THE ALMOND OF EVIL

Roxana Bashyrova/Shutterstock

No one has anything bad to say about the almond. It’s high in protein, vitamins, and the fats that are good for you.  I probably have some in my mouth right now. Almonds are good = eat almonds. Unfortunately, as someone who lives in California, almonds also happen to be sucking my state dry of water, and this at a time when California is in drought. 

I’ve always appreciated people who can see life on a grander scale, people who can plan and execute a seven book series*, people who can read the patterns in the earth. I suffer from nutrition myopia where food is concerned, that is to say, I cannot see beyond eating based on my own health. And that’s pretty much it. 
However, I remember coming across an article from 2012 (don’t ask) featuring James Beard Award-winning Chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill Restaurant in New York, and a resident locavore. If you are looking for someone able to see food on a grander scale, he may be one to follow. 

Now, here’s Barber in own words. Note, he’s not a punch-puller:
“I’d like some to explain the phenomenon of the self-righteous vegetarian to me. I’m not here to say I don’t eat vegetables—I do, a lot of them—but, from a soil perspective, they’re actually more costly than a cow grazing on grass. Vegetables deplete soil. They’re extractive. If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the largest withdrawals. So without animal manure, where are you going to get your soil fertility for all those vegetables in an organic system? You are, by some measures, forcing crops into a kind of imbalance. 

Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. You don’t have to eat meat, but you should have the good judgment to relinquish the high horse. There is no such thing as guilt-free eating.  

What’s the definition of a healthy diet, the kind you can actually feel a little smug about? There isn’t one answer, of course, because it depends on where you live and what time of year it is. 

Good diets, like great cuisines, are filled with diversity—grains, vegetables and a smattering of meat (not big 12-ounce sirloins, but utilizing every part of the animal). The proportions vary depending on the region and the climate. But modern agriculture separates animals and vegetables and grains; we’ve broken apart the system, which means we’ve broken the nutrient cycle. So now you need to import your nutrients in cheap chemical form rather than using manure. We’ve allowed dinner to become less diverse, less nutritious and a lot less flavorful.” 

“True sustainability is about more than just deciding to cook with local ingredients or not allowing your child to have corn syrup. It’s about cuisine that’s evolved out of what the land is telling you it wants to grow. As one farmer said to me, Food systems don’t last; cuisine does.”

From the Wall Street Journal.

*Cheers to you, Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, and please don’t die before completing the series.
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