January 19, 2008

That's Just Not Natural

Handi-Snacks on a Plane

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.  

Small changes, on the large scale of consumer behavior, are already transforming the food economy, from the recovering number of small producers to the success of regional farmers' markets, and the big players are noticing.  I think that our nation's path toward sustainable agriculture will strengthen our economy, our collective health, and our culture.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

No kidding. I was just traveling, went on 6 different planes - nothing like a plane trip to remind you what the majority of our country calls food. I guess Matt and I are pretty isolated and unusual, eating vegetables from the garden, fresh good cheese (sometimes homemade), and fruits and bulk whole grains from the local produce market.... My system is still recuperating from my time spent in airports!

Found your blog in my stats - what a great idea for a blog! Looks like you might be joining The Growing Challenge?! Let me know - we'd love to have you!