Those aren’t exactly the words that I would think of when it comes to an English class. Yet, those two words, bolded and in huge text, were the first things that popped up when I saw my English teacher’s website. I definitely was not expecting that.
I love it so much. Don’t we all? So, when I found out that our theme in my critical thinking and writing class was food, I was pretty excited and I had reason to be. I’ve never examined such a topic in so much depth.
Issues and lies.
Who knew that there were so many lies in food?
I discovered this by writing essays doing assigned readings, in class discussion, and documentaries.
While I was initially worried that I would be uninterested in the books that we read in class, I actually enjoyed them. In our first quarter, we read a book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer who talked about why people should become vegetarians. I’ll admit that when I first picked up the book, I thought, “Great, another person preaching about not eating meat…” but it was actually very eye opening. He reveals shocking events that happen in the meat industry such as “The investigation documented workers extinguishing cigarettes on the animals’ bodies, beating them with rakes and shovels, strangling them, and throwing them into manure pits to drown” (Foer 182). I already knew that the meat industry treated animals horribly, but I did not know that workers intentionally torturing animals for no reason. This was only one line of the book and it already provides quite a bit of insight. All of this happens behind closed doors as if there’s something to hide. I’d say that that something to hide is the truth.
I’ll admit, I complained to my peers about having to watch two-hour documentaries on my own time but honestly, I’m glad that I did. Every minute of those documentaries was very interesting and thought provoking. For instance, I had to watch Cowspiracy, which is essentially about how the best way to save the environment is to become vegan/vegetarian. After all, it takes 660 gallons of water to make just one hamburger patty (Cowspiracy). Yet, environmental agencies such as Greenkeepers USA don’t want to talk about this. As I watched the documentary, I was shocked at how evasive these people were when they were asked about how limiting animal product consumption could really help the environment. How is their evasiveness any different from the meat industry’s evasiveness? How is this different from burying the truth with little lies?
As I turned in essay after essay, I learned more and more about the lies in food. A lot of them are subtle lies. In one of my essays, I examined fad diets. Why are fad diets so prevalent here, in America? I even tried one myself: I only ate fruits and salads and I have to say, it was miserable. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we go on diets that we hate in an effort to lose weight when often times these diets aren’t even that healthy for us and aren’t the best way to lose weight? (Tremblay).
Look at Coca Cola: despite the fact that it runs campaigns against obesity, its products have been linked to causing obesity. Its website features of picture of Lebron James, a famous NBA athlete, holding one of its products, Sprite (Coca Cola). How is this person, who is at the peak of fitness, promoting something that contributes to obesity and thus encouraging others to drink it? Sure, it’s not a straight up lie, but it’s not the truth either, which to me is a lie.
In our second quarter of class, we read The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University who teaches Psychology and Behavioral Economics. His book talks about how people lie, even people who claim that they are honest. In his conclusion, he writes, “Although [dishonesty] is subtle and gradual, the final outcome can be disastrous. This is the real cost of even minor instances of cheating and the reason we need to more vigilant in our efforts to curb even small infractions” (Ariely 214). This topic about dishonesty really ties back into food. I mentioned subtle lies in food. We wouldn’t think that it was a big deal, but these lies add up and cause real problems, as Ariely points out. In terms of food, these lies could lead to serious health problems such as obesity.
Finally, I jumped to a pretty drastic topic: hunger strikes. Many people claim that they are manipulative, but when they are administered correctly they are both very powerful forms of protest and not manipulative. In my essay, I focused on a hunger strike done by four San Francisco State University students in their efforts to get more funding for their College of Ethnic Studies (Rivas). Their hunger strike was not manipulative because it was about finding a voice for themselves, not threatening anyone.
Of course, I could just be saying all of this stuff and have it be meaningless. After all, how am I, a mere college student in her freshman year, qualified to write about these topics and have them carry weight? I’m not an expert in any field of food. I had to do research.
Sure, that’s obvious. English teachers always make you turn in Works Cited pages with your essays. I always hated doing them because they were so tedious. But this English class made view these pages differently. Sure, it is a bit of work, but I learned a good reason to have a Works Cited page: not only does it give due credit, but it also makes me credible.
My research became better and better as time in class progressed. My first essay, which examined why picky eaters are picky eaters and why we should be more open to trying new food only had two citations! Looking back now, I am appalled at how little research I did for this essay.
Fast forward to my last essay about hunger strikes. I researched this topic extensively and was even able to obtain primary research by interviewing someone to get another perspective on hunger strikes. My Works Cited page had thirteen sources. Perhaps if you read my essay you won’t agree with my slant, but I definitely did more research this time to make me more authorized to write about this topic and thus, strengthened my essay.
I’m serious when I say that I’m going to miss this class. I’m going to miss the people in it, the group projects, the in class discussion, my teacher, and, as nerdy as it sounds, the essays. I really enjoyed learning more about food and how I could pick topics for my essays that I was genuinely interested in. I don’t think I’ll forget everything that I learned any time soon, especially that:
Ignorance is not bliss.
So, now that you know about all of the issues that lie (no pun intended) within our food, what are you going to do? As we learned in class, once you learn something, you can’t unlearn it. Now you have this information and you can’t ignore it. Are you going to make a change?
And finally, some food for thought (no pun intended once more.) The last thing my professor said was,
“Be good, but not too good.”
Andersen, Kip, and Kuhn, Keegan. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. , 2014.
Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–especially Others. New York: Harper, 2013. Print.
“Coca-Cola Journey Homepage.” The Coca-Cola Company. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017. <http://www.coca-colacompany.com/>.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Rivas, Jorge. “Meet the San Francisco Student Who Launched a Hunger Strike to Save Ethnic Studies.” Fusion. N.p., 11 May 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2017. <http://fusion.net/story/300928/sf-state-hunger-strike-ethnic-studies/>.
Tremblay, Sylvie. “Can You Lose Weight by Eating Salads & Fruit Only?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 06 Nov. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/458563-can-you-lose-weight-by-eating-salads-fruit-only/>.