On the Whole (Foods)

When I returned to PTS, I noticed that there were several books on the "free shelf" in my hall. Upon closer inspection I noticed that someone had placed The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, on said shelf. As I'd heard about this book from several different friends, I decided it would be a good read when Greek wasn't taking my time. Since Greek has been taking very little of my time, I'm already halfway through the book.

Anyway, the simplest way to describe the book is to say it's about America's broken relationship with food. Pollan takes the time to follow several different meals from start to finish - from a fast food hamburger to a hunted and gathered feast. I've only read about two of the meals so far, fast food and "industrial organic." Reading about the industrial organic meal led me to make my first trip to Whole Foods ever. I'll write more about the book when I finish it, but for now it's the grocery store.

It was an interesting and strange experience. It's definitely a niche market. Whole Foods wouldn't last a week in a low income neighborhood where people are feeding themselves on a couple dollars a day. When I was a kid, my mother had about $300 a month to feed three people. That's just a little more than $3 a day for each of us. Organic gooseberries and whole wheat bread were definitely not on the menu.

I splurged a little, buying root beer made with real cane sugar, a .4 ounce piece of "organic smooshed" raspberries, some freshly made pico de gallo and a bag of fancy potato chips cooked in olive oil and topped with parmesan and garlic. The lowbrow version probably would have cost me less than $5, but at Whole Foods I spent over $12. (And, let me tell you, those chips and pico de gallo will last all week.) It's infuriating to me that the more nutritious a food is, the more it costs. And people wonder why poor people are also fat people.

Whole Foods is sort of a bittersweet place. It's wonderful to have access to organic fruits and vegetables, but buying from a place like Whole Foods does very little to support local growers and is only marginally more sustainable than conventional mega-farms where the cows are pumped full of hormones or chickens are fed beef fat to make them bigger faster. They still use just as much petroleum for transporting and processing their foods which grow in huge monocultures instead of polycultures, which is what nature intended.

All this makes me committed to growing as much of my own food as possible when I have a place to grow it. I'm also considering becoming a de facto vegetarian, eating meat only when it's served to me at someone's house or when I can get it from a farm that grazes its livestock. Eggs and dairy products present a products present more of a problem because I love both of them and don't know how easily I will be able to move away from eating them... Of course, the whole vegetarian idea is still an idea. We'll see.

Anyway, rant over for now.
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