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We say nothing essential about the cathedral when we speak of its stones. ~(1900 - 1944)
It was Aldous Huxley who described the brain as a "reducing valve".[i] The mind, exposed to a theoretically infinite number of experiences, breaks down and synthesizes chunks of the infinite into intelligible thoughts, words, and memories. In fact, the central function of the brain, purported Huxley, was not to expand consciousness, but to keep it from spinning off into limitlessness by reducing its awareness into much smaller, more manageable fragments. The brain, therefore, is not that which makes expansive consciousness possible, but rather that which limits it.
And so, we distill a piece of this infinity -- lest we be swallowed and digested by it -- into an ego, whose main role, is to deny that we are more than this illusion of finitude. Humans, perched both preeminently and precariously on top of the food chain, must reduce other things, or be reduced by other organisms. Digest or be digested;dominate or be dominated. These laws of survival infuse cultural patterns with unnecessary and misdirected behaviors, however.
One of these behaviors is the routine atomization of our food into its nutritional components. The soul is in the whole. However, we lose the soul when we destroy the whole in favor of a list of constituents. We take strange comfort in creating formulas for our physical health without considering our emotional health. These formulas borrow from labels.
They borrow from lists of vitamin C super-foods and not from the experience of squeezing just picked oranges into a glass of fresh, bright juice; from omega 3/omega 6 ratio statistics and not from the anticipation of a dinner of roasted, nut-crusted wild salmon; from so-called recommended daily intakes of grams of protein and not in the elegance of a resolutely fluffy mushroom omelet. We focus on the parts and consequently we lose the soul. Inhabiting the soul is the healing and the pleasure of food - the very results we seek. Tragically, we lose those too.
In an article published recently on greenmedinfo.com, Margie King talks about the whole food being more than the sum of its parts.[ii] She draws from the research of Dr. Annemarie Colbin, author of Food and Healing who purports that when we consume fragments of a whole food, our bodies feel the absence of the missing parts and proceed to seek them.[iii]
The USDA's 'Nutrition Facts'[iv] profile on apples illustrates the inanity of the reductionist approach taken to its extreme. According to this interpretation, the apple, despite its place as the most famously iconic of all health foods appears to be nothing more than a sugar-rich, nutritionally empty, dummy food!
Apples, Raw, with Skin, USDA
This reduction of food into aggregations of elements does not even acknowledge the benefit of the whole ingredient, let alone in a combination of ingredients. Pesto is a Genovese specialty that has become a prolific North American condiment. Filtered through the nutritional reductionist's lens, this would be abbreviated to merely basil and pine nuts and their respective nutritional contributions. According to the USDA nutrition data base, basil has 6% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. Pine nuts are rich in omega 3 fats.