Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I love this title on Jeff’s site: Corn syrup is the new opiate of the masses. It’s one of those funny little things that I wish I’d written. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months now.

The Husband and I do most of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. It was something we started doing the summer between my two years of grad school. I was working full time during the summer months and there wasn’t a tuition bill to pay, so I felt less anxious when I saw the higher grocery bill. I enjoyed the better quality of the produce and the greater selection of organic foods. When school started again, we intended to return to shopping at our regular supermarket, but we weren’t as happy with the choices, and so now we do most of our weekly shopping at Whole Foods, with a run by Safeway on the way home to pick up kitty litter and various odds and ends that we couldn’t get at Whole Foods.

I’m sure some of my attachment to Whole Foods is simply based on packaging and marketing. I’m buying into something, and I’m aware of that. I want to buy groceries that are labeled organic and locally grown, and Whole Foods is willing to cater to that desire. I tell myself that it’s not just for my own health, but for the greater good: pesticides aren’t being washed into rivers, and energy isn’t being used to transport produce from other continents (okay, Whole Foods isn’t a great example for my second rationale, but at least things are labeled so I can buy locally grown items when there’s a choice). It is also certainly something for my health. I like to read labels and know what I’m eating, but it takes time, and I know that anything I buy at Whole Foods is going to be free of most of the ingredients that I try to avoid, such as “fake sugar” and hydrogenated oils (and fois gras--am always reading labels to avoid purchasing anything containing fois gras). I know that I am privileged to be able to afford to be so picky.

When we got back from London after Thanksgiving, it was a Sunday evening. We picked up Thai takeout on the way home from the airport, and for the next few nights ate soups that I’d frozen before we left. Because Safeway is the nearest supermarket, The Husband finally went over there one evening after work to pick up the staples—sandwich bread, cereal, yogurt. Every day in my lunch I take a lot of little snacks, including the little cups of applesauce that I use to have packed in my school lunch. The Husband, who is not usually the fanatic for reading labels that I am (“’Wheat’ and ‘whole wheat’ bread aren’t the same thing. And just because it says whole wheat on the front, doesn’t mean it is. You have to check that the first ingredient is actually whole wheat flour.” Oh, it is fun to be married to me!), chose that night to read applesauce labels. Nearly every one of them contained corn syrup. He found one that had a more limited ingredients list, although not as limited as the applesauce we normally buy, which contains apples and water. After he told me about this search, I started reading the labels on other things he’d bought. The “healthy, whole grain” cereal he’d bought me contained corn syrup and offered 13 grams of sugar per serving. The store brand yogurt was made with corn syrup. When I stopped in the Safeway next door to my office a couple of days later to pick up some chutney, I couldn’t find one that didn’t contain corn syrup.

It's not that I eat only healthy foods. I am quite willing to steal a handful of peanut butter M&Ms from a co-worker's desk, or rot my teeth with candy from strangers (or sisters). I love ice cream, and I've been known to eat popcorn and 7-Up and the movie theater and call it dinner. And I don't buy my peanut butter at Whole Foods, because I truly believe that it doesn't taste good without sugar and partially-hydrogenated oil. But I do hate that by the coffeemaker at work we have non-dairy creamer and artificial sweetner--no actual milk or sugar. And I worry about the people who don't have the choices that I have. Are people honestly surprised that sixty percent of Americans are overweight or obese?


Jeff said...

If you need to console yourself for not having written that funny little thing, just remember that, unlike me, you somehow manage to post lengthy, well-written accounts of what you've been doing, and that you actually do so on a regular basis. Or maybe just on a desk.

lynnerd said...

Amen, sister! No Whole Foods here, but we do have a Wildberries Marketplace and a North Coast CoOp. Though we generally shop at the supermarket across the street which is a small local chain of 3 stores offering organic and conventional fare and a strange assortment of British foods. !Viva la Murphy's!

Elizabeth said...

Jeff - So were you saving up for almost two months so you could have that line? Maybe I should post less often and wait until I've feeling clever. What I find most amusing was that when I started to write something about the corn syrup issue last month, I couldn't find anything funny or clever to say about it. Brian told me not to worry, to write it anyhow, that it wasn't funny. Maybe from now on whenever I write something I will send it to you to add the funny little comments.

The Sister said...

I seem to look at labels less and less these days. I am much more concerned with the price tag. It's not that I couldn't afford to buy more expensive groceries. I could make a trip out to Whole Foods and get higher quality food. I could do all my shopping at NobHill which I find to be a very pleasant shopping experience. But I somehow developed an obsession with getting the lowest price on tuna. It truly is an obsession. Before I go grocery shopping I sit down and look through the weekly grocery ads, which used to not even make it into the house. I used to take them from the mail box and put them directly into the recycling bin. Then I go to Albertsons, then NobHill, then Safeway. Mind you that's only after my bi-monthly costco trip. I could buy eggs from safeway. I figure eggs are eggs. But I save $0.02 an egg if I buy them at costco. Safeway is my closest grocery store and I could buy avacadoes there. But I save a few cents if I drive across town to Albertsons when they are on a better sale. Nobhill is almost never cheaper, but I'm not willing to live without my soygurt and they don't have it anywhere else. I know in the bigger picture I'm not saving that much, but I just can't stop. I think it may qualify as a sickness.

Elizabeth said...

Eggs are not just eggs. Some eggs are from grain-fed, hormone-free, free range, college-educated chickens.

Okay, you save a few cents on avocados by driving across town, but what about the money spent on gas? Okay, I guess that little Echo gets pretty good mileage, but what about the pollution you cause by driving further? I'm just saying.

I don't actually mean to harass you about it. Just a little teasing, which is totally part of my job description.

ann said...

It disturbs me that good, quality food is 1) harder to find and 2) more expensive. Most Americans don't have the time or money to either go to a quality grocery store or conscientiously read labels. Good, nutritious food should be easily availalbe for all of us, not simply for the advantaged among us.

Elizabeth said...

Ann - Okay, after I write something, I'm sending it to you, so you can sum up what I babble about for 5 paragraphs in 3 nice sentences. Then I'll send it to Jeff for the witty/pithy/snarky jokes.

When you send it back to me, will you please attach a snapshot of yourself in red pleather pants?

matty said...

ahhh, fois gras. the main ingredient in any Iron Chef episode.

I got Trader Joe's over here. There's a Whole Foods, but Trader Joe's is cheaper, no? But I still find myself going to Vons (the Safeway of So. Cal.) for quite a few things (other tastier things like meat).
Of course, my eating habits are a lot easier to attend to. ya hear that Brian?

Jeff said...

Actually, Liz, I think I come up with at least two or three random, snarky lines a day. Maybe I should just post those on my blog. In fact, I'm going to do that as soon as I finish commenting.

Also, don't miss today's article in the series, which explains another reason why diabetes has run riot: our country's healthcare system blows goats. Weren't you going to fix that?

Elizabeth said...

Here's the thing, Jeff: If I fix it, I put myself out of a job. You see the dilemma? We blame the complicated new Medicare benefit on Congress and the administration, but I think it was actually written by a bunch of academic policy analysts who wanted job security. PS- I think you should attach a picture of yourself in red pleather pants too.

Matt: The Trader Joe's in my neighborhood is tiny and poorly arranged, but definitely cheaper than Whole Foods. I might go for that anyhow, but I don't usually like their produce.

ann said...

I'm good at the summary. But if you ask me to write the long version? That's tough.

Oh, I'll send YOU a picture of me in red pleather pants, no problem. Not sure the strange men who comment on my blog will be seeing them, though.