I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but I’ve been reading a bit about the food industry in America, and it’s freaking terrifying. Not just in terms of how they treat livestock or – worse – what they make livestock eat, but also in how they treat small farms that are trying to grow food in a more natural way. The book’s called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and it’s horrifying. Don’t read it at night because you’ll have nightmares. My point is, after reading some of that book, I appreciated my time in Gifu so much more than I would have otherwise. What I asked in the video is a legitimate question: why do we know so much more about the people that make our clothes than the people that make our food? Why do we know so little about our food? It’s a lot more important to your wellbeing than a t-shirt or a purse.
And so, going out to Gifu and learning about how farmers are growing their produce, what they’re trying to do that’s different, what they’re passionate about growing and trying, is really inspiring. We met a guy originally from Tokyo, who one day, something around 15 years ago, tried a piece of parma ham and fell in love. He bought a round trip ticket to Italy right away. Upon landing in Italy, he tore up his return ticket, and spent the next ten years learning Italian and studying how to make the best Parma ham. He came back to Japan after learning it all and set up a place in Gifu, rather than Tokyo, because Gifu had the right combination of altitude and humidity for his ham. He now makes the most delicious sliced meat I ever had. Fewer than 10% of Parma Ham factories do it the old fashioned way, the way he makes it, as most places have industrialized.
Meeting him, meeting pumpkin farmers that are making their pumpkins easier to cook, tomato farmers that are trying to make their crops sweeter, all of this shows me a passion for food that’s lost on a lot of people. I think it’s important for us to take our food more seriously, and going on trips like this with Suga really make me aware of how often I don’t think about where food comes from.
This doesn’t mean I’ll turn vegan. I probably would if I lived in the US, but – fortunately – livestock isn’t treated as terribly here in Japan. What this means is that I don’t think farmers get enough appreciation for what they do. It reminds me of when we went to Saitamaya. After the shoot, after all of the customers left, the owner kept us there for a while and cooked us another dinner. When I couldn’t finish my rice, the owner took my bowl and finished off every grain, and told me that if I knew what rice farmers go through I wouldn’t leave a single grain behind.
I’m starting to learn a bit more what farmers do. I don’t want to leave that knowledge behind.
Wow that was cheesy. Here are some extra scenes from our trip!