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Lara Fishbane, Slow Food Intern Summer 2015

{{ image(3740, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”:216, “height”:288,”method”: “img”}) }}In my world, lunch had always been a sort of vague concept. It was sometimes an occasion to meet up with friends between work or classes. It was sometimes grabbing something to quickly eat on the way to somewhere else, while completing an assignment, or during a dull lecture. It was sometimes forgotten.

At Slow Food, however, lunch is 1:00 pm. It is when full time staff and unpaid interns all break together for an hour. Lunch is not interwoven into the rest of the chaotic day. It is taken in its own separate space, around a wood table in the center of the office. And, at that table, people eat food, real food: tomatoes from farmers market, bread from the Park Slope Co­op, ripe blueberries and blackberries and nectarines, and produce of all colors.

I had become so caught up in examining the food system around me that I never took the time to look down at my own makeshift plate (otherwise known as a ziplock bag). In front of me at lunch on the first day of my internship day sat a sad looking peanut butter and jelly sandwich, assembled half asleep in the minutes between worrying about leaving on time and actually stepping out the door. Powdered peanut butter, jelly verging on its expiration date, and commercial bread I felt too sorry for to throw away. All with a side of industrial prewashed and cut baby carrots.

I had lived my life eating in a rush according to sales rather than seasons and convenience rather than wholesomeness. I could tell you a dozen facts about food insecurity and food waste and industrial farming, all while eating ConAgra food product with a side of Monsanto. It took eating lunch surrounded by a table of slow eaters to realize the blaring contradiction in this.

I have spent much of the downtime in my internship since my first few lunches considering why my passion for good, clean, and fair food seemed to stop at my plate. I think it’s a problem with rhetoric. In my experience, when we talk about the food we eat, we use reductive terms. Food is fuel, food is its calories and macronutrients, food is just food.

By using this kind of language, we remove the food we eat from everything it was before it got to our mouths. We are able to eat without thinking about the labor conditions, animal welfare, and environmental externalities of our food. The truth, however, is that a tomato is never just a tomato. It is also the seeds it spawned from, the farm it was grown on, the farmers who harvested it, the water used, and perhaps its processing plant.

It’s easy to swallow our food solely as the commodity it is presented as, but Slow Food has challenged me to take the time to honestly think about what’s on my own plate. For this reason, I have begun asking myself the questions that it’s more convenient not to: Where is my food coming from? Were there any workers or animals exploited in its production? Is the production of my food sustainable?

By asking these questions about my food choices, I am affirming my commitment to a more sustainable food system.

Although my internship at Slow Food has ended, I will continue to take a stand for good, clean and fair food every time I sit down to eat. My work will not end just because I am sitting at a dining table rather than an office desk.

Lara Fishbane is a Junior studying English and Economics at Georgetown University, passionate about eating good and sustainable food while encouraging others to do the same.


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