When we were little, my best friend and I liked to play diner. We’d park my mother at the table as the guest and take turns being the waitress. “What’s your order?” I’d demand, pad at the ready, hip thrown out, snapping my make-believe gum menacingly.
Any restaurant worth its salt has plenty of options. But what motivates you in what you choose? On the menu of food values, this Examiner sees three categories: taste; health; and politics.
Politics concern social and environmental impacts. Food miles, workers’ rights, agricultural methods, animal care, farm size and ownership, and fair price to the farmer all fit the bill. Packaging shorthand might read: local, sustainable, humane, fair trade, vegan and organic.
Organic and vegan can also turn up under Health. Health-first eaters focus on the nutrition label and ingredient list. Priority goes to perceived benefits of macronutrients, fermentation, king kale, probiotics, Paleo, gluten free and on and on. (Health as paramount may be by choice or by necessity. Think deadly food allergies.)
Then there’s taste. In prehistoric times, Taste and Health were hand in glove as early humans learned that bad tasting meant poisonous. “The last guy who ate those is dead, sweetie. So those berries taste bad” (or whatever grunt syntax equaled same). Then in middle history, delicious almost always paired with dear. Today, we face a tempting sea of cheap, easily accessed, tasty options that are bad for you.
Every one of us has an order on this hierarchy of food values.
Mine has long been: politics, health, and then taste. The lingering trauma of being shaped like a fire hydrant in adolescence may have weaned me off of trust in taste. But for whatever reason, taste comes last. I got into food for politics – to change the environmental and social destruction caused by runaway food systems. And health affords me the energy and balance to do my work.
But my order is not everyone’s. Surfacing and articulating your order is important to your food journey. It also helps others know how to engage with you.
So this lazy Labor Day Weekend, while you’re lounging by the lake or the mountain or the kiddie pool or wherever – before the lunch bell tolls, think about your order and why it matters to you.
What do you think, readers? Did I miss some crucial menu items? What’s your order? Please share with us in the Comments below!