Two news stories this morning – unrelated? – mated in my mind and made this baby thought.
Story one: because of the stalled economy and tight personal finances people are grocery shopping at WalMart instead of Whole Foods. They just can’t afford organics.
Story two: 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Far fewer think they are.
Okay. Is this 2+2=4 or what? We assume we have to keep up the volume of food so are willing to cheat on quality – never even questioning whether we might be eating too much.
We are overweight, in part, because we super-size ourselves. We eat when we are happy, sad, lonely, angry, bored, tired… and oh yes, hungry. As I’ve said in this blog, we eat for taste, for volume, for therapy, out of habit. Our food system and food supplies are skewed by inequality of wealth and government policies such that we get few signals from the stores or even prices that there are shortages (elsewhere). There is always plenty at the grocery store. Neatly lined up, stacked up, displayed, inviting us to buy and eat. And to be honest, don’t we all love that?
We luxuriate in food in the US (at least most of us do). It is so second nature that when money is tight, we seek that experience of endless food at Walmart, that genius of distribution of mountains of products for “everyday low prices.” We don’t eat less.
This isn’t a screed against merchandisers. God bless the distributors. God bless the accountants who make sure the business end of food delivery works. God bless the produce people at all the markets on South Whidbey where I shop.
God bless us all. But still, why do we eat like there is no tomorrow, weighing ourselves down but keeping on going?
My experience with relational eating is showing me that despite my cravings and habits, food is nourishment brought to me not by a long supply chain but by my neighbors. It is personal. So I eat slowly and enjoy the camaraderie of it.
Food is also precious. I go out every morning to my small garden to toss slugs across the fence and pick a few green beans or zucchini or a carrot to supplement what Tricia gives me. If I stuff myself with green beans, I have blown off all that went into growing it.
Food is also really really good. And local food – and this isn’t just locavore jive – tastes better. It is fresher and the grass fed beef is tastier and the corn is beyond belief good.
And food is bountiful but not endless. I especially get that round about 5 days after my last batch from Tricia.
By today I was getting a little thin of supply, but it was raining and Tricia asked if we could wait until tomorrow for her to pick. Sure, I said, mentally surveying my provisions with a slight panic rising, the old “Will I have enough?” anxiety.
I still had 5 small beets she gave me a week ago. A potato. Some positively lewd carrots. One onion. Plenty of garlic. Basil. Rosemary. I roasted them all tossed with some olive oil and salt and it was a gourmet dinner. And I still have one egg and half an onion for breakfast. With kale the size of a baseball glove right out my door, puleeze, I am not going to starve.
Can we rewrite those news stories this way:
“As the recession deepens, Americans are realizing that belt tightening is what they have been trying to do for years with all their diets.
‘We never even realized it was all that food that was making us fat,’ one woman said as she shopped the farmer’s market. ‘I’m spending the same for food, we’re just eating less and Henry and I just had our photo taken in our wedding clothes. Imagine that!’ “
note: as someone who has packed more pounds than I want to for years, I”m not dissing myself or others who struggle with weight. I am just wondering if we could use this time of thinner wallets to examine the volume of food we run through our bodies, and to wonder about it a bit. And maybe get a bit thinner of butt too.