Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chance Encounter on the Subway

I got on the 2 train at Winthrop this afternoon. I was headed to the Union Square Greenmarket, because my fridge was too bare to wait until the Saturday Grand Army farmers market. I sat down next to a woman and her daughter. The woman instigated conversation and wanted to talk about her concerns regarding our food system. This actually happens to me a lot: I prefer chatting rather than staring at a screen or zoning out with some earphones. While it’s not unusual for me to chat up my fellow subway rider, what was unusual about this encounter was that this woman wanted to share her passion for food. She didn’t want to talk about the unseasonably warm day we were having, she wanted to have a real hear-to-heart exchange. As we chatted, her pre-teen daughter watched intently, obviously engaged in the conversation.

The woman came here from the Caribbean many years ago where she remembers a rich agricultural tradition, but fears it is being lost. While she thinks our government is not adequately protecting us from many scary things in our food system, she is optimistic that these scary things will force communities to get back to growing their own food. She was most concerned with GMOs, and introduced me to two concerns I knew nothing about. She has started noticing a difference in her lentils and did some research. She was nervous that GMO lentils had been introduced into our food system. Since there are no labeling regulations, there is no way to tell for sure. Secondly, she was horrified by Peta’s $1 million reward to make the first in-vitro chicken meat. I watched her daughter’s stoic face as she joked about the possibility that we were going to out-think ourselves into extinction.

We were so engaged in our conversation that I nearly missed my stop, and then in my haste to get off the train, I never got her name. I feel extraordinarily blessed in this chance encounter. Wherever you are, I thank you for a great conversation. NYC has 8 million people, and we all have at least one thing in common…we ALL eat. Therein lies my hope for a just and sustainable food system that values life and nourishes us all.