Where does our food come from?

One of the beautiful things about travelling and learning about different places is tasting the food. However, if you’ve had a rocky relationship with food and eating, travelling to new places where you’re unfamiliar with the local cuisine can be stressful.

When I decided to travel I was terrified of how I was going to handle the food situation. Would I be able to handle spice? I also tend to dislike dishes where I can’t tell what they’re made off. Would I be able to enjoy a curry or a soup?

Tomyum in Bangkok
While on a flash visit to Bangkok I had one of the most beautiful seafood Tomyum’s in history.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know how transformative my food experience in India was for me (I wrote about it here). Even though I got ill twice, and I was mildly unwell for most of the journey, I simply loved every single bite. For the first time in years, I actually got excited about trying new foods and meals weren’t followed by guilt or regret.

Pineappples on the tree
A tour of Kerala brought me to a quick stop by a pineapple plantation, bursting with fruit.

Enjoying and thinking more about food also brought on a new area I hadn’t previously explored. The origin of food and our access to it.

As part of my travels, I visited different plantations and met workers in the food industry. From a spice farm to a coffee plantation, to fish markets and fruit pickers – anywhere I went I kept thinking about how the Western World feeds itself.

Our oceans are empty

Studies have shown that we now eat about 20kg of fish on average per capita.

This means that more than half of our oceans are being fished, in some cases at unsustainable levels.

The footprint of overfishing has a huge impact on the health of sealife’s diversity. However, it also puts at risk developing economies and coastal communities where fish is a staple, WWF reports.

Fishmonger in Cochin with fresh crab
A local fishmonger was showing us his catch of the day

In Cochin, India, one of the main tourist attractions are the lovely Chinese nets standing above the sea, pulling in the fresh catch of the day. Local fishermen will also stand by the sore selling red snapper, crab, lobster and other shellfish. I was delighted to see this type of commerce, something that I rarely see in London or back in Spain. Yet it was disheartening to learn that most of their stock did not come from local fishermen, but from trawlers. In fact, upon visiting the men working the nets by the beach we saw that they were catching hardly any fish fit for consumption.

Fishermen in Cochin working
Fishermen would try to catch fish with handheld nets, most of the time unsuccessfully.

Those who pick our fruit and veggies tend to be the most vulnerable

Brexit has been a massive headache for everyone living in the EU (including the UK) for the last 3 years. As a Spanish woman living in London, I’ve been almost exclusively interested in the status of free movement and my right to stay, work, and move around the world.

But there’s something I, and perhaps more like me, have missed. Who’s gonna work in agriculture? Many agriculture workers come from Eastern European countries, working on precarious conditions and on a seasonal basis. What will happen when/if they can’t come back? News outlets reported last year the UK government was planning on opening temporary visas for non-EU workers to fill in the labour shortage. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but sometimes I worry we will see inflated food prices when workers simply… are not there.

Now, I’m not a journalist and I don’t have many of the resources news outlets do. My somewhat thorough Googling skills have always pointed to the same endpoint: if we don’t learn where our food comes from and learn to support it, there might be a time in the future we will struggle. Be it from environmental reasons, human exploitation, or political messes we need to focus on the task at hand – a sustainable way of growth, harvesting and production.

Food market in Kerala
The drive from Trivandrum to Kerala took us to a market, where local men and women purchased anything from vegetables to fish and live chickens.

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