According to the oldest man on the planet at 111, the secret to long life is twofold: (1) Don’t have children (score me a big zero so far) and (2) Don’t eat too much (skip strike two and go directly to strike 3, baby).
As the baby boomers age, causing a resultant rise in geriatric studies centered upon the idea of hoping for and the possibility of immortality, we will hear more and more stories of aging and and how to escape its debilitating aspects (this fellow didn’t look so good by the way — are we sure we want to go there?). And are we any closer to knowing how to “age gracefully and long”? Actually no. Some people drink, some smoke, some sleep around and some live celibate, some drink olive oil like water and others toil, some are sassy, some are sanguine.
One fellow was reported to have died at age 92 after having survived the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. In a twist of fate, he fled to Nagasaki where — you guessed it –he encountered and lived through the second nuclear bomb. Even while exposed to double radiation, he lived until age 92? Thus, the answer to long life? We don’t know? We can only aim for getting the best of what life we have at this point and recognize that with the best of precautions, a flour sack can fall from a second floor window at any time rendering any one of us a splattered mess on the sidewalk (actual case from my law school days, by the way).
What to learn from the observations of the “oldest man” is that we don’t necessarily have to stop having children (thus ending the human race) and we don’t have to stop enjoying food in order to live meaningful, wonderful lives. In fact, a concern about the local food movement is its obsession with perfection in food choices that might, many believe, lead to longevity.
Being clear, we should aim for “healthy” longevity but only with a robust outlook on life during the journey. In other words, less fear and more joy is but one of the reasons we find ourselves in the midst of a food revolution and its roots — the search for community and a sense of belonging.
We are in a warp today — perhaps temporary — where food is hyper examined and analyzed by certain folks affectionately called “foodies.” Hosting a dinner party these days is said to be a nightmare — paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free are just a few of the basic expectations of the poor hapless host. In what is a glorious turn toward understanding food’s role in our lives in numerous ways — economic strength, health and wellness, access and affordability, and conservation — lurks a danger, as with the nascent stages of any movement, that determine the food movement’s fate as fad or a permanent feature of our collective lives.
Remember, obsession is not good in any context; (isn’t that the province of celebrity stalkers?). The “diet fad of the day” is not sustainable in weight loss and likewise in the food movement. Let’s not risk making the movement speak only to a precious few. Let’s not leave out the masses that might be persuaded to try some good and healthy food if they could both afford it and find time for it — while juggling three jobs and taking care of kids.
Among the leaders in providing better food to the masses are the fast food outlets. We haven’t gotten to the point where we inquire of McDonald’s where they specifically got the beef, but that company among others is starting to provide evidence that food and particularly meat is being sourced in sustainable, humane ways. Let’s keep that momentum going and the health of all of us will be better served. (How Junk Food Can End Obesity, July/August 2013, Atlantic Monthly).
So, go ahead and interrogate the wait staff of your favorite restaurant about the origin of the beef or the GPS coordinates of the squash in your salad — my son does on a regular basis. The food movement however is too important to become just another fad thrown on the trash heap of history — such as the hippy movement of the sixties, known mostly now for its psychedelically decorated bell bottoms. We are on the verge of something here — let’s not blow it.
Here’s to a long but meaningful and joyful life — whatever that is or whatever its length.
To read more about Sylvia Lovely see her column Dear Foodie atand contact her at .