Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Perfect Consumer

When I was a freshman, I watched the documentary Food, Inc. for my Honors English class. I even wrote a blog post about it way back then, to the tune of “Why would I buy local and organic when it’s so much more convenient (and cheaper) to just pick up some packaged, processed food at the supermarket?”

There are so many people these days preaching clean eating. No more sugar-laden breakfast cereals, packaged salad greens, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Buy the all-natural peanut butter, get cheese from the farm down the road, pick your own strawberries! There’s a certain amount of “food snobbery” going on in that those who can afford to eat healthy, fresh foods proudly do; those that don’t…end up at McDonald’s or in the checkout line with a bunch of cheap frozen meals. We look down on them.

But really, how many of us can live up to the perfect standards of Michael Pollan? There are so many obstacles. Convenience—does a working parent with several kids have the time or energy to search for local, organic foods and make multiple stops to pick it all up? Cost—can the average American afford it in this economy?

Wait, we’re forgetting a big one here. We also have to consider, does it suit our NEEDS?

You have this article to thank for my ramblings (and Burp and Slurp to thank for bringing it to my attention). If you can’t stomach the taste of the organic/local stuff, should you really keep eating it? There’s the cyclist who “about fell off [his] bike” eating an organic peanut butter sandwich because of the texture. (Seriously, read the article!) And if you’re a restaurant, what good is using organic ingredients (the article mentions ketchup in particular) if it means people don’t like your food?

Or for a more personal example, my horses “need” apples (;)). When they’re in season we can get them from the fruit farm down the road, and they’re delicious. But in the middle of winter all the good ones are gone and none are coming fresh off the trees. They’re soft, they rot quickly. So we buy apples from Walmart.

I think it’s safe to say that your diet shouldn’t consist entirely of frozen pizzas and Big Macs. But really, not incorporating them into our food sources is not only extremely difficult, but it could also mean we’re missing out. This is America. Are going to tell me you’ve never had anything as American as a Fluffernutter because it wasn’t organic?

So let’s take this as a reminder to lighten up. We can’t control every aspect of our lives, nor should we try to. That’s especially true of where our food comes from. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to buy local and organic when we can, but we shouldn’t be afraid to make compromises, either. It’s not the end of the world.

You’ve seen what I eat. Most of it isn’t organic or local. But it works for me.

Don’t focus on being perfect; find what’s perfect for you and embrace it. If that means buying Jif instead of crashing your bike, so be it.
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