Parallel currents: Slow food, slow money may boost Chattanooga

Ready-to-eat food such as this frozen chicken package is full of mysterious ingredients that may well be part of America’s self-destructive national economy.

Being a mild-mannered editor, I realize there’s little benefit in browbeating people about healthy good, local economy, free markets or other good things. If a man’ll listen, my approach is always indirect, and I propose that he be the encourager. He is not in charge of food in his house. What the family eats his wife’s decision. He happily delegates to his sweetie questions about nourishment. She’s in charge of the coupons, and does most of the cooking.

So he is not “in charge” even though he is head of the household.

So how can my friend encourage his wife to live out the ideals I write about? One way is to take a piece of packaging and look closely at the ingredients list. Now, we know genetically modified organisms aren’t required to be listed. But other chemicals are.

A little tongue-twisting

➤ In the El Monterey taco beef and cheese taquitos I recently served, I found disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, silicon dioxide, sodium stearoyl lactylate, the usual mono- and diglycerides tucked away the regular healthy basics such as wheat flour and “seasoned beef topping.”

➤ In Mrs. T’s pierogies, my tongue trips over maltodextrin and sodium acid pyrophosphate.

➤ Vegetable egg rolls? Partially hydroginated soybean and/or cottonseed oil and “calcium propionate as a preservative” (good to know why an unpronounceable is in the packaging). The egg rolls contained the best of all: Dimethylpolysiloxane.

➤ The T.G.I. Friday’s boneless and chicken bites dipped in honey and barbecue sauce just wouldn’t be the healthy national economy fare without corn maltodextrin, carrageenan, smoke flavor, caramel color, xanthan gum or soy lecithin. I shiver just thinking how these ingredients make the red box with the bright photograph of food so inviting.

Armed with a wry grin, my friend can simply ask the question about the groceries he’s bringing home after his wife texts him the list. He can ask her about pyrophosphates and ask if perhaps it is affecting the attention span of the 4-year-old or making the sixth-grader jumpy.

Slow food implied in slow money

Our interest in health through food and our interest in free markets in Chattanooga feed off each other. The fare that cross my plate is not slow food, but fast food. Quickly fixed, in a bag and a box, it’s food for people in a hurry. Slow food is for people who think and who have time to use the cutting board in the kitchen. Slow money implies investors who are willing to wait for an investment locally committed to become fruitful. He’s willing not to be able to sell his shares on a whim by a mere phone call. He’s divesting himself from what might be called a suicide economy.

An investment conference in April in Boulder, Colo., developed points along these lines useful to any Noogacentrist. It brought together notables such as Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money; Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International; and Mary Berry, daughter of Kentucky novelist and localist Wendell Berry.

Here are some quotes from Susan Enfield’s report published Monday at about the conference:

➤ “If it is to remain productive, land must be preserved and people must know the land. We need cultural change that addresses land use, decent farm policy and ‘real’ accounting. Growing up in Henry County [Kentucky], I was taught to love where I was from, to care for it. I want to make homecoming possible, this time better.” — Mary Berry

➤ Mr. Tasch quotes Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, which asks, “Why have we allowed cooking, a critical human activity, to get outsourced to corporations?” Mr. Tasch asks the following: “Why have we outsourced investing to corporations? We are outsourcing investing; that is, we are giving all our money to others whom we don’t know very well, in whose hands it becomes Other People’s Money—OPM, Other People’s Money, that’s what they call our money on Wall Street and that’s what makes it so easy for them to play with it.” This comment touches on numerous essays here at about the need for nurture capital provide local business by local small investors such as me.

➤ Vanguard founder John Bogle’s admonition about the danger of “worshipping at the altar of numbers” is cited; Mr. Tasch introduces a term of art mimicking the concept of fiduciary. A fiduciary is one who owes a duty to another in good faith, trust, confidence and candor. His sniglet is foodishiary. “A few of us here today are fiduciaries, but all of us here today are budding foodishiaries,” he says.

In my estimation, Chattanooga needs people who are committed to developing local economy, perhaps in the area of food provisions and improving the lot of people in Chattanooga so-called food deserts, where healthy fare is scarce. I’m not saying we don’t already have local economy. We do. But the people at the conference propose an important parallel between slow food and slow money. They want local economy to be self-conscious.

[This essay originally appeared May 28, 2013]

Source:  Susan Enfield, “Evolutionary Revolutionaries Take the Stage at Slow Money National Gathering,”, May 20, 2013

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