This Land Was Made for You and Me
This is Blog 4 in a 365 day series!
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Today was a day of social realization. A day that saddened me significantly and left yet another imprint on my sociocultural conscious. And it’s all because of a 5 pound box of strawberriesâ€¦ Let me start from the beginning.
It’s March 19th and I am roughly 2.5 months into my beef-free lifestyle and 12 days being 94% vegan.
Yes. You heard me right. Vegan. It happened… or, it’s happening, I should say. However, I’m saving that for a different blog on a different day. Today is about strawberries.
Let me try this again…
It’s March 19th and today I ventured to the grocery store, per usual. And per usual, I spent the majority of my time in produce seeking out local and in season organics, and the rest of my time hunting down flavors fit for cultural recreation, adaption and (sometimes) experimentation. King Soopers calls these isles “Hispanic Foods” and “Asian Foods.” The selection is somewhat laughable in comparison to the local mercado or thai market (should you be able to find them), but these isles do meet my short on time, high on flavor-needs. Speaking of flavor, I will say that the biggest challenge I have faced in transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet was my fear of losing flavorâ€¦ yes, all the glorious flavors in nachos, lasagna, stir fry, pizza, cheeseâ€¦ Mmm, cheese. My nemesis. I dream of cheese and sour cream. The way it lay so unassuming on my taco, creamy or shredded, glistening under the kitchen lights. As I think about the various ways to enjoy milk products I hear Divinyls ringing in my ears… That’s not right.
Anyway, I digress. Today is not about my daily struggle with dairy. Today is about the grocery store and the very real lives of those around me in these everyday situations, those that I think no more than once about in any given moment but whose lives are very much important…
As I went through the check out line I watched as the cashier rang in each colorful item and I felt proud of the choices I had made for my family. Beet root, leafy greens, radish, eggplant, cabbage, asparagus, ginger root, fresh basil and dill, fruitâ€¦ so much fruit!â€¦ potatoes, beans, quinoaâ€¦ all the beautiful colors with distinctly beautiful flavors. I watched as I thought of each meal I would make for the week. Do I start with green chili stew? Coconut curry? Tikka masala or potato jalfrezi? Tofu tacos? Portabella-chiladas? Spinach salads or veggie wraps?Â Eggrolls! I meanâ€¦ eggrolls? (I try not to automatically settle on the unhealthy option that crosses my mind, though I must admit… if it’s deep fried, I’m gonna eat it). The inside of my mouth began to salivate and I felt excited to get home and start on a new creation when the young girl bagging my groceries said, “these strawberries smell good.” I could hear the depth in the statement. The deep breath as she smelled the air. So genuine.
“Oh god, I know!” I replied.
“But they’re so expensive.” She returned.
My heart sunk, momentarily. The girl was young. High school. I know this because the cashier had asked her to fetch a carton of smokes for the previous customer and she declined because she wasn’t 18.
I, for some reason, tried to quickly (yet casually) explain away the strawberries, agreeing that they were expensive and noting that I always try to get them when they are on sale.
“I forget how much they were marked. I always look for them cheap. I think they were 5 bucks…”
I hated my response. I hated that I wanted to say, without thinking, “but it’s worth it.” I’m glad I didn’t. She smiled and was sweet in her eyes, though some vague sadness loomed in them. It was a strange and strong feeling that stuck with me that day. It stuck with me because I was reminded that it can be a privilege to eat strawberries. Something I take for granted, yet something she acknowledged with desire.
“When was the last time you had one?”Â I thought to myself.
“How stuck up do I look secretly beaming over my fruits and veggies?”Â Shit. This isn’t right. Strawberries shouldn’t be reserved for the privileged. The food from the land should not feel unattainable.
This speaks to the nature of the food industry… poverty… education and advertisement… cost of living and corporate exploitation of the American people. Our society is flooded with images and messages and advertisements promoting Value Menus and isles 2-10 at the grocery store because when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck (like most Americans seem to do these days), it’s easier to seek out calories overÂ quality caloriesâ€¦ and it is a hell of a lot easier to feed your family with processed and frozen foods than it is to feed your family on raw, whole foods. That’s become the state of our “fast food nation,” as it’s been called. We’re told that processed foods are cheaper, regardless of the fact that there is well documented, scientific proof that you can eat well for less in this country. The problem is, people don’t know it. And in extreme cases, people don’t have access to it… whether it be due to lack of transportation, low income, sugar addiction, limited access to health education, or, in extreme cases, living in a food desertÂ -Â a geographical situation intentionally created in poor communities for corporate profit. Bastards.
. Â . Â .
I don’t know where I am going with this. I’m just angry over the way we’ve lost control over our food and aspects of our lives. Angry that there arenâ€™t any seasons in our super markets. That we have tomatoes year round because they’ve been picked green, shipped across the world and ripened with ethylene gas. Frustrated with myself for feeding into the bullshit even as I make more informed, healthy decisions. Because, at the end of the day, I’m buying those damn tomatoes year round. Iâ€™m not traveling to the Farmer’s Market and I’m not growing my own produce. I wish I were, but I’m not.
Our vegetables are mass produced just as our meat is factory farmed. We’re all in this shit storm together.
Deep breathâ€¦ as usual. For now, until I am in a economically privileged position to truly transform every aspect of my life, I must be satisfied with what it is I can reasonable do. I must be satisfied with myself, and my family, for not supporting cruelty… for not automatically buying into the various regulatory and judicial bias that controls the food industryâ€¦ and thus, our health. My morality does not want to be tied to their lies. And my decisions do not want to be based on convenience.
One day at a time.