I heard these sports radio guys recently discussing something called “The Over-Under”. Actually, it was more like the “Ovuh-Unduh”, this being NYC sports radio and all. I’m not a sports fan, so my husband explained to me that the ovuh-unduh is something about a team’s record for the season, and wins, and betting…and blah blah blah, it was like the teacher in a Charlie Brown special to me. I don’t really care what it means, so it didn’t stick. I’ve heard the explanation at least 3 or 4 times again, since, I even asked him about it yesterday as I was writing this episode. But it didn’t stick because I don’t care about what it really means, I just like the way it sounds, the ovuh-unduh, and to me, the ovuh-unduh is not a term about sports, it’s a term that sums up American culture. Specifically, our culture and its relationship to food and Foodiness and everything else! We are ovuh-unduh America. We INVENTED the ovuh-unduh.
After the industrial revolution and the mechanization and centralization of farming and the invention of post-war chemical fertilizing and the subsequent government subsidizing of commodity grains and then the subsequent shift in out diets to a corn and soybean orgy of grain and grain fed products, we are all now LIVING the ovuh-unduh. Feast or famine? Well, we’ve got both. Only here in America is it possible to be both fat and malnourished at the same time! You can gorge on shitty, processed, nutrition-less food, weigh 300 pounds, and still suffer the diseases of malnutrition. That’s the REAL ovuh-unduh. You can go to a restaurant and order a meal that has more calories in just the entrée than most people’s great-grandma ate in an entire day, that’s the ovuh-unduh too. And at that same restaurant you can have a slab of cheesecake that doubles that number of calories again, but wash it down with 48 ounces of a beverage that has zero calories, that you’re PAYING for, that you are paying a company money for, and that may just kill you, and that’s the ovuh-unduh, too!
Or, the fact that we produce more food on this planet that we can every consume, more than double the daily caloric needs of every human and animal in this country, and yet we throw away almost 40% of it, whether through rejecting it in the fields for not being perfect, or producing it so cheaply that there are no buyers so its dumped before leaving the factory, or in transit when systems fail, or in supermarkets when they trash thousands of pounds of food simply because of an arbitrary date stamped on it that has no legal bearing or meaning, or in your fridge as it slowly goes bad because you’re too spoiled to feel compelled to use up what you buy…that’s the big ovuh-unduh too. America. Land of the free, home of the big Over-Under.
We produce so much food, so quickly and efficiently, that we then have to reject much of it because our system of using it, distributing it is designed to scare us into thinking that 5 minutes out of refrigeration, or 12 hours past an expiration date, and we’re dead.
I’ve discussed food waste here before, multiple times, but last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a screening of a new documentary called “Just Eat It, a food waste story”.
It’ll be airing on msnbc on April 22 at 10pm EST and I implore everyone to tell everyone they know to watch it. I thought I had a handle on the amounts of food waste, but even I was shocked! The couple who made the film lived on scavenged food for 6 months, and between them collected $20,000 worth of food. That’s only what two people taking perfectly good stuff out of dumpsters behind stores collected. 20k.’s worth! That doesn’t even take into consideration all the waste that happens before the food is even harvested or produced. It was really horrifying. I feel like I do a pretty good job of not wasting food, and you know I love the discount produce shelf, but even I can only eat so many overripe pears. It’s time to dump the ovuh-unduh and start thinking like your great-grandma!