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What a Snob I’ve Become!

Ah, I’m feeling much, much better today! How glorious. I am still sick, but at least I can think again, and have the energy to sit up, walk about and even cook. And with that, the energy to think about what I’m eating again.

As I mentioned yesterday, I am currently house and pet sitting for friends who are off on vacation somewhere hot and sunny. Their parting words had been “make yourself at home and help yourself to any food you want.” This family has a very eco-conscious, green oriented household and so I was looking forward to raiding fridge, freezer and pantry while I am here. And raid their stores is exactly what I did yesterday when I was too weak and tired to prepare anything myself. Unfortunately, their stock of food is much, much more industrial than I expected. And industrial means carb laden to the max. I am not used to eating a lot of carbs and refined sugars and by the end of yesterday my stomach felt as sick as my head, and while I went to bed at 9pm, my heart raced until nearly 1am, preventing me from sleeping.

I never realized just how much sugar there is in industrially prepared food until yesterday. I don’t have this kind of stuff around anymore and my body has become desensitized to it. Everything has sugar added, and you can find high fructose corn syrup, other corn products or soy – nearly all of which is genetically modified – in virtually every single item. Who wants to eat that? Do people not realize just how much genetically modified food they are eating on a daily basis? Take any breakfast cereal – something I ate daily for several decades and now avoid like the plague; they are packed with GMOs. The ingredients of the first one I pulled off the shelf here are:

Whole oat flour, CORN flour, whole wheat flour, rice flour, salt, cinnamon, sodium phosphate dibasic, maltodextrin, caramel colour (contains sulphites) colour, destrin, BHT (a preservative) hydrogenated cottonseed and SOYbean oil, natural flavour.

So this cereal (Toasted Cinnamon Life) has both corn and soy – both most likely genetically modified – sugar as its second ingredient, and a whole bunch of types of flour. Who wants to eat sugar, GMOs and flour for breakfast? Exactly how can this properly fuel you to start the day? What it does is give you a head rush and then you are hungry an hour later, craving more food, most likely something carby as your bloodsugar drops. At least this was my pattern for years.

Last night, when I nipped back to my house to feed the cats, I packed up part of my own food stores and brought them back with me. This has just become par for the course when I travel now. I don’t mind eating industrial food for a meal here and there (although I nearly always feel disgusting afterwards) but I can’t do it for days at a stretch. My parents – who have always kept a very healthy fridge full of fresh fruits and veggies, cheese and organic meat, all local – now are trained to pick up organic whole milk before I come home for a visit of more than a day or two.

I suspect my friends, who are very conscientious of how they eat, would be surprised, or even offended by my need to bring my own food. I actually felt like a snob as I removed the bag of industrial milk from their milk container, carefully sealed it (I’m sure it will still be good in 10 days, when they return), and replaced it with my own local, organic version. I brought my own farm-fresh eggs despite the full container of grocery store “certified organic free run” eggs already in the fridge (for my thoughts on eggs, read this). They do have local honey and maple syrup so I didn’t need to bring my own sweeteners, but I did bring my own (organic, fair-trade) cocoa so that I could enjoy a cup of hot chocolate without resorting to Nesquick.

I suspect most people – even ones who are very careful about how they eat – don’t realize just how much industrial food they consume every day, nor do they realize the economic, social, health and environmental impacts of doing so. Or perhaps they don’t think it matters that much?

That I feel like a snob, or that I know I will be perceived by many as such, for eating the way I do is a very interesting social phenomenon. I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, as food has always been closely linked to class. But not long ago, eating fresh, healthy, local food produced by people you know and trust was a mark of pride by the working and middle classes. Now it seems to be a mark of suspicion, of someone who has too much time on their hands, a warped sense of priorities, or money to burn. Eating sustainably produced food has become elitist and a sign of excess. It is right up there with latte’s from Starbucks. And just as Starbucks saw a 97% drop in its profits in the last quarter – while McDonalds saw a spike in it’s cash reserves – organic food is the first off the priority list as soon as times get tough. Organic sales in the UK dropped 40% with the crash in the market, for example. As people tighten their belts, cheap food is the first thing they turn to. While it makes sense in the very short run, doing so has a similar impact as shopping at Walmart: it contributes to the spiral downward of the economy, of community, of the environment, and of our health.

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