learned that: People are kind. Everyone has contradictions. Raw goat tastes funny, but it’s not as bad as Cuban food. The world is more beautiful than I imagined. There is more hope for the future of food than I dared to believe, against impossible odds. And it comes from unlikely places.

And after the summer, I was never the same again.

What a lovely sentiment to end on.

10 thoughts on “We are what we eat.

  1. Indeed, what we eat will to a great extent determine the overall state our health, I take care about what I eat so as not to get sick later from eating the unhealthy stuff!


    1. Please do. It’s very inspirational from two points of view. Firstly the content and the message contained therein. Secondly the wonderfully professional and relaxed style of Mr. Patel. And welcome, by the way!


  2. What a lovely sentiment to end on.

    Agreed. Although I had thought you were referring to the video that followed; and it was only after clicking on that that I realised that that was a bloody advert. I do hope that you are well rewarded for contributing to the general overconsumption malaise … :/


    1. Your observation does not go unnoticed. I think I have received one payment of about $112 for 3 years participation. My attitude was that the advertising would be providing WordPress with income as well and it seemed a harmless way to reward their fantastic efforts.

      But if I even sensed that it was putting readers off then the plug would be pulled on the advertising option without hesitation.

      Might just post something to see what the feedback is.

      Appreciate your thoughts, Paul


      1. Not entirely wasted! I say this because anyone who closes a rant such as you did is making a contribution to the world. For others who will wonder what I’m on, I’m talking of this:

        Oh, and if you (not you, Gail!) happen to be a free market fundamentalist whose ideology won’t allow you to accept that market inertia does in fact exist (which gives the lie to the ‘power of the free market’), I’m sure I’m not alone in thanking you for everything you’ve done in contributing to the rape of our planet to date.

        Rant over 🙂


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