If you are reading this, chances are: you are a woman. Ninety seven percent of my readers are. Today is International Women’s Day, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the role of women in making a most important decision every single day: deciding what’s for dinner.
The food we eat is, quite literally, who we are. Every cell in our body is shaped by the nutrients we put in it, or those that our mamas put in theirs while they were pregnant with us. Think about it! A single meal may not make a huge difference. But the addition of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every single day largely determines our health. And, through epigenetic processes we do not understand very well yet, those meals also shape the lives of future generations.
The food we eat is also the planet we live on. Beyond our bodies, the whole earth is shaped by the food we grow, the food that women everywhere decide – or don’t decide – to buy. As human population grows, entire landscapes are cleared of their original vegetation – usually some kind of forest – and become dedicated to grow crops of grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, seeds, nuts, and also plants that will be harvested primarily to extract their oil. A growing share of the land is dedicated to cattle grazing. Underwater landscapes are not immune. As I write, a fishing fleet whose size we can barely imagine is trawling the oceans and casting miles and miles’ worth of longlines to catch billions of fish every year. In the process, ocean floors get destroyed and turtles, dolphins, and many fish die as by-catch. Some of those crops and fish are fed directly to humans. Other take a more circuitous route and get fed to animals first to become meat on the dinner plate later – a terribly inefficient use of the earth’s resources. A soul-destroying cause of suffering for billions of sentient beings.
It is customary on Women’s Day to celebrate women pioneers, from activists to astronauts. I applaud their battles and courage in facing the armies of tradition and stereotypes. But, for a change, I want to bring attention to the work of women in what overwhelmingly remains their role (often even when they are activists and astronauts): choosing what to feed their loved ones.
Let’s salute the efforts and courage of women everywhere who are becoming more aware of how food shapes our bodies and environment. Let’s acknowledge that they are doing the best they can, under their lives’ circumstances. It’s not even clear what’s the “best” thing to do, yet every day food has to get to the table. Even when we are pretty sure that one food choice is better than another, there are so many other things to consider. Food costs, for starters. And whether the people we cook for will even eat the food we prepare.
Those decisions have to be repeated every single day. Over time, a woman’s decisions shape her loved ones’ bodies. Together, we shape the planet.
To women everywhere who shop for groceries, grow food, plan meals, cook for their families: be proud of those roles and see that work of yours for what it is: a great accomplishment. I know you are doing your best. I feel your pain when you aren’t sure about the decisions you are making. I understand your struggle when you are trying to do the right thing, and others aren’t on board with the changes. It’s not always easy, but you are rocking the food world, one meal at a time. Keep it up.
See you in the kitchen,