I grabbed a rickety cart with a bit of a wheel limp, and my son climbed on to the front of the cart for a fun ride, a big smile on his face--just as always. I'd grab him some strawberries and make fresh cream this week; it's one of his favorites and always keeps a smile on that face. We rolled past the flower section, past the bottled water, juices, and 150 types of soda. Odd, I thought. Things seemed different.
On the next aisle, we slid past the shelves loaded with MSG laden boxes and cans of soup starters and ready-made soups of all kinds. Everything on aisle two was processed, processed, processed, and I soon realized that aisle three was no better--the gluten laden aisle where so many things are soaked in tons of salt and 'spices'--yet another glutamic acid hiding place.
Aisle four stuck its tongue out at me, and I realized something was very, very wrong. Worry began to peck at me like a hungry hen; didn't I normally skip these aisles? Now I couldn't seem to proceed through the store without going down all of them. It seemed that the fresh food --at least as fresh as you can get in a grocery store these days--was hiding from me. Where were all of the vegetables and fruits? Usually they were at the front of the store, but everything had been moved around, and I saw no fresh fruits, veggies, or tubers of any kind anywhere.
Annoyed, I found a young clerk and tugged on his shoulder. "Hi! I see you all are remodeling?"
"I can't seem to find the fresh food department."
"Where are the carrots? Potatoes? The veggies and fruits?"
There was a pause, and finally a response. "Oh! Try aisle 7, 8, 9, 10."
Wow, I thought! Four entire aisles of fresh, raw food? I love my grocery store. Sure, they have a lot of no-good-for-you junk, but four aisles of fresh food is like visiting an outdoor market in summer but in the air conditioning instead of the sweltering NC heat!
I was truly, and terribly, excited! Dinner was going to be good tonight! The wheels were spinning in my brain and on the cart as I dashed down the remainder of aisle four and made a bee line past the deli to aisle 7. And that's where I found it...
Boiled, steamed, roasted, grilled, fried, simmered, basted, jellied, jammed, broiled, seared, baked types of every fruit and vegetable from carrots to blueberries stared at me from their little jars. My precious avocados were ground into a pulp in a can and preserved with lime juice, salt, and a list of other chemicals. My cilantro was canned in a jar full of the same chemicals and surrounded by other jars full of basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, and more. The carrots? Baby carrots, carrot slices, diced carrots, whole carrots, carrots with the tops or not--they were all shoved into glass containers or cans. My potatoes--oh... in jars, in cans, and on the shelf above everything were the words "FRESH."
"Mommy, are you ok?" my son asked. "I'm hungry."
I felt dizzy, like I needed to escape outdoors, so I pushed the cart forward, but when I did, my knees crumbled beneath me, and I slid to the floor.
"Are you ok, ma'am?" It was the same sales clerk as before. "Do you need some help?"
"I can't ... I can't find what I need."
He helped pull me to my feet, and I gripped the handle of the cart tightly to steady myself.
"What do you need, and I will go get it for you and help you to the front."
"I need strawberries... strawberries for my son. And carrots... I want a carrot... just a carrot."
He smiled and walked away, returning within less than a minute with an even bigger smile on his face. He tossed a bag of frozen carrots and a bag of frozen strawberries into the cart. "There you go--carrots and strawberries."
My jaw dropped, and I sighed. "But I wanted real carrots... real strawberries--not frozen, canned, boiled, baked, peeled, or anything else--just fresh and raw."
"Raw? Oh. Haven't you heard?"
"Raw food is dangerous!" He pulled a card from his pocket and began to read aloud. "According to a new study, raw food, including all fruits, vegetables, salad greens, tubers, and many dairy and egg products, are high risk foods, which may cause illness and death. These foods readily grow e. coli, salmonella, listeria, bacillus cereus, and other bacteria. To prevent illness and death, this store chain has now pulled all so-titled 'fresh' foods from its shelves and replaced them with their equivalents, which have been sterilized, processed, and made safe for consumption to the public. No need to thank us. We care about our customers!" He smiled hugely at my son and I.
"But you don't understand," I said. "Don't you know that fresh veggies and fruits, tubers included, are all loaded with the nutrition we need--the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes--to prevent horrific diseases like cancer? Cooking them, processing them, sterilizing them--all of those things destroy the enzymes and reduce the vitamins and minerals available. It's the processed food that's bad for us, not the raw food!"
"Not according to the study, ma'am."
"And what if someone can't eat the processed food? What if someone wants real fresh food? A carrot or a strawberry-- I guess they'd have to grow them."
"Ok, but, the government is actually cracking down on that. You can eat them yourself--that's your life, but don't go selling them or giving them to your kids. That's against the law. It's too dangerous."
I pounded my fist on the handle of the cart. "What?"
"Don't you understand, lady? PEOPLE COULD DIE from eating YOUR STUPID FRESH CARROTS! Do you want people to die?"
"I don't want people to die, Mommy," my son whimpered. "I won't eat any more carrots."
"The heck you won't!" I shouted, and from somewhere deep inside of me, bubbled up a scream, and I couldn't stop screaming, "RAW FOOD IS BEST! RAW FOOD IS GOOD FOR YOU! RAW FOOD IS BEST!"
And that's how I woke up... knowing that what I am putting in my mouth from my garden, sharing with my family and neighbors, is best. I know where it comes from. It's gathered properly and handled carefully, not tossed around by many hands, sterilized, pasteurized, stored, canned, frozen. It's 'fresh,' 'alive,' and full of nutrition. I'm so glad I don't live in the complete 'dream world' of the fear mongers-- yet.