You can approach this problem from any number of angles. One strategy I use is to avoid “manufactured calories” and “inventions of the 20th century.” This would include partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and high-fructose corn syrup, not to mention breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, coffee whiteners, TV dinners, and the like. Another strategy, this one Michael Pollan’s, is to call things that aren’t really food “processed, food-like items.” Michael Pollan says not to eat anything your great-grandparents didn’t eat, but that you can eat anything as long as you make it yourself. He also suggests people not buy items with nutritional advice on their package. These are also good strategies, but they do require a great many words.
I have a new idea: Food with a Capital F.
What got me thinking about this is the Deaf community’s decision to define itself with a capital D. To be deaf means to have a significant amount of hearing loss. But “To be Deaf with a capital D, says Julie Eldredge, a Deaf teacher of Deaf culture at Brigham Young University, is to believe first and foremost that deafness is not a disability…. Sound and speech aren’t the goal; communication is.”
So just because you’re deaf doesn’t mean you’re Deaf. Most people who refer to themselves as “Deaf” are members of communities of people who communicate primarily via American Sign Language. You might also hear someone say Big D and little d, where Big D refers to an individual who belongs to a Deaf Community that subscribes to and espouses Deaf values, and little d refers to the physical aspect of deafness.
Okay, so if you capitalize on being deaf to define yourself within your community, you are Deaf. But this post isn’t about hearing, it’s about eating.
So how to apply this idea here?
Big F “Food” refers to a nutrient-rich item that is derived directly from the biomass of our planet and has a long history of providing nutrition to various beings, including humans. It doesn’t require a prefix like real, whole-grain, pastured, free-range, or grass-fed. It’s Food. On the other hand, “food” with a small f includes manufactured items that did not exist prior to the past century or two.
Grammatically speaking, we’re turning the word from a common noun (food) to a proper noun (Food). What is that? Well, according to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Strzeszewski, back in Wantagh, NY, a common noun describes a person, place, or thing. A proper noun, however, refers to a unique entity. So what I’m proposing here is that we consider Food to be that nutrient-dense group of biomass which we have eaten in some form for at least the past ten thousand years or so. And, yes, some people might go right for the snake and cockroaches. Or adzuki beans, or barley, or salmon. But not maltodextrin or xanthan gum. They are not Food.
I’ve seen a post on some people’s facebook profiles that says “Eat organic food, or, as your grandparents called it, Food.” Touché.