The cure for what ails us—both in our bodies and in our nation—can be found in the kitchen. It is a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, enrich and nourish our bodies and our souls.
Yet, in the twenty-first century, our kitchens (and our taste buds) have been hijacked by the food industry. In 1900 only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home; today that number is over 50 percent.
The food like substances proffered by the industrial food system trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure. But our biology rejects the junk forced on our genes and on our hormonal and biochemical pathways.
Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot handle these foods, and the result is the disaster we have in America today—70 percent of us are overweight, and obesity rates are expected to top 42 percent by the end of the next decade (up from only 13 percent in 1960).
Today one in two Americans has either pre-diabetes or diabetes. In less than a decade the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent.
Almost one in four kids has pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes?
Yes, and, perhaps even more shocking, 37 percent of kids at a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, because even though factory food doesn’t necessarily make you fat, it does make you sick! The food industry taxes our health and mortgages our children’s futures. Obese children will earn less, suffer more, and die younger.
It is time to take back our kitchens and our homes. Transforming the food industry seems like a gigantic undertaking, but it is in fact an easy fix. The solution is in our shopping carts, our refrigerators, and our cupboards—and on our dining room tables. This is where the power is. It is the hundreds of small choices you make every day, choices that will topple the monolithic food industry.
We need a revolution. Cooking real food is a revolutionary act. We have lost the means to care for ourselves. We have now raised the second generation of Americans who don’t know how to cook. The average child in America doesn’t know how to identify even the most basic vegetables and fruit; our kids don’t know where their food comes from or even that it grows on a farm. Cooking means microwaving. Food “grows” in boxes, plastic bags, and cans. Reading labels is supremely unhelpful in identifying the source of most foods—the ingredients are mostly factory-made science projects with a remote and unrecognizable lineage to real food.
We are brainwashed into thinking that cooking real food costs too much, is too hard, and takes too long. Hence, we rely on inexpensive convenience foods. But these aren’t so convenient when we become dependent on hundreds of dollars of medication a month, when we can’t work because we are sick and fat and sluggish, or when we feel so bad we can’t enjoy life anymore.
The average American spends eight hours a day in front of a screen (mostly the television) and spends more time watching cooking shows than actually cooking.
Convenience is killing us.
I believe in the power of collective intelligence. Within my community are hundreds, if not thousands, of unheralded chefs experimenting with food and creating extraordinary meals and recipes. Within our individual and our national communities is the cure for what ails us. We are the answer. We are the revolutionaries who will change the face of food in America and around the world.
Yes, we need all that and more to take back our kitchens and our health. But each of us can start at home with a kitchen makeover. Three simple actions can change everything:
1. Do a fridge makeover.
2. Do a pantry makeover.
3. Do a shopping cart makeover.
Once you have taken back your kitchen, then you can start something really revolutionary.