I hate grocery shopping.
I mean, it's really convenient to be able to walk into a store and walk out with whatever you want. Vegetables line shelves and are piled in sleek, orderly piles designed to attract the buyer's eye with clean, shiny skins, bright colors, and user-friendly bundles and packs. Dry goods are plentiful. Dairy products fill cooler units with glossy packaging in agreeable sizes that don't challenge the consumer's ability to handle larger, unwieldy quantities of cheese, milk or butter. Meat sits cleanly on white diaper sheets, to absorb any errant blood, on Styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic film; shoppers need not be confronted with the untidy reality of slaughter and butchering practices. Fish is filleted into immaculate strips of edible-portion flesh, devoid of skin, head or guts. There is no need to do any extra work.
That's how they get you.
As my cart fills with boxes and bags of ready-to-use food products, I experience a giddy, artificial sense of well-being. All I have to do is load all this stuff into be back of my Subaru, drive home, and stow it. I'm all set for the week! Each day, I have only to open a cupboard, fridge or freezer to access enough food for one meal to serve my family of 4. The meat is thoughtfully pre-portioned so I need not struggle with more than one package. Pasta boxes contain enough carbohydrates to fill one 5 quart soup pot.
Modern grocery shops love that word. Colorful store banners shout, "It's EASY!" Others proclaim, "This can't get any EASIER!" Or, "EASY meals for the modern family!" Of course, its nothing new. "Easy", "clean", "fast", "convenient" and "modern" are buzzwords that have driven the grocery trade for decades. Recently, another titan of marketing jargon has taken over; FUN. These days, if a food product isn't fun, it's passed over like the gawky wallflower at a high school dance. The fact that these fun foods are loaded with artificial colors and flavors, along with almost no nutrition doesn't seem to matter.
Increasingly, the meat department showcases two and three pieces of cleanly trimmed portions that have already been slathered with spice mixtures or swim in murky marinades, vacuum-packed in heavy plastic tubes. Large racks of ribs, pork shoulders, or whole turkeys are becoming as rare as the Leatherback Turtle or the South China Tiger.
I approached the check-out stand feeling cheated. I had a $150.00 budget for the week and my cart was half-filled. I would be able to get by on what I had bought, but only just.
Once I got home and unloaded my 6 or 7 bags, I headed out with my harvest baskets. Lettuce and green peas needed picking, and beets had to be thinned. I knew the time in my gardens would soothe my ruffled feathers as well as supplement my sparsely stocked pantry shelves. I spent the next several hours picking, washing, trimming, slicing, hulling, drying, blending, packing and freezing. By 4 o'clock the afternoon, I had a full quart bag of green peas, 2 quart bags of sauteed kale, a full gallon bag of beets and beet tops, two ice cube trays of pureed green onion tops, a quart bag of fresh onion bulbs, a sandwich bag of basil pesto, a cup of dried thyme and oregano, two large sheet pans of dried mint for tea, and a half gallon of mint and vodka stored in the cellar for winter mint extract. All of that cultivated from seeds, except the onions which were planted in sets, and the mint, which grows wild everywhere on the farm. Total cost of this harvest? Roughly .80 cents, if you consider each seed packet cost less than 2.00, and every plant will continue to produce throughout the season.
This is all a lot of work. Some folks don't have the time, the energy or the knowledge to manage this kind of production, even at our small scale. Many people just don't have the interest. They don't care where their food comes from, how it's grown, cared for, transported or distributed. All they see is what's in front of them on the shelf. And that's ok! It's all right not to care where your food comes from, in my opinion, as long as you either support or don't hinder those who do. Just as it's perfectly fine to be a vegetarian or a vegan, as long as you don't abuse or disrespect those who choose to eat an Omni-diet, and vise versa. Our planet has the ability to sustain an unlimited amount of energy and food- as long as Earth's soil, water and other critical natural resources are managed and nurtured, and alternative energy and agricultural technologies are researched and encouraged.
Over the last 50 years, mankind- Americans in particular- have become so removed from the origin of their food, that many can't identify plants, or cuts of meat and the animal they come from, or determine whether store produce is a fruit or a vegetable. The scary part is that a majority of Americans have no idea that most modern plants can't be grown from their seeds because Genetically Terminated Organisms and Seeds have been allowed to proliferate on the Corporate Agriculture level. In other words, the seeds from an apple purchased at Safeway, Kroger, Price Chopper or Food Lion will grow into a tree, but will not produce fruit. To me, this is a recipe for disaster.
The same problem exists with the American meat industry. At the end of the day, we all know our juicy, delicious cheeseburger comes from beef, which at one time had hooves, hide and tail. The dilemma is that no one wants to accept that reality. So 3 colossal meat packing corporations sequester themselves in the vast acreage of the Mid-West, operating on an enormous scale which does not in any way take into consideration the well-being of the animal from which they are collecting stupendous profits. But yet, when small farmers attempt to change this, breeding, raising, slaughtering, butchering and marketing the resulting quality meat, folks work themselves into a lather. USDA regulations are a heavy burden, tossing obstacles into the path of sustainable farmers who want to sell their products to local buyers. Uninformed people worry and fret about the well-being of pastured small herds and flocks, instead of being distressed about the conditions present in factory farms. It makes absolutely no sense.