October 17, 2013

Food Trust Issues

Moving to the states has been a little unsettling on my system. I'm slowly but surely adapting to the fluorine in the water, to the monster apples, to the unsettlingly bright colors of some fruit and veg. But the biggest thing I need to adapt to is the attitude to food here. In a place where food is a commodity, food is no longer just your fuel. And it's strange.

I'm lucky that the awesome family I live with appreciates good food and tries to avoid the processed stuff. But in this country, it's tough to do so, when the alternative is so expensive. It's sad to think that those living in financial difficulty will get health issues because their diet consists of cheep processed fats and salts.
And then there's all that candy... the absolute need to snack. Snack packs. Midnight snacks. A mid day snack. All that junk. Kids learn early to eat and absorb. It's scary. Nutrition is tough, and for some reason, kids aren't learning it. The culprit? I can't catch him. But suspect number one is television. Watch any kids show, see the advertisements. Kids, eat here, eat this! Nag your parents! Fresh home cooked meals are gross.  Fast food is a treat.
We live in a country where food companies will give money to schools where kids save tags off of their snack boxes. Schools are being partly funded by children's overeating and irregular food habits. What. The. Heck.
And don't get me started on eating games. No, really, don't. Suffice to say that living in france has taught me that having food to eat is a privilege, not a right, and it should not was wasted. Sick.

But the worst part is when you pick up food and read the back... and you see the lies. The foods calling "90% less fat!" that omit to tell you that means 90% more sugar. The hams soaked in sugar. The "Great for kids!" smiling cartooned breakfast cartons that get kids hooked on - you guessed it - sugar. We live in sugar culture. Fun fact: european brands tend to make their American counterparts sweeter, because if they kept them at a european level Americans don't buy them. Why? Not sweet enough. I can't drink a coke in the country, it tastes like I'm sucking on a sugar cube.
What does all this have in common? Sugar.
Sugar, the liar. Hides in everything. Sometimes you don't see it. You don't realize it's there. But then, one day, you eat a grape. And you think to yourself, "wow... these aren't as nice as I used to think they were.
Sugar is addictive. It's a dangerous substance. And I'm tired of not being able to trust my food, not knowing if it'll turn me against the food I'm meant to be eating to stay alive.

But there is hope. After this rant, I need to say the awesome things I saw today.

1) I went grocery shopping and found fresh french cheese in the shop. It was a Safeways, I think. My gosh, there was a buche de chevre. Fresh, strong, just like from home. I'm a happy camper.
I left that grocery store where not a single processed item. Everything we got was healthy and fresh. And I think for a family of four, (now five), the price was what it was. I was impressed.

2) A friend's mother owns a coffee shop/ bakery in this little community. The food there was incredible. I had a fresh wrap with grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes. It was so, so good. Splurged on a fresh pineapple smoothie. To you this may seem mundane, But I had never in my live had a smoothie with a lunch. Ever. Or a pineapple smoothie, for that matter. Maybe eating well won't be as hard as I thought.

3) Tonight I gave my host fam a crash course on pizza making. It was a blast. The seven year old really loved helping with the sauce, even though he's a picky eater (I would love to see some research about picky eaters. I was definitely one growing up, only getting slowly getting over my food hurdles and discovering a whole new world). I made a goat cheese pizza with some that we had picked up earlier. Yummy.

All this gives me hope. I wish people realized how incredible food can be when people (rather than a pre programed machine) put effort into making a dish. Maybe then the country's relationship with food could begin to heal.


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