What’s bad food? Is it food that tastes bad? Food that makes you feel guilty? Or just food that really isn’t food? Like many American women, up until very recently I’d have said it’s food that makes you feel guilty, essentially food that might make you gain weight.
I had a bad, grocery store muffin experience last weekend. Bad not because I felt guilty about it (okay I did), but bad because it was junk food; something created from a formula, not a recipe, something meant to evoke the experience of “muffiness”, without ever needing to actually be a muffin.
I immediately wished I’d gone to a real bakery, (where the muffins would have cost more) or just made my own.
In college, I once wrote a paper about a $100 toilet bowl brush I saw at the MOMA’s gift shop. It was for an anthropology class called Cultures of Consumption. I thought then, and still think now, that the toilet brush in question was surely a sign of the apocalypse.
And so is bad food – like my muffin.
One class focused on the dark side of consumer culture didn’t stop me becoming a pretty consummate consumer for many years. I’m not claiming to have Imelda Marcos’ closet – I just counted, I have seven pairs of shoes – but, till I began this blog and project I thought of the things I buy more in terms of can I afford it, rather than, should I buy it.
Asking should I buy it is at least a step in the right direction, a move away from being a mindless consumer. Should I buy it? What resources went into making it? What was damaged by its creation? Could I make it with less cost to the world as a whole? Can I use something I already have?
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Make it with your own hands.
I still don’t see myself moving off the grid anytime soon – and my choices are still far from blameless, but at least they’re conscious choices. And I try to cut out the middle man, the handling and the packaging whenever I can.
Sometimes it is a pain in ass. Eating in restaurants in Boise is a lot harder than it was in Seattle. There are a couple very good, truly locavore establishment where I can eat anything I want and not worry about where it came from, or what kind of a life the animals involved lived. Eating sustainably is a lot cheaper at home, even if you have plenty of politically correct options.
And sometimes it’s embarrassing, like explaining to the manager of the local discount grocery store – which has a wonderful, mostly organic bulk foods section – why I want to bring my own containers, rather than using the very convenient plastic bags provided. (I ‘m still uncomfortable flying my freak flag at quite that height. I probably bring my own containers about half the time.)
Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing your habits. I’m not planning to give up toilet paper anytime soon, but it’s easy to do without paper napkins, paper towels (except in dire pet-related emergencies), fabric softener, and furniture polish. Turns out I don’t actually need any of that stuff.
But sometimes, on Sunday morning, I really do want a muffin. Next time, I’ll get up early, or plan ahead, or find a real baker to buy it from. These carrot muffins are fast and easy, and so much better than any counterfeit baked good. And now, there’s a batch stored in my freezer.