Toni and I regularly eat a late supper. She works long hours as a social worker and I am always "on" with farmwork, housework, computer work, etc. I also get stronger as twilight comes on, what the Old Norse called "kveldulfur" or "evening wolf." This is nothing to sneeze at, as I am nearing 60 and being tired in the middle of the day is a common occurrence. Anyway, last night KUOW, one of the Seattle radio stations, had a replay of Michael Pollan's talk in Seattle on January 12, 2009. Since I read his last three books and Toni and I are actively involved in the same proselytizing, we made supper and ate while listening to his talk. Our menu hit several points he made in his speech (basically a recap of his latest book, In Defense of Food). There was the red wine (the French paradox), fresh Brussels sprouts and boiled potatoes (eat mostly plants), grass-fed hamburgers (stay away from corn-fed beef), homemade whole wheat bread (do for yourself), and pumpkin pie (take a cue from the Native Americans and adapt it to your needs). A wonderful repast - the conversation and background were sparkling.
Okay, now to a single crux point. One of Pollan's rhetorical flourishes was to ask, "How do we change the western diet without changing western civilization?" The answer is, "We can't. Nor should we." Western civilization is one of the major problems in the world. Over the last 40 years, as a "dirty hippie," street radical, homeless ragamuffin, ski bum, circus ringmaster, medieval armor-maker, archaeologist, word processor, law school student, grad student, anthropology instructor and now sustainable farmer, there have been several constants in my worldview. One of these is that state-level societies are the real problem. Clan-based societies never really marshall enough resources to change the world in such a dramatic fashion as we have witnessed in the last 150 years. Only civilization could produce industrialism. A return to tribalism is now being identified as a key to the conflict in the Mideast and the greater Arab world. Obviously, there is a pushback against western civilization, as well as an implosion since it just doesn't work. Ancient civilizations required slaves and our modern civilizations are built upon the energy slave of petroleum products. This will not last and civilization itself seems doomed. So . . . Is this a bad thing? I didn't think so in the 60's and I don't think so now. We can hasten the demise of western civilization by not eating a western civilization diet. The idea of eating as a political act has been hammered to death over the years, but it still survives. Like tribal and clan culture, eating food (not food-like products) will survive the collapse of western civilization. Many people look for a seamless transition from our current troubles to a localized community. It's not likely, so amongst the joy of eating good food, we should keep our wits about us and try not to get hit by the debris of the crumbling western empires.