There are several strategies you can adopt, as an impecunious, starving artist, to solve the problem of how you get enough to eat, in order to survive.
Some artists solve the problem by eating very little and coping with the hunger, illness and lethargy that result from inadequate nutrition. That’s one way and certainly a very popular way. Many artists are characterised by the gaunt, overly thin, emaciated, wastrel look. It’s a result of spending nothing on food, by necessity. However, it ultimately cuts into your productivity, as an artist. You become too weak to function.
Others develop strategies to eat cheaply, so that their bellies are full, but so that their bank balances, such as they are, do not drain so rapidly. The problem with that strategy is that they can become severely malnourished, while still taking in an abundance of cheap, low nutritional value food. The problem with cheap food is that it isn’t very good for you. It can harm your health drastically.
It turns out that the cheapest foods, the ones artists can afford to eat without breaking the bank, are loaded with stodge. They’re all simple carbohydrates (mainly starches) and sugars. This is no accident. Sometime in the 1950s, some genius issued dietary advice that said carbohydrates were where it was at. They were good for you and should comprise the greatest part of your food intake. At about the same time, a guy in government named “Earl” decided to plough huge government subsidies into the growing of simple carbohydrates. They thought they had solved world hunger.
Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that links the consumption of high carbohydrate diets with an increase in the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. These diseases have, of course, reached epidemic proportions and have not plateaued out yet. To compound this egregious mistake, dietary advice insisted that dietary saturated fats and cholesterol were causing the problem, not carbohydrates, but subsequent science has shown that these weren’t the culprits at all. In fact, these dietary components were not only beneficial, but necessary. Instead, food was denuded of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol and these components substituted with more simple carbohydrates and sugars, to bulk out the products. This was like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Add to this dietary holocaust the fact that food processing, as an industry, found ways to become dominant, by cutting nutritional corners in favour of consumer convenience, longer shelf life and sheer profitability. Breads were over-yeasted and force risen, rather than patiently fermented, to get more loaves out the factory door in less time. What was lost in the process? Nobody cared. They didn’t even bother to ask the question.
Soils were drenched in chemical fertilisers and fields worked to death, in the interests of increasing yields (i.e. profits). High frequency crops destroyed the soil’s natural micro biota and insect life, with little time to recover. Fields and so the crops that grow in them, were denuded and depleted of minerals.
These arid deserts, laced with some but not all of the chemicals necessary for healthy plant and animal growth, were sweated like some kind of capital investment, as an industry would with expensive machinery. People forgot that they were intimately linked to and dependent upon the health and balance of their soils. The food we eat is as impoverished as the soils they are grown in.
Our heavily subsidised crops include wheat, corn, rice, sugar cane, sugar beet, soy and other carbohydrate heavy things. What we don’t subsidise are fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and to a lesser extent legumes and pulses. Guess which foods we ought to be eating, for good health?
People are not generally aware that the fertiliser and pesticide industries had their roots in chemical warfare production. The production of explosives was, in peace time, turned into the fertiliser industry. Pesticides have nerve gases as their ancestors. The chemicals we put on our fields were initially designed to kill and destroy.
Because we farm so intensively and mechanistically, there are far fewer people to handle the produce with care. The time it now takes from harvest to table is increased. Instead of getting plentiful food that is fresher, we get food that has lost a lot of its vitamins, by the time it has been shipped, stored, processed, distributed and prepared for eating. By the time it’s on your plate, on your table, it may have been half way around the world and back.
As artists, we’ve been told that eating fast foods saves time. We need to save time, because we generally have to hold down day jobs to fund out art, so we don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. If you become so focused on your art that you forget to nourish your body, you’re on the road to disaster. You can’t make good art when you’re ailing, even if you aren’t initially conscious of how poorly you are beginning to perform.
So, we know the answer. If we want to eat well, to sustain our performance as artists, we have to eat relatively little and make relatively expensive choices. The science is in. It is a sobering experience to actually try to accomplish that goal, in a typical suburban supermarket. What you quickly realise, as you roam through aisles and aisles of carbohydrates and sugars and search fruitlessly for genuinely fresh produce, or fermented sour dough bread, or rye loaves, is that supermarkets are purpose built and designed to serve you cheap food, not nutritious food. It’s all sadly lacking and tragically compromised. The packaging is bright and attractive, but it has to be, because the product is so corrupted.
In any given locality, it is all but impossible to buy vegetables, fruits, meat and fish that were harvested just a few hours ago. Even the popular farm shops, masquerading as purveyors of such things, turn out to be fraudulent, when you scratch beneath the surface. Food is no longer seasonal, but transported over vast distances, time zones and hemispheres, so that you can have seasonal foods all year round. By the time any food you buy has reached your plate, you can be assured it has been dead for a very long time. In fact, it has been dead and decaying, losing its nutritional value by the hour, for much longer than your grandparents would have tolerated.
Honest, artisanal food, if it is available at all, is usually beyond the budget of starving artists. This wasn’t always so. When food was produced locally, by people that cared about what they produced and the communities they lived in, a square meal in the local eatery used to be relatively cheap and such eateries were everywhere. Cafes and restaurants would often take pity on starving artists and feed them on these wonderful foodstuffs in an almost subsidised way (swapping meals for canvases, for example), because they knew that the presence of artists in their establishments contributed to the ambiance, excitement, vibe, atmosphere and character of their places and that this, in turn, attracted a better class of paying diner. The artists were the entertainment and draw card.
What’s a starving artist to do today, though? Should they sabotage their own health, by starving or else eating health depleting crap that is just within their means? Where can they get a good, fair, nutritious meal that they can afford, which will sustain their bodies to enable them to create their art? How will artists continue to think and to create, when the very food they eat destroys them?
Who will feed the starving artists and what hope for the millions of starving children worldwide, in this nightmare scenario?