Image: Food and Freedom Rally in D.C., 5/16/2011 (James Buck/The Washington Post)
Food is never really just about food. The need to sustain our bodies and the enjoyment that many of us find in sharing a good meal with loved ones, have never been so loaded with significance as they are nowadays. Simply put, how we go about fueling and refueling our personal machine daily, whether compelled by necessity or pleasure (or both), speaks tons about our vision of the world and about our values. And this is true whether we’re aware of it or not.
Take milk, for instance. The most basic, simple, primal even, food made available to us by Nature. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or are lucky enough to consume milk straight from your own cow or your neighbor’s, you’ve undoubtedly been confronted over the past few years with various concerns and questions about what to pick from the dairy refrigerated aisle, and probably have done your research too. Organic or not? Cow or goat? Does local matter? And the most contentious one of all: raw or pasteurized?
Milk (as a poster child for all foods, really) has become altogether an environmental issue, a private health issue, a public health issue even, not to forget an economic and a social justice issue.
Last but not least, it has become a political issue in America (and elsewhere, if the “criminal” sales of raw milk behind closed doors in Canada are any indication). One that involves governmental control v. citizens’ freedom to choose. In that respect, milk has become a tangible, straightforward militant vehicle to confront the most troubling trend raised ten years ago by the U.S. Patriot Act and the establishment of Homeland Security: the unmistakable encroaching by the Federal government on civil liberties.