“First comes food then morality” – Bertolt Brecht
The short version: As of this moment, I’ve moved to Öland for the summer and am on a self-imposed quasi-historical, gastronomical, volunteer-oriented exploration of small-scale Swedish food production. As many of you know, my academic focus has had me living, working and collaborating with small-scale farmers throughout Sweden and I’ve loved it! From the things that I’ve seen, smelled, heard, tasted and experienced I think it would be a down right shame to keep such adventures, tales and experiences all to myself.
The longer version: A few years ago I left much of what I was doing in my hometown Seattle, WA (running a fitness and health business, living among family and friends) to move to Sweden… in the name of love! (Why not follow my heart?!) So I went to live with my Swedish girlfriend (now wife/life partner) and study (more deeply) a subject matter that I have unrelentingly continued to care about: the infinitely broad topic of health.
The problem, as many of you health gurus may well know, is that the subject of ‘health’ isn’t entirely easy to define in clear-cut boundaries (in fact, most studied ‘things’ end up in a similar conundrum: no ‘objective boundaries,’ only socially constructed boundaries). Health, in all its relational glory, spans, crisscrosses, layers, jumps and overlaps temporal and spatial boundaries. It’s political, it’s ecological, it’s cultural, it’s individual and simultaneously communal, it’s historical and it’s ever-changing!
I’ll use myself as a guinea pig example, my individual ‘health’ (which, for our running definition, incorporates all forms of health (mental, physical, spiritual, etc.)) is based not only on my practice of daily physical exercises but the relationships I have and maintain among my friends and family, along with the foods that I eat (I realize that I’m stopping short of the many other non-listed, health-contingent relationships) – which would necessitate our focus into the health of the ecological region that produced that food (i.e. the soil quality, plant diversity, climate, pollution, etc.) as well as the health of the people/community that co-labored with that ecosystem to produce that food (who have simultaneously kept me psychologically happy during this period of time), non of which can be noted in entirety without their own distinct contexts and history(s)!
So where do we begin looking into the interesting relational qualities of ‘health?’ Where might we draw the line(s) when it comes to understanding, and thus promoting, better health? Especially when we can’t seem to get a solid scalar grasp on where we should set the boundaries? Ought we to scour our nearby communities for answers? Or must we look within and beyond our biological and geophysical regions? (Seeing that, 1. Swedes are the second highest per capita coffee drinkers (only to be over caffeinated by their northern neighbors, the Finns) and 2. I have yet to see a coffee bush growing in this cold land, I would answer the last two above questions with an astute “Yes and Yes, political borders be damned!”) How do we understand ‘health’? I’d argue that we have to look at ‘health’ from as many different angles, scales, disciplines and interactions as abductively feasible (in a C.S. Peirce ‘abduction’ kind of way – see http://www.helsinki.fi/science/commens/terms/abduction.html).
I’ll cut to the chase and admit that my intention with this blog is not really to draw lines but rather connect dot (many, many dots) in order to reveal untold and perhaps forgotten stories about our changing perceptual understanding of health. I intent to actively explore the ever-expanding topic of ‘health’ by writing about it in relation to:
1) Food in all it’s glory. However, in the next few months I’ll specifically be focusing on what it’s like to grow food on small-scale Swedish farms (where I happen to be volunteering – see below) and how farming methods have changed and how this historically relates to,
2) Political Economics (examining the current contradictions that our global political economic system poses with regard to a. the growing ‘metabolic rift’ between town and countryside and b. what this rift means in relation to the future viability for small-scale farming without political interference. Do we have more sustainable-ish alternatives? What would these alternative entail? Who’s exploring them?)
3) Physical fitness (not only do I intend to write about workouts and different forms of fitness training, I aim to highlight ‘physical fitness’ as a historically emergent discipline. How did it become what it is today? From Swedish nationally sponsored gymnasiums to fitness trainers, from the ancient Greek Olympics to the Boy Scouts, We’ll explore the historical, political and circumstantial details)
4) History (Generally, I’ll be lacing an element of history into everything I look at. I’ll try to touch on historical landscapes, cultures, political changes AND FOOD-based history)
5) (I also plan on posting lots of cool pictures and local fantastic recipes! DIY activities)
(To repeat the above) as of this moment, I’ve moved to Öland for the summer and am on a self-imposed quasi-historical, gastronomical, volunteer-oriented exploration of small-scale Swedish food production. My academic focus has had me living, working and collaborating with small-scale farmers throughout Sweden up to this point and I’ve loved it. From the things that I’ve seen, smelled, heard, tasted and experienced I think it would be a down right shame to not share such adventures, tales and experiences.