Becoming me

In recent months, I have endeavoured to occupy my mind during the rather irritating stop and go commute to and from work everyday. To that end, I have listened to some very entertaining fiction and this week a rather heavy “In Defense Of Food”, by Michael Pollan.

From his website:

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

This is not light material, and is a subject that cannot be taken lightly either. In listening to this, I have come home from work at night feeling a little depressed and very tired. I just want to curl up in bed, rather than make dinner. Probably the opposite of what the intention was in writing this book. (But I’m just getting to the good part, near the end, hopefully no-one is killed).

Last night, I had to do something different to break the cycle of my reaction to the audio book. I am most certainly not going to stop listening. I went to the library and took out a movie called “Becoming Jane”.

I have long been inspired by the story of Jane Austen. I even tried to start my own Jane Austen book club with my most “read” family members. The lack of success with the club will be placed on my doorstep because I was so busy that I ended up listening to the works rather than reading them. But after watching this movie, I am again taken by this unique author. (Don’t worry, family, no more reading required at the cabin this summer!)

What I learned, in a work of fiction itself, was how the circumstances of Jane Austen’s own life had probably shaped how and what she wrote about. This is a time where women, even with wealth of their own, were expected to conform to very strict social structures. Men had a little easier time, but society had very strong social rules that even men could not break without dire consequences. For example, if you loved someone whom your family did not, you would be forced to choose between your love in a penniless future, or relative prosperity with an arranged and approved partner.

There was a passage in the movie by Jane that expressed the futures of the characters in her books. She said that they would struggle for a time and then have happy endings. This was said at a time when Jane realized that no such happiness was going to be her fate.

To think that such difficult choices had to be made. There was no such thing as working it out, or seeing what will happen. The future was determined and as a proper English person, you were expected to act in kind.

Listening to Michael Pollan, I feel overwhelmed by the unhealthy choices we are making here in North America. It seems we have not cared enough about what we had. We have let healthy whole food be taken away from us and replaced with food-like versions of highly processed high fructose corn syrup.

But I live in a time and place where that can all change again. And I can help to make that change starting in my own home and helping whomever will listen to do the same. Nothing is being forced on any of us, we are free.

That was not the case for Jane Austen and so many other women of her time. For the trail she blazed, and the long line of women who secured every freedom I enjoy today – thank-you.

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