In the days of the Baconator, Wendy’s ticket to a triple bypass, and KFC’s Double Down, where the bun has been replaced with two fried chicken breasts clasping cheese and, what else, bacon, Indianapolis eaters are asking, “Where have we gone wrong?” The Indiana Humanities Council stirred up conversation over dinner at 15 different locations on all parts of town to discuss food in our home state. Chew On This was a trial experience for members of our Indy community to listen and be heard. Indiana has had a bad reputation for being the home of “hicks”. The Humanities Council wants to change our bad rap and turn to our strengths in agriculture, education, and artisanal foods for help.
I had the pleasure of participating in one of the free pitch-ins (or carry-ins as I grew up calling them) at the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. There I met 10 welcoming strangers who, after sharing great home-cooked food and engaging conversation, became fellow food comrades. Our heartfelt menu that evening consisted of vegetarian lasagna, a leafy salad, roasted fresh asparagus, a snap pea and pasta salad, broccoli cornbread, hummus and crackers, and a hot pizza straight from our new Napolese pizzeria. We made our introductions and broke bread over a round table.
Trivial Pursuit type questions about fun Indiana facts gave way to passionate thoughts about the reputation of Midwest farmers (We should really be proud of our fertile land, knowledgeable farmers, and university research systems.), what should be done with our corn crops, about the class generated backing of the latest food movement, and how value, affordability, and accessibility effect our food purchases. It was noted that not all grocery stores have the plump, appealing fruit that we’re used to. Low income families often do not have the option to buy real, whole food. Also, because of a lack in advertising, fresh food has been over shadowed by Kraft Mac N Cheese and Cap’n Crunch. A debate about whether food cravings/tastes are developed during childhood or is it just a matter of access to different foods led to inspiring ideas of how to introduce children to food through urban gardens and demonstrations in food production. Apparently the Indiana State Fair will have a Fresh Market for alternative dining options instead of fried food on top of fried food. I let go a sigh of relief at that announcement.
The general consensus was that people are reaching out for change. People want to eat better and essentially feel better and live better. Names like Jim Morris, Michael Pollan, and Richard C. Longsworth were quoted and used for advice and information. Education, as always, is the beginning of change. Keep talking, keep reading, and stay active towards a better than standard way of living.
To get involved watch for updates on Food for Thought, Spirit and Place, and the Indiana Humanities Council. Good reads: In Defense of Food and Caught in the Middle. Good watch: Food Inc. and King Corn. Get inspired by Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver for their contribution to the movement.