December 6, 2023

Food City

The Best Darn Food City Uou Can Get

Opinion: Bill Walton, Eat to Exist

It’s election time: bring on the fertilizer.

From our first gasp of air and our first suckle on a teat, real or pseudo, until our last wheeze of breathe and eating a bowl of lemon jello or mushy pablum, it is a given that we must eat to live. A corollary for some is that they live to eat but that is for another day and a Noom meeting. How well we eat also contributes to how well and how long we live.

How we vote may also impact how we live.

That is of course and over-simplification because much depends on the financial, political, societal and geographic aspects of one’s life. Those may change throughout your life but you still need to eat to live. What you eat in both quality and quantity may also affect your existence, the length thereof and the pleasures one derives from that living.

Gone are the days of the hunter/gatherer for most urban and suburban peoples as they secure their food supplies from depots, box stores, or the local grocery franchise. Or nowadays, from some young person with a delivery van who brings your internet-ordered foods right to your door. For centuries, going back to when we first organized ourselves into tribes, villages and cooperatives, we relied upon farmers to feed us.

Farmers – being those who worked the land to produce tubers, root veggies, edible leafy things, nuts, berries, beans, squashes, and even peppers and spices, as well as animals for meats, eggs, and milk, not to mention cheeses of all colours and tastes – these farmers were the ones who fed us so we could live. As we urbanized, the farmers specialized and here we are today.

A few daring souls have abandoned city life and elected to go off-the-grid, trying to live off the land as their ancestors did in the bad old days.

Some people have given up eating meats, fishes, fowls, and endangered bugs either in an effort to save the environment, themselves, or indigestion caused by genetically engineered foods. It is the latter that scares the bejesus out of those who can read ingredients. Gone are the days of simply boiling a veggie, roasting a duck or other unfortunate critter, or eating something raw – bacteria, fungi and germs be darned. The laboratory farmers are here, manufacturing food to supplement the land farmers, or in some cases, creating ‘edible’ things for our diet. The test tube and the petri dish have replaced the tilled land.

I was very suspicious about those ‘veggie’ burgers that tasted just like chicken or beef or pork or lamb and even like a fish. I tried one, for scientific reasons, and it did taste vaguely like beef as I remembered beef tasting, but the consistency just wasn’t there. I like my beef with a bit of chew to it.  Not like it has walked all the way from Alberta, but you know what I mean.  And despite reassurances, I am still wary of tofu. How the heck do they make bean curd taste like a pork chop?

As Easter approached and the idea of coloured hardboiled eggs got the juices flowing, I could not remember what a farm-fresh egg tasted like. Yeah, sure – free-range chicken eggs. I know darn well that if chickens have a free range on a farm, they lay their eggs where you can’t find them. When was the last time you found a ‘double-yolker’ when cracking eggs into a frying pan? I‘ll bet if the sous chef at McD’s saw a double-yolk egg he’s throw it away thinking there was something wrong with it.

Sorry, I apologize. What I started to write about was politicians and how they exist to create things. I was side-tracked by food. Again.

The analogy I was going to make was that this Ontario election is like planting season for farmers. And who knew that we had replaced our farm-fresh cow manure and compost with Russian crap or is it minerals and chemicals? Did we exhaust the supply of potash from Saskatchewan or was it Russian economics that tipped the supply and demand scale?

Anyway, the theory is that politicians exist to create: they create bylaws, real laws, statutes, regulations, tariffs, tax schemes, trade deals, defense plans along with under-funded armies, grants, loans, gifts, health plans, education in the 3 Rs, and where to park your protest truck. All of this work requires reams of paper, lawyers, more paper, red tape, promises, payoffs, bribes, and trips abroad. How could we or would we get all this business of running a country, province, or municipality done without politicians?

I don’t know who the first politician was – maybe it was Adam when he declared and then made a Hoyle rule that a straight flush beats four of a kind, or maybe it was Eve who stuck a sticky on the cave wall that said take the garbage out every Tuesday. But the thing was, that once those ‘laws’ were written, it became the politicians’ job to add clarity to the laws or write new laws to compensate for the deficiencies of the old laws. A Royal Flush beats a straight flush. The politician did not carry out the garbage on Tuesday he just made a note for others that it must be at the curb by 7 a.m.

Take the Northlander for instance. It was the politicians who cancelled the train operation; the politicians who promised to bring it back; and now 10 years later, they are taking the next step by having staffers try to figure out how to show an unprofitable business as a viable business. No politician ever planned to actually do anything about getting the wheels on the rails. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop saying that the whole line must be electrified – no diesel engines. Saving the environment, they will say as they delay once more.

We need more affordable and low-income housing and the politicians are working on the paperwork to get this underway. Well, promising to get to the paperwork. Nary a one of them plans on picking up a hammer in the near future and spending a week on a construction site. The politician exists to promise change through legislation so others can do the hands-on work. If we can find the workers and fix the supply chain.

The same applies to our local problems of homelessness and the Downtown. Our elected officials will promise to find solutions; maybe even write some new bylaws or amend old ones, but we don’t expect them to actually do anything but provide the workers and officers to fix the problems.  Of course, if one was interested and had the inclination to spend hours in research, one would likely find that the problems of today are tied to the politicians of the past. Not that parking meters downtown seemed a bad idea at the time but a lack of parking drove businesses from the city core. Bylaws for hours of business, types of businesses allowed in an area, zoning laws, tax rates, etc. were all the work of former politicians as they created the framework of rules and regulations that impact us today.

Just as we eat to exist, politicians exist to create.

Maybe we should be as careful in selecting our politicians as we are about what we eat. We have the Conservative Carnivores, Liberal Omnivores, NDP Vegans or the Green Vegetarians. Perhaps that new Libertarian will have something to say about promising the freedom of choice to the individual farmer thinking about his Russian fertilizer issue.

Oh, oh – I hear a garbage truck – is it Tuesday already?