09 October 2007

In The Weave

Often, when I am looking at a knitting pattern, because I am geek enough to read knitting patterns, I will build a color chart for the pattern in my mind's eye, trying to see if other colors would work better than the original pattern. Sometimes these experiments have worked; other times, not so much.

I have a multicolored 'novelty' yarn that changes from orange to blue to brown to green, which sounds like it ought to work up in to the most awful melange you could imagine, but it works, even when you're working with more than one skein of it. As you pull the yarn from the center of the skeins, opposing colors seem to fight on the needles for control of the blanket or scarf, but once knitted together, form a more harmonious pattern than I would have ever thought possible.

I think of my writing on this blog in much the same fashion; ideas that seem to have nothing in common, but worked properly and patiently together form a coherent thought. Perhaps I'm fooling myself, and perhaps I write rambling nonsense more often than a cohesive whole. Either way, I enjoy the process.

What I'm thinking about today is dirt, honest to goodness get-into-the-ground dirt, and food production. The genesis of this post was a few completely unconnected things. A friend's blog about her two adorable daughters playing in a sandbox, at a farmer's market that also boasts a playhouse and a lake and ducks to feed. The girls got, gasp, dirty in the sandbox. (I direct you to read the whole post here.) Then a spider spotted inside the grocery store (horrors!) and my thought that we're so far disconnected from where our food is actually produced. Or most of us are, anyway.

I loathe spiders. Loathe them. The story for why is for another time and place, but even the smallest spider has me, unfortunately, reacting 'like a girl'. I often say that I'm not a fan of anything with more legs than me, but spiders in particular...ugh. I think it is something about the way they move that creeps me out.

The spider that I saw in the grocery store was no bigger than a nickel, if I'm going to be honest. I could tell you that it was huuuuuge, but truth is that it wasn't. It was very black, and called attention to itself by being on a white linoleum floor. It had attached a strand of its web to a large cart being pulled by one of the store's employees, a flatbed cart with rails on either end to prevent the boxes of produce that she was carting to the floor from falling off. The spider trailed along at the end of its strand, sometimes being drug by the motion of the cart, other times struggling gamely to clamber back up the line which connected it to the cart.

Another employee stopped the cart puller and called her attention to the spider. I moved in another direction, away from the spider, and did not see them stomp on it, but I heard it. Because goddess forbid that there should be a single insect or any dirt anywhere near the food.

Most of the grocery stores in my area are controlled by a particular chain, and within probably a ten-mile radius of my home are at least five of their enormous brightly lit stores. I worked for them in college, and have no love for the chain, but my choices are fairly limited by the near-monopoly that they have in the area.

Every time I walk inside any of them, I think about Alton Brown and his television show Good Eats. He often shoots short segments of the show inside a grocery store, which he refers to as 'the average American mega-mart.' And mega indeed is appropriate. So much food housed in a single grocery store. So many choices, a bounty of overabundance. No wonder more than half of the country's population is overweight, and our collective consciousness pairs the word obesity with the word epidemic.

But at what point did we learn as a culture that food should come from these gleaming warehouses, not only evidence of bounty but of fantastic waste as well? The gleaming rows of produce without a speck of dirt (heaven forbid) or an imperfection to be seen. How far has that food traveled to get to your mega-mart? When, exactly, did we become so disconnected from the way our food is produced?

I don't use pre-packaged foods, like Rice-a-Roni, or box dinners at all, because they contain too much high fructose corn syrup (otherwise known as HFCS) and everything that I've read the labels on lately also seems to have tHBQ, which is a petroleum derivative ffs, added to it. All of that pre-packaged convenience food only separates us further from the dirt and actual production of food.

"Sure," you say, "but Luce, honey, you're at home full-time these days and can spend as much time in the kitchen as you like to prepare a meal, not to mention time to chase down the ingredients to make such things." And I say to you with my best imitation of a Brooklyn accent, "True dat!"But what is also true is this: we should all be concerned about where our food comes from, and how much or how little connection is has to its beginnings.

I have no neat, elegant solution. No way to fix the problem, tie it up with a pretty bow and present it to you. I solve it for myself by reading labels, buying organic AND perhaps more importantly locally produced stuff when I can, and leave the immense worry of the bigger problem of how much fuel we consume and how much waste we produce getting the gleaming veggies in the grocery store to minds much smarter than mine. Perhaps yours.


John said...

Hi Lucy! Remember me?

About two months ago you volunteered to be interviewed. Well, you can now pick up your questions at my blog. Be sure to let me know when you post your answers.

BTW - great post on the distance between our food and our tables. Ask around and find out how many people actually remember killing a hog or a chicken for dinner. I am amazed that even here in redneck heaven we are about two generations from those memories. You want to appreciate your bowl of cornflakes? Go spend a day with a farmer.

As always, Blessings.


Lucy Arin said...

You've been gone but not forgotten! Glad to see ya back in the blog-o-sphere!