A Shopper's Dilemma

Friday night I spent more than an hour at the supermarket and left with only a few items: almond milk, bread, brown rice, broccoli, cauliflower, grapefruit, and vegetarian hotdogs.  Ever since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan I’ve been putting more thought into what I put in my mouth.  (Yeah, I know, “that’s what she said.”)  The book was a fascinating look into what America is feeding itself, and to sum it up…it ain’t good.  Corporate agribusiness is costing us and our earth more than we know.  There’s a lot of hidden costs to that cheap chicken breast and one dollar hamburger, and they come out of your tax dollars.  It was informative and interesting, but somewhat disheartening; Pollan doesn’t offer any solutions (which I don’t blame him for since there is no easy solution) and he is hesitant to take sides but definitely leans towards locally sourced foods from small scale farms.  In the end, I was still trapped in the dilemma:  What do I eat?

After Thanksgiving I experimented with being a vegetarian (semi-vegetarian, I couldn’t bring myself to give up sushi) in light of all the terrible things I read about factory farms.  Though I’m not completely vegetarian at the moment, I haven’t been able to eat much meat.  I’m once again on a semi-vegetarian track.  I keep thinking about those animals crowded on top of each other covered in their own shit, pumped with antibiotics.  Even the labels “organic,” “cage-free,” and “grass-fed” don’t mean anything.  USDA guidelines are lenient and clearly serving agricultural lobbyists.  “Free-range” in their definition is having “access” to the outside, which amounts to a little door at the end of their coops that can’t even utilize most of the time.

All these things made me spend over an hour at the supermarket deciding what to eat.  I actually used my phone to google unknown ingredients in soymilk.   I wanted to buy “cage-free” eggs but I was too disgusted with what I knew to buy them.  And the produce?  I was bothered by the fact that I didn’t know what was actually in season, that these foods used gallons and gallons of petroleum to get to that Kroger, and that it had probably been forever since they came from the earth.  I finally buckled and did buy some produce, realizing that part of eating in America is forgetting.  Being ignorant.  And I find that disturbing.  I love food, and I don’t just want to consume it for just for its calories; I want to enjoy the karmic pleasure of eating real food.

I realize part of my dilemma in the supermarket stemmed from the fact that I was shopping in a supermarket.  I want to explore local food options.  Check out the farmer’s market.  In my Southern Food class we’re studying all these things, the food industry, Southern food ways, etc., so it’ll be part of my curriculum anyway.  :)  Today when I was chopping my purple cauliflower and broccoli I had to stop myself from being disgusted that they were miles and days from the earth they were grown in.  I was fascinated by the purple cauliflower they used in the Iron Chef Battle with the White House Executive Chef, so I wanted to try it.

I just sautéed it in some olive oil with broccoli and sprinkled some salt and pepper.  It was good, and pretty…but I know that it could have been so much greater if it was fresher.  Crunching away on my compromise I tried to forget that instead of being recently misted with morning dew or sprinkled with rain, these vegetables were sprayed with water introduced by an artificial clap of thunder from an overhead sprinkler system in Kroger.

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