When we were teenagers, my brother and I used to help the local farmer with the straw harvest at the end of the summer. It was a tradition back then that local kids would assist the farmers; a tradition now lost to heavily mechanised intensive farming.
He and his wife were good friends of ours and although it was hard work, we always enjoyed our time at the farm.
One day when we were 13, over a cup of coffee, farm-baked bread with pork dripping (saindoux) and freshly made strawberry jam, the farmer’s wife spoke to both of us and said: “If there is any piece of advice I could offer you boys, it is this: learn to protect yourselves from the mistakes of the times you live in“.
Karl and I nodded and thanked her for her wisdom but when we reached home we looked at each other with inquiring minds and I remember saying: “what do you think she meant by the mistakes of our time?”
He replied: “well, one big mistake I can think of is food. Look at all the rubbish people eat and look at all the fat unhealthy people around. We don’t want to become like that do we?
I knew he was right and could not argue with him.
So thus, with a very approving nudge from our father (who was a vegetarian) we began to substitute sweets, chocolates, pastries and biscuits for fresh fruit, raisins and nuts; soda drinks for apple juice and water, fried foods for fresh foods. We reduced our intake of dairy products and ate more green vegetables.
Now, bear in mind that we grew up in Belgium, the land of chocolate, pastries, “frites” and delicious – but very fattening cuisine.
We knew it made sense and immediately felt the benefits especially in all the sports we did. We had more energy and for longer. Our skin looked better and we were less tired in the afternoons at school.
The farmer’s wife’s words of wisdom created a profound paradigm shift for us with something that we so took for granted every day and later on in many other areas of our lives.
So what are some other damaging mistakes of our time that we ought to protect ourselves from today?
… Oh, and I really hated the pork dripping on the strawberry jam sandwiches!