In order to live, we have to eat. So the choices we make about the food we consume are pretty important.
And yet, until a few years ago, I blindly trusted that the food I put in my mouth was providing me with the nutrients I needed. Of course I knew that eating cookies all day long wasn’t the best idea, and eating fast food for every meal wouldn’t do me any favors. But beyond those basic principles, I just didn’t think about food quality or ingredients all that much. Perhaps I just figured that in the modern age, in a first-world country with all possible resources, people who knew way more about nutrition than I did had guided food production carefully, ensuring that the end product I received was as good as it could possibly be. Who was I to question it?
Thank goodness for people like Alice Waters (pioneer of California cuisine), Michael Pollan (author of the The Omnivore’s Dilemma and more), and Carlo Petrini (founder of the Slow Food movement), who have spoken out with strong voices to say that in fact we must question where our food comes from and how it’s prepared, and that we have to take responsibility for informing ourselves. We can’t just assume that the decisions being made for us about food by those-in-the-know are the right ones. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there are easy or definitive answers, that big chain grocery stores and restaurants are inherently bad, or that we all must grow our own gardens and raise our own farm animals. But it does mean that we can’t keep blinders on and expect only positive outcomes; we have to be thoughtful consumers.
I read my first ingredients list just a few years ago. Today, thanks to what I think of as my “food awakening,” I hardly buy anything without checking the ingredients first and considering whether they are items I want to consume. I shop at farmers’ markets more regularly. I go to restaurants serving locally sourced vegetables, meats, and cheeses, and I enjoy ordering from menus that change with the seasons. I cook, if not from scratch, then with less processed items. And I feel good knowing that I’m making informed decisions that are healthier for me and my family.
Clearly, I’m not alone in making these new choices, because my options are growing seemingly by the minute. There is a movement underway in the American food industry being driven by the everyday consumer, now that we realize that we have the power to make new choices.
Well in order to live, we, collectively, also have to work. And as with food, we can’t blindly assume that the decisions being made for us about the way that work gets done are the right ones. Just because smart people in leadership positions say work can only happen their way, or because we have been working a certain way for a long time, doesn’t mean we must trust that what we are doing is best for ourselves or for our economy. Fortunately people like Ellen Galinsky, John Podesta, Ellen Bravo, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Jack Nilles, Cali Williams Yost, and many more have been speaking out for years about the need for change. But now it’s time for all of us to think more carefully about how we are working, where we are working, and whether there are more successful alternatives. It’s time for us all to have a “work awakening.”