On Food

September 21, 2009

Just got back from a huge, much-needed shopping trip.

Produce

Produce

Produce

I was thinking the other day about how complicated grocery shopping can be. As I wind up and down the aisles, all of the following factors run through my head, fighting for prioritization.

Health – In terms of whether the food is natural, free of mystery ingredients and pesticides, full of nutrients, hopefully low in sodium and sugar, etc. Can be super confusing given all the information out there.
Body consciousness – Not only concerned about my physical well-being from a health standpoint, I worry about how the food impacts the way I look, obviously weight being the key factor (I know I’m thin, but I certainly ain’t toned in all the right places).
Environment – Primarily focusing on whether the food/ ingredients are organic, if produce is in season, whether it’s locally grown or produced, and how bulky the plastic packaging is.
Animals’ well-being – I don’t eat meat, but I’m not vegan. I waffle over buying eggs, I look for cage-free/organic, I feel guilty about dairy products, I check labels to avoid meat flavoring/ gelatin (but don’t always succeed).
Humans’ well-being – I don’t know enough about this issue, probably the key area I’m aware of is the horrible exploitation of tomato pickers in Florida; I also like to support small-scale or local business if possible.
Taste – Um, do I like how it tastes? So much for that expensive pure maple syrup, even if it is free of high fructose corn syrup. And so much for giving up potato chips.
Cost – Obviously a huge factor; one I can sometimes get away with ignoring, but not most of the time. Often makes for ethical dilemmas.
Realistic meals – Am I actually going to cook this, will I eat it before it goes bad, do I have the right accompanying ingredients for a dish, do I have the time to cook a meal from scratch or should I just go for something frozen?
Aesthetic preferences/ the bourgeois factor – Hate to admit to this one, but I do love me a cart full of groceries I can be proud of, whether because they are healthy and/or ethical choices, the packaging is attractive, or the food itself conjures a romantic vision (like gourmet cheese, strawberries, fresh bakery bread, and wine). Confession: I’ve actually daydreamed about a grocery store version of Room Raiders; instead of raiding someone’s bedroom, you raid their grocery cart and try to figure out what it says about them. This is only on days when I like my purchases.

Yikes. This list grew more detailed as I was writing it just now. There are probably other factors swirling around I haven’t even noticed. I’d say overall, my biggest concern with all this is that I experience feelings of guilt on a variety of levels, and that’s not a good emotion to be regularly harboring with regards to food. I’ve read many times that women often divide foods into “good” or “bad” categories and feel awful for breaking their own rules. In the past, I always imagined this in terms of body image; “good” and “bad” basically referring to calorie count. But people are becoming increasingly interested other aspects of what we eat, and at least for me, it means that the definitions of “good” and “bad” expand, compete, contradict, and confuse. I love grocery shopping, cooking, and eating, but there is always some kind of negativity or guilt attached to the process. Most likely shopping for anything can involve many of these factors, but combined with a whole other set of issues pertaining to food, good lord. It’s intense. I’d like to learn more about others’ approaches to grocery shopping.

If you read all that, then you deserve this bonus–Wet dog in a towel:

Wet doggy

Wet doggy

Wet doggy

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