The Other Things I Do

Food consumes a large part of my life, my time, my work, my brain, my belly. But it’s not everything. And some days, for a few brief moments, my other work makes me think — pause — this whole food thing is trivial. Not that it isn’t important. It’s vitally important, and ever more so every day, as food collides with environment, climate, disease, politics, philosophy, everything on this ever-changing Planet Earth. Most days, food ranks right at the top of my priorities.

But some days, I have little appetite. I trundle through places and stories that muddle my gut. Some days, I edit the written works of people such as Masaru Goto, an extraordinary photographer (and brilliant friend), and I see the faces of southern Thailand’s senseless, shameful war.

I feel the chill of Chernobyl, of its people living and dead, in images by Lourdes Segade.

And this week, it was Jean Chung who quieted my hunger, as I compared photos and captions from her essay on women in Afghanistan who die during childbirth. The work has won this year’s CARE international humanitarian photojournalism award. I’ll send you a link when the photo story comes out….

But you see, even in Jean’s essay I find room for the contemplation of food. The young mother in her story was 26, with tuberculosis, before she gave birth and died. Tuberculosis, a disease that killed my grandfather before I was born, a disease long gone from these States now. A disease I see all the time in my travels. How did nutrition, or the lack thereof, contribute to this young mother’s death? How does food, or the lack thereof, factor in any story of our day? Are these concerns for foodies 10,000 miles away? Should they be? Heavy questions, frequently asked, sometimes answered, but seldom with a compunction that brings itself to dinner when the table is set, the plates are full and the mood is easy.

5 thoughts on “The Other Things I Do

  1. These are all very good things to think about in relation to food. When it is so readily available and tasty, the basic importance of food is easily forgotten.

    About TB: Unfortunately, it is not long gone from the U.S., although it certainly is less prevalent than in, say, Mexico. The 2005 CDC report cited about 14000 cases in the U.S. http://www.cdc.gov/tb/surv/surv2005/PDF/ExecutiveCommentary.pdf
    The lurking danger is in the multidrug-resistant strains.

    Keep up the good work of keeping us aware!

  2. Yes, I should rephrase: mostly gone.

    An excellent read on the enormous dangers of drug-resistant TB: Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. A vital portrait of Dr. Paul Farmer and his amazing work.

    In Asia, most of the people with AIDS we’ve met simultaneously suffer from TB, which dramatically complicates the situation and all too often shortens the lifespan.

  3. Thank you for directing me to the story on maternal death in Afghanistan. I was moved to tears and was grateful for the opportunity to think beyond my own life, a life not burdened by troubles and sadness like this.

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