Have We Lost Our “Grit”?


I actually had a different post in mind for today when I finished it up last night. But I was consumed by the question posed in this post’s title: “Have we lost our grit?” I will have to get around to telling you all about my ski weekend tomorrow. Today I will explore the question of the day with you. Here’s what I was doing, to give you a bit of context: I was mostly settled in to my morning routine today, cutting up vegetables, heating up mushrooms, washing my Leeks, as an the question popped in to my mind. “Have we lost our grit?”

I did go on to finish making breakfast, and the leeks were delicious. But this also completely derailed any other productive thoughts from my mind, including finishing my post about my ski weekend, until I had written down my thoughts on the grit and dirt I was washing out of my Leeks this morning.

Have we lost our grit?

This question can be interpreted in several different ways – and I intend it to be interpreted inĀ all of those ways! Here’s where I was coming from: Is it possible that the experience of eating a meal has been diminished by the lack of preparation we have to make in order to eat? Here is how my parents eat a meal in the summer time: They head out to the garden and harvest some lettuce, some onions, perhaps a heel of garlic, some cucumbers, a zucchini, a pepper, perhaps a hot pepper. They grab the hose on the way in and give the basketful of vegetation they just harvested a thorough soaking, removing most of the bigger pieces of dirt from their meal. They come inside, chop, heat, and otherwise prepare the meal, including some local farm-raised meat (most likely a beef or pork cut), and sit down after about 30 minutes of harvesting and 15 minutes of chopping, for a nice home-made meal. And when they call their food “home-made” they have an earned right to the term.

I put a similar amount of preparation in to my food, but it’s very different in content. I go to the store (I’m urban, after all) and agonize over the variety of salad greens available: “Is there wild arugula here today?” I ask myself, looking at the 1000’s of meals worth of various salad greens. If no wild arugula, I’ll look for organic spring mix, or some similar sort of salad green – the more color, the better. It probably takes me as long to locate the salad greens I choose as it did my parents to harvest theirs – so I get some meal appreciation, since I did work for it. But is it possible that the content of my work is also important? And how does this bear on people who simply grab the first bag on the lettuce shelf? Can they enjoy their meal as much as I do? Can I enjoy my meal as much as my parents do?

I don’t know the answer to those questions – but I know that they’re important questions. I know that there is a “Slow Food” movement out there gaining steam to help people to remember that “Saying Grace” before our meal used to have a real meaning. It’s trying to re-teach us that food isn’t a chore, and that because it is perhaps the most important single thing we do in our lives, it should be savored, appreciated, and considered at great length. We should have food that is, as Lavi Strauss put it “Good to think.” And it should contribute to, not detract from, our Grit.

Is the extra work enough?

I do extra work, and shop at more than one (often more than 2) grocery stores in an attempt to find food which still has the grit on it, just so that I have to wash it off. I go far out of my way to buy Leeks, the progenitor of today’s question, which are not trimmed, and have not been washed. I buy arugula which is wild harvested, as are the blueberries and raspberries I have in my freezer. I buy grass-fed beef, pastured chickens (not even “Free Range”), and pastured pork. At the end of the week, I likely spend as much time in grocery shopping, after considering all the labels I read, all the research on this brand and that which I do, as my parents spend tending their garden and harvesting their produce. And I enjoy my food, truly, more than most people I know. I work hard to get the best ingredients I can find. I carefully select which ingredients are added to each dish, making sure that their flavors and textures are well matched to the final experience I am in pursuit of. And it works! Not only do I enjoy my food, but so does everyone else who eats it! But that doesn’t answer the question: is it enough? Is my parents’ experience of food still better than my own? And is their experience meaningfully better?

What does this have to do with our “Grit”?

I notice that more and more people are not reading the labels on their packaged foods. Including the foods that my parents eat in the winter. This is a strange observation for me, since I spend most of my conscious time deep in my own world of highly perceptive food considerations… But the few times I actually pick my head up and look around, I hear people talking about going on a “Low Fat Diet”. I think to myself “Do people still believe that crap?” And then I see another article, published in the NY Times or some other reputable periodical, stating “conclusively” in the title that red meat will kill you. When I read the article, though, I find buried somewhere in the text that there is no actually established causative link, and that the correlations are vanishingly small when adjusted for more important risk factors. But that doesn’t make a good news story, does it?

And the news is only the beginning. How many medications are there for asthma? I have close friends with 2 and 3 year old kids who have asthma! This is not natural! So, scientists and doctors are blaming it on the pollutants in the air. Here is my problem with that: if pollution is the cause, then why aren’t the White Tailed Deer populations being decimated by their inability to run? Why aren’t the pigeons falling out of the air? I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Let’s be honest with ourselves here: if the cause is ambient, then all natural beings are subject to it. This is a very simple logical deduction. And since White Tailed Deer are heavily overpopulated, and Pigeon populations don’t seem to be threatened in the least, we know that it’s not an ambient issue. Air quality is not the cause of asthma – it may be a trigger, but it is not the cause. And what is every bit as fundamental to our health as our air quality and water quality? FOOD!

Here’s what you need to do: eat real food. Nothing else will do. If you’re buying something in a package, it should have only the ingredients you think you’re getting, and nothing else. If there’s other stuff in it, don’t buy it. Eat unprocessed salad greens, wash the dirt off yourself, eat colored vegetables, and eat grass-fed beef. It’s just not that difficult. And if you do, you can look forward to the same kind of health that the White Tailed Deer seem to have, despite that they drink the water we pollute, and breathe the same air that we pollute, and sleep in the acid rain that we caused. What’s the difference between them and us? They eat real food! They eat the food they are meant to eat! And we eat stuff we don’t even have a language for. Why don’t we have a language for it? Because it’s not real food!!!

Yes, it seems we have lost our Grit…

I think that the people who read those articles, and mindlessly believe the title have proven the title of this post! They have lost their Grit. And for a lack of any other reasonable hypothesis, I am blaming it on the lack of dirt in their food. I have concluded (for argument’s sake) that when people stopped gardening, and started buying pre-washed romaine hearts, they lost their Grit. Literally, and figuratively.

And so, it’s possible that my parents enjoy their summer meals slightly better than I enjoy mine. They made the meal themselves, truly. But I think that the hard work that I put in to my meal is part of what makes it so delicious. Today I am asking you to go buy some Grit!

If you have comments, please send them in!! I know that this topic should generate quite a bit of thought – share your thoughts with us on the comments board! And thank you for reading and (hopefully) enjoying my rant today – it was on my mind, and now it’s out there for all to read.