Within thirty minutes yesterday, I found two completely different stories about food and community.
I listened to the first while washing the dishes, a podcast of the Kitchen Sisters’ “Breadbasket Blues.” They visited California’s Central Valley, where a disproportionate amount of the food in our country is grown, and where juvenile obesity and type 2 diabetes are epidemic. They examined the connection between community and health – no sidewalks, no streetlights, gangs, drugs, and wild dogs all contribute to keep people isolated in their homes. Often the only nearby source of food, and of employment, are fast-food restaurants; it’s not uncommon to have to drive over 30 miles to the nearest grocery store. A big help toward solving the problem, they explained would be more “environments that create a healthy lifestyle. Places for neighbors to meet.”
Now hold that thought.
I finished the dishes and moved to my computer. Browsing, my mind a jumble of thoughts about community resources (money) and food and social justice, Julia Moskin’s story When Chocolate and Chakras Collide in the New York Times caught my eye. She talked about the convergence of yoga and dining: yoga studios offering post-class catered meals and yoga retreats that include wine tastings and gourmet cooking classes in their schedules – and how this convergence is at odds with how Eva Grubler of New York’s Dharma Yoga explains “the true yogic path gradually and organically frees people of desire for meat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol.” Moskin goes on to point out, “One man’s woo-woo, of course, is another’s deeply held belief system.”
I enjoy yoga, and I enjoy eating – so I had quite a few thoughts on the subject. Judging from the comments (171) and blog posts referencing the article (3,764), there was quite a bit other people had to say about it, too.
There was only one comment on the Kitchen Sisters’ blog about their story. Talk about the power of voices . . .
So here’s the thing that interests me, and this is where “Breadbasket Blues” comes back into play, is that Moskin’s discussion, the easier one to ponder and weigh in on, is taking place at a high end of the socio-economic scale. Yoga classes range from $10 – $15 each. The yoga and dinner combos run about $75. A weekend yoga and wine retreat in California is $1000. Yoga classes, whether austere, gluttonous, or somewhere in between, are environments that create a healthy lifestyle. And this is a good thing. The yoga vs. foodie place is a healthy one, where people can meet with their neighbors. Follow their passions. Grow a business and earn a living. It offers freedom – it’s where communities want to be.
Back to “Breadbasket Blues,” I think of the children in The Cat and the Hat, who cried, “this mess is so big and so deep and so tall.” This is the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum where the struggle is for basic services. Turning open space into safe places for a community to come together and enjoy. Encouraging farmer’s markets and community gardens – things I’m fortunate enough to take for granted. Right now, there’s no room for woo-woo in the Central Valley.