The Colonized Kitchen

A cool morning. The big maple outside the studio, where I write, is showing more red with each passing day, although the color is limited tot the outer branches. Overnight we needed a quilt on the bed.

Last evening we went down to the marina to watch the sunset. Actually, we sat on the veranda at Burlington Bay, and watched while we ate soft-serve ice cream. When we came back to the house, I settled down with the latest edition of Indian Country This Week. Being tired, I managed only one story, The Grains Did It!, by Eisa Ulen Richardson, a piece on recent archeological research into the diets of early Native people in the American Southwest. Essentially, the story suggested the injection of white flours and sugar into the diets of Native people was responsible for prevalence of diabetes in Native communities.

The article suggested the introduction of processed grains and sugar was a byproduct of colonialism. In the case of Native America, these foods arrived as a substitute for the whole grains, nuts and small game that had formed the basis of the Native diet prior to the forced removal from our lands. Processed foods came in the form of “commodities”, heavily industrialized products made from the overproduction of grains and dairy that occurs  as an outcome of  poorly conceived government farm subsidizes.

I found myself considering the implications of the story. Beginning in the 1950’s, these products made their way into the lives of most North Americans, taking the form of an ever growing volume of prepared and processed foods. Not surprisingly, researchers have noted a growth curve  of chronic illness, obesity, and cancer that nicely fits the development of the prepared foods industry.

We see the impact of this shift from nutritious, wholesome food to industrialized “food products” daily in clinical practice. A host of physical and behavioral problems have now been linked to the industrial diet. Even some dementias are now implicated. Heavily processed foods are costly to both produce and to purchase. Now, a growing body of evidence indicates they are also enormously burdensome to our health care system.

Paradoxically, as the world’s food security diminishes due to population growth and climate change, we find ourselves collectively seeking new methods for increasing crop yield, and preserving and distributing essential nutrients. For the moment, we seem to be in a paradoxical position where we can store food indefinitely, but the food lacks nutritional viability. The locovore movement has arisen largely in response to this, yet there are serious questions about the ability of many localities to raise sufficient crops to feed the locals, let alone export to regions permanently or temporarily unable to be self supporting.

Corporations have long been, and continue to be, the engines of colonization in North America, Oceania,  and Asia. They are clearly now engaged in creating suffering for Indigenous people around the world. While they are most blatant in their assault on Native people, their influence touches everyone. Here in New England, we need look no farther than our pantries, or our consulting rooms, for evidence of their influence.

There is a growing effort in Native communities to address these issues. This is immensely important as diabetes disproportionally effects Natives, African-Americans, and Hispanics. Here is a link to an article on some of the projects active in Native America.

I wonder, what is a creemie anyway?

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11 thoughts on “The Colonized Kitchen

  1. A creemie is a delicious snack. I agree of course about most of this but sometimes it is really OK just relax and enjoy a creemie..or a processed cookie. 🙂

  2. Hi Michael

    Totally agree. If you saw this place you would not believe how people could have lived off this land. The plants are so straggly, not at all abundant.

    Our Aboriginal people didn’t have processed sugar, flour, dairy food. For 60,000 years – no cows. They didn’t even grow their own food.

    Now the government tells them what to eat according to Western standards – high sugar, high fat, highly processed, have three serves of dairy food per day. The children have hearing loss from otitis media. Our adults have diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression. 40 years is old for our Indigenous people.

    Is poor health one way of keeping the people suppressed, submissive, dependent?

    Bring back the bush tucker!

    • Thanks Narelle!
      Seems to be the same pretty much everywhere. Move the people to where there are no resources. Genocide by another means. As always the question is: how to resist and create a good and healing life? What are the strategies that work in Australia? How does one bring back the bush tucker?

      > Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 10:19:04 +0000 > To: mwatsonlcmhc@hotmail.com >

  3. This has become a recent concern for my wife (who’s both hypoglycemic and gluten intollerant) and me.

    An interesting podcast, reflecting your observations can be found here:

    http://www.redicecreations.com/radio/2012/06/RIR-120610.php

    Although we lead a pretty healthy lifestyle as far as diet is concerned (no sugar, no processed foods, lean meats, etc.) we’re currently in the process of eliminating grains from our diet and switching to viable alternatives like tapioca flour, almond flour, and quinoa.

    Living one’s life on a government-backed dietary plan might be healthy for the economy, but it wreaks havoc with one’s body and mind…

    • Ben,

      I hope you and your beloved find healing in the new diet. It takes courage to make such fundamental changes.

      I am working to find a balance in my intake of sugar and enriched flour. It seems added sugars are in everything! We love basmatti rice; it is tasty and easy to make, and I was relieved to find it has a low to medium glycemic index. Then there are our favorite bakeries, although we have managed to cut back there…

      I like to think the trick is to find balance. Yet that balance is illusive, especially for folks on limited incomes. Sometimes a creemie is just Heaven.

      One would think the government and the health industry would want folks to eat healthily. I guess greed creates odd bed fellows.

      Thanks for the link!

      20 Aug 2012 19:51:00 +0000 > To: mwatsonlcmhc@hotmail.com >

      • You’re right, Michael. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional treat. And I completely agree with your observation about limited incomes. With the insane prices of almond flour, organic produce, and other healthy foods, it’s sometimes easier for a lot of people to reach for the Ramen Noodles and pray.

        Still, with the country’s economy driven as much as it is by the production of grains, one can understand how a governmental organization responsible for nutrition would skew its recommendations accordingly, regardless of the fact that studies have shown that hunter / gatherer communities that ate little or no grains had better teeth, greater bone density, and better overall health.

        As far as the health industry is concerned, not to be cynical here (obviously much of the medical profession is a blessing), but it’s far more profitable to treat a disease than it is to cure it. Where would big pharma and the rest of the health care system be if no one needed them? The billions of dollars generated each year due to diet related illness alone is enough to keep the FDA operating as it is.

        As long as companies like Monsanto can dump pesticides AND GMO food into the market place and onto our tables while moving their one-time executives into government regulatory positions, personal health will NEVER be a concern. Mass market meat is raised on Monsanto GMO corn. Mass market plants are Monsanto GMO crops sprayed with Monsanto pesticides. They’re in our cake mixes, baby foods, fast food, tv dinners, frozen pizzas…The system is not there to care about the individual. Bottom line is profit. In a capitalist world, it will ever be so…

  4. Well said.

    I remember an Apache/Comanche elder trying to say the same thing in the morning after an all night Native American Church meeting ten years ago. The subject matter was so disturbing to the young drummer, (the Road Chief’s spirit son) that he told his elder to stop talking, instructing him that “we talk about happy thoughts in the morning time.” The Drummer stood up, got a handfull of cedar out of his dad’s cedar bag and threw cedar on the fire “to clear the negative energy the elder had been spreading”.

    That kind of disrespect of an elder was itself very disturbing. We never tell our elders to stop talking. Since the people were frightened by the truth of what this elder was saying, and most everyone agreed with the Drummer, the old man stopped his discourse, confused but compliant (remind you of Boarding School experiences?) I spoke to the elder, who was sitting beside me, about this lack of respect “in the Arapaho Fireplace” and I was ostracised by the community later in the day.

    The elder was talking about how the Union Army had cut the food chain between the Southern States, the plains tribes and the California trade routes down into Mexico during the Civil War. That “defensive measure” had a sinister twist, which made the second wave, the subjugation of the plains tribes, easy to accomplish. The third wave of genocide, diabetes and associated health problems, is working all too well.

    • Michael, I think much has changed in Indian Country in regards to talking about diabetes. The problem is immense and unavoidable. It is also rapidly becoming a national problem, cutting across all ethnicities and ages.

      There is a prophesy that the economy and our health will worsen until the country acknowledges the many harms done to Natives, and others, and requests forgiveness from The People and the Creator. Perhaps we are watching that prophesy unfold.

      May we remember to love and cherish the elders, even when they remind of of what is painful, and what must be addressed.

      > Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 20:25:54 +0000 > To: mwatsonlcmhc@hotmail.com >

  5. After World War I, cardiovascular disease became more common. More and more families could afford to eat meat more often. At the same time, the food industry was beginning to produce more highly processed foods on a larger scale.

    • Yes, and increased dramatically after WWII. Now we struggle to keep weight off and sugar intake reasonable. I notice that children’s shows on network (commercial) TV continue to be sponsored by sugary cereals that area advertised as HEALTHY! This was also true of the Little League World Series.

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