Back in April, I was accosted in the Whole Foods parking lot by a guy who had been standing behind me in the check out line. I was carrying two large reusable shopping bags filled with produce and a little bit of meat and maybe a can or two of beans. We had parked next to each other and as I was putting my shopping bags into my car he called to me, "$130 is a lot of money for just two bags of groceries." I nodded agreeably, smiled and said something like, "There's a lot packed into these two bags." I was being pleasant and playful. Yes, I did spend a lot of money, but I had a lot of good nutrition in those two bags and I knew it. I didn't expect his back handed reply of, "You keep telling yourself that. You know when I was a kid my mom used to rate herself on how many bags she brought home from the grocery store based on the money she'd spent." I got into my car without further reply and let him drive off with whatever sense of self-satisfaction he may have derived from criticizing my grocery shopping on that particular day.
Despite that fact that I didn't respond to this man's comment, I was none-the-less angry. When had it become offensive to spend good money on healthy, nutritious food?
As I drove home and thought about our exchange, I asked myself who the hell this guy thought he was? Although I didn't pay enough attention to tell you the make and model of the vehicle this guy drove, I did notice that it was black and shiny, it was a sports sized car, not a family sedan like I was driving. I know his car was newer than the 2001 Hyundai Sonata I was sporting that day. I also noticed that he was wearing a ball cap with a major league emblem on it and a windbreaker with either the Red Sox or a Patriots stitched onto the front. I had a hard time getting over the nerve this guy had running me down in the parking lot in order to criticize how I spent my money. Obviously our values are different. I'm not into fancy cars. I'm not a clothes horse. I don't understand why we pay celebrities and athletes so much more than we pay our school teachers. However, we live in a free country and I honor that we are all entitled to value things differently.
I try not to tell other people (except for my husband and our son) how to eat. I wouldn't have many friends if I did. However, I am open and honest about how I shop and the role I feel that food plays in our health. I remember a poster that hung in our school cafeteria when I started grade school. The poster depicting a ring master at a circus juggling a group of animals with the caption, You Are What You Eat. As a first grader, I puzzled over the connection between circus animals and my lunch. However, now as an adult who has struggled with infertility and hypothyroidism who has corrected these two issues through dietary changes, I now understand the correlation. It's a juggling act of options and choices.
I try to make my food choices consciously. I do believe there is a cost to our health and the health of our earth if we continue to base our diet on a lot of processed food...or in the words of Michael Pollan, edible foodlike substances. These costs eventually become all of our problem in the form of higher costs for health care which gets distributed to all of us through our insurance premiums and taxes.
Even though most people in this country get their food at a large chain grocery store, it doesn't originate there. At this point, it comes from very few factory farms. At a time when the headlines range from Wall Street and big business corruption to unemployment and the growing cost of health care in this country, I can't figure out why more people aren't concerned about our food and where it comes from and how sustainable our growing practices might be. However, I'm not here to tell anyone what to do. I simply want the opportunity to share my experience.