Bringing It To The Table: Part 1

I am currently enrolled in a graduate course called “Food and Society” at Meredith College, a discussion-based course that focuses on the evolution of food, what the world eats, and the impact the agricultural and industrial revolution had on our current eating habits. I am only three weeks into the course, and I am hooked! I have been reading such interesting books and articles related to cavemen and hunter-gatherers, paleolithic nutrition, the agricultural revolution, and much more.

I wanted to share my latest reading assignment with you. I know, you are probably thinking that I am going to bore you with mundane graduate school information, but this particular passage relates directly to our shared interest in farming and local foods. I strongly recommend reading Wendell Berry’s “Bringing It To The Table,” which focuses on farming and food. Wendell encourages his readers to “eat responsibly,” which means that you eat with understanding and with gratitude. He states that

“a significant part of the pleasure of eating is one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health.”

Amen! I couldn’t agree more to this statement.

Check out a fascinating excerpt from Wendell Berry’s book, taken from the Chapter entitled, “The Pleasures of Eating” (pages 227-234).

“I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act…Most urban shoppers would tell ou that food is produced on farms. But most of them do not know what farms, or what kind of farms, or where the farms are, or what knowledge or skills are involved in farming. They apparently have little doubt that farms will continue to produce, but they do not know how or over what obstacles. For them, then, food is pretty much an abstract idea- something they do not know or imagine- until it appears on the grocery shelf or on the table.

“Patrons of the food industry, who have tended more and more to be mere consumers- passive, uncritical, and dependent…the food industrialists have by now persuaded millions of consumers to prefer food that is already prepared. They will grow, deliver, and cook your food for you and beg you to eat it. That they do not yet offer to insert it, prechewed, into your mouth is only because they have found no profitable way to do so.

“…The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical- in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.

“The dreamer in this dream home will perforce know nothing about the kind or quality of their food, or where it came from, or how it was produced and prepared, or what ingredients, additives, and residues it contains- unless, that is, the dreamer undertakes a close and constant study of the food industry, in which case he or she might wake up and play an active and responsible part in the economy of food.”

What are your thoughts on this passive and the modern food movement? Share your thoughts and opinions here!




  1. Exactly! It is most definitely “misleading and dangerous”. Berry is right on! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tammy said

    Wendell Berry is one of the original gurus. He understands that it is called “agriculture” for a reason. Our food and our methods of preparing and eating it do much to contribute to our sense of place. Moving away from home kitchen preparation to cardboard warming destroys not only our health but also a sense of community that was contrived from the way we eat.

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