On the six-hour flight to Las Vegas, our Southwest flight attendant made her way up the aisle, distributing mystery snack boxes. I knew this couldn’t be very promising (seeing as the boxes gave off no scent-- dead giveaway of real food), but I can’t deny a little feeling of anticipation-- maybe there was a granola bar in there.
No. The box contained a 100-calorie bag of cardboard wafers with “chocolatey” chips, an extruded meat stick, and Handi-Snaks. That’s right, Handi-Snacks, processed cheese product conveniently packaged with oddly-sweet “breadsticks.”
My initial reaction to this unnatural food was repulsion, but then I realized how hypocritical that was. Considering that our destination was, despite all appearances, in the middle of the desert, aren’t foods like Handi-Snaks more ecologically sound than the fresh foods that I wanted to eat? After all, processed foods require no post-production inputs to maintain their (and I use this word generously) edibility. The greens in the salad I ate that night were grown in on monocultural factory farm, sustained by water that likely didn’t fall from the sky, and refrigerated from the time it was picked until it ended up on my plate in Nevada.
Maybe you don’t want to think about food in such complicated terms. I don’t blame you, because I certainly don’t want to make the choices to never travel, to give up fresh vegetables in the winter, to never again taste the delicacies of France, Spain, or Italy, not to mention their wines. But I can’t deny that my food choices are important: at this point, they’re important to the small dairies, egg producers, and cheesemakers in my community, whose products I seek out consistently.