An article I wrote for the Wedge Co–op newsletter was just published, looking at eating attitudes and health.
“Eating competence is not measured in calories, phytochemical composition, avoidance of refined sugars, or against any pyramid. Rather it looks at people’s attitudes and habits around providing themselves with food. In essence, you are how you eat, too.”– me
Let me know what you think. Share it if you like it!
Anyway, I was at a different co-op this weekend, and it reminded me of the somewhat complicated feelings I have around co-ops (and food movements in general.) (I may never be asked to write for the Wedge again…) I love co-ops, I shop there when I can, I support them and many of their goals, but I often leave with a not-so-great feeling, I feel like, wait for it, I “should” be eating “better.” (Check out this post about how “should” often spoils eating...)
This weekend, I was shelling out a lot of cash for a piece of grass-fed, organic beef for stew, among other things. Anyway, as I was checking out, the bagger asked if I wanted the meat wrapped in more plastic.
me: “No thanks, a little e-coli never hurt anybody.” chuckle…
(The bagger and cashier looked at me blankly. I explained that I wash the re-usable bags, and I thought grass fed meat sourced locally had a lower incidence of contamination anyway, oh, and I do know that e-coli has indeed, hurt people…)
So the cashier and bagger had an exchange about the CNN story that 25% of meat is contaminated with Staph that is antibiotic resistant, and the cashier looks at me and intones, “That’s why I enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian diet.”
Super for you! I just shelled out $15 for that stew meat, oh, and BTW, 1 out of 4 of your cash registers would probably also test positive for methicillin-resistant staph if you swabbed it, and oh, BTW, did you know sprouts have some of the highest bacterial contamination, oh, and that e.coli outbreak? Spinach. Just sayin’. (Which I didn’t, say, that is…)
Here’s my confession. At the co-ops I feel vulnerable to the “shoulds.” “Meat is bad, canola oil will kill you, high fructose corn syrup is the devil.” I love to eat and cook, I shell out money for organics when I can, peel and chop and cook 5-7 nights a week for my family, and I leave these places feeling bad about myself and my cooking, and I almost always leave with some “I should” item. (Ironic if you read the article.) Whether it’s the “super-food” kale, a block of tempeh, sunflower mayo that I never got the nerve to open, or the $8 jar of coconut oil I bought this weekend, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel guilty.
I think that feeling may be part of what turns a lot of people off from the local/organic food movement. (I’ve had parents come up to me after workshops with visible relief, “I thought this was going to be another guilt trip about eating more organics! This was so helpful!”) I can’t really put my finger on it all, I just thought the irony was interesting.
What do you think? Are there times that trigger your “should” button? Do they generally help you eat “better” or not? Are there ways to talk about local and organic without triggering the guilt and turning people off? (Putting aside for a moment that many, many people can’t afford grass-fed and organics, and what feelings that must bring up?) Oh, and I’d love to hear for some ideas for my coconut oil…