A Bit More on the “Wheel” and the Food “Spoke”

I spent a great deal of time and effort figuring out what to say in my last post. Originally, it was less about not attending Good Food Festival and more about the disillusionment I’ve been feeling, but as GFF approached, and as I gave a lot of thought to it and heard a great deal about it, that post crystallized some of it in my head. While I’ll likely post from time to time, more on my thoughts about the messiness that is food, both politically and in the kitchen, I realized I had a short follow-up on “the wheel.”

So, fast recap: I tend to envision social progress as effectively a wheel, and people push on spokes they care about. All that pushing, and the wheel moves.

There are a lot of problems that can happen, but I’d like to focus on one right now. The one that, I think, is the cause of much of my discouragement in working toward improving local and global food systems. Namely when one or more folks start to mistake the spoke they’re pushing on for the entire goddamn wheel.

I think that happens all too often in my little community of food-obsessives. I sure as fuck have done it before. We (yes, myself included) see there’s various problems with “food”: various production problems, how agriculture impacts climate change, cultural importance of food and preparation methods, how to feed billions of people, supply chains, obesity…

These problems are huge and they are glaring and it’s so enticing and simple to say how eating or doing something “differently” (while pointing at X way) would solve all these problems.

It won’t. It just won’t. As my father-in-law says, on a regular basis, “Nothing’s ever easy.”

Not only is it reductionist to say, “X way of doing things is superior and will fix so many issues,” such a sweeping statement usually walks hand-in-hand with minimization or even complete erasure of very valid reasons, often on different “spokes”, someone cannot or will not do X.

But I hear such statements a great deal. And they makes me grind my teeth.

It’s important to acknowledge nuance. To remember it’s a spoke, not the whole wheel. To push, and push hard, but not disrespect that someone else is pushing on a different spoke…

Overall, I want a more inclusive, more just, more kind, more healthy world. I am genuinely not convinced, at all, that we will achieve such a thing. But I always assume that most share similar desires, if not my methods, and I respect the work people put in to move the wheel forward.

2 thoughts on “A Bit More on the “Wheel” and the Food “Spoke”

    • Thank you, Elsie! It has really helped my patience a lot to remember things like this.

      I hope all is well with you too! How’s the writing going?

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