I am back in the great USA for the bi-annual vacation with my son. This time it is more of a shock than ever to come back… it is like going to visit a good friend who has amnesia, or to your childhood neighborhood that has been demolished and rebuilt into a shopping mall… it just feels strange. My point here is to write about the eating reality in America… but it is hard to just write about food when it feels like the very ground we stand on is shaking here. It can sicken the heart… but if we must go on, and we must, then we must make sure that we are in good shape to fight the good fight. That means keeping our heads clear and our hope up; believing that as much as we have to lose now, we have that much more to gain if we can resist the current tide of hate and manipulation and forge ever further into a world of freedom and justice for all (As we so pledge).
So I sat down to write about food, and I shall.
Food and eating in America is a grand conundrum. And you can really feel it! The USA leads the world towards the obesity and diabetes or diabesity as it is now called, epidemic… and yet it leads the world also in the health revolution. The amount of resource for providing the populous with healthy food is incomparable in any other nation; and yet the government continues to subsidize the over production of corn, wheat, dairy and meat, but not fruits and vegetables. Madness.
All judgments cast aside for those who fall prey to the SAD (Standard American Diet- mainly cheap meats and processed foods). This countries highways and byways are a fun-house of fast food advertisements. YOU try to navigate this country and resist the constant deluge of cheap tasty treats; warm, fatty, convenient, colorful, cleverly pitched and at hand. If you don’t have an education about healthy eating, you have nowhere to turn. You can drive-through for about anything. Or drive up and dash in to grab one of 80 varieties of sugar infused beverage, or 40 types of salty-crispy-full of corn derivatives and strange preservatives filled food like substances and still keep your motor running to get on with your busy life.
It is certainly the land of plenty. The grocery stores are the size of small cities and although in many communities you will find small markets, farmers markets, co-ops and etc… you need to take out a small loan to do your mainstay shopping there. And then, you must have the will and knowledge to choose healthy expensive food over the cheap addictive stuff. Although the arguments in favor of eating real food are good… they are not painted across billboards every 50 feet on every stretch of free-way. The cheapest non-food food is being thrown at your hungry, innocent little self from every direction. Food marketing in the USA is a $1,000,000,000 industry. Literally.
As my brother so ironically put it the other day; “If you were living on a budget you’d be a fool not to eat at McDonalds”… Because living lean and clean in the USA does not come easy. Cheap food is dirt cheap… quality food is damn expensive; Why are we spending 5 dollars on a loaf of real bread? Why are vegetables breaking the bank? Why is a grass fed beef hamburger costing me 3 dollars for the patty alone? How can the average person really live and eat healthy food on an average salary? And people are working their proverbial asses off here to maintain the status quo standard of living.
And to top it all off? This great country is currently run by some very inappropriate and morally questionable people, who might as well make us all throw our hands in the air and put our tear-stained faces down in deep fried apple-caramel-custard-cream pie (If there is such a thing). Please watch this for a great example of what I am talking about: Tina Fey on Sheet Caking
So my analysis so far of eating in the USA is that stress levels are high… and the need to relax and release is also high… and a certain political, economical formula has made this all too easy via: junk. food. Those greasy, sweety, cheapy foods trigger the release of endogenous opioids… yes… that word IS eerily similar to opiates and as addictive. And if you are feeling the pain, eating a lot of food creates what is called “ingestion Analgesia”; basically pain relief from a full belly. So we are all getting a little bit addicted to those 99¢ cheeseburgers.
“Moderation is a fiction in the face of food addiction” says Dr. Mark Hyman. As there are literally ‘Taste Institutes’ developed to create the most addictive food-like products possible to create bottomless pits of endless consumers.
This stuff is deep, dark and systemic. It is not in the consciousness of the population to make themselves sick, but wellness is not made easy.
So, I myself am a bit of a purist. I think food should be 5 ingredients top. Any more and it will confuse the body. And I have been challenged by a colleague while in the states to throw my orthodox habits aside and just enjoy being here and taking it all in. It’s America! It’s novelty! Eat the corn dog!
So taking this to heart… just after arriving, I had a very bad day. I don’t mean a very bad day as in I got a parking ticket and stubbed my toe. I mean a bad day as In someone I loved was hurting deeply and I couldn’t help them and any attempt I made to help them only made it worse… and I realized the best thing I could do for everyone was get my face out of their space. So me and my son took a little road trip into rural America.
I grew up in a very progressive community, but the surrounding areas can be drastically different. We went to meet my sister in the town where she teaches middle school. As we entered this agricultural mid-sized rural town, I noticed there was an increase in both churches and gun shops. ?. In any case the local folk were very friendly. My son jumped right in to the river in the park. A local kid asked me for help taking the hook off some old tackle. He then asked me which country I was from (This is 45 minutes away from the town I grew up in, but I guess I’ve picked up an accent).
It was all very sweet and beautiful, but I was still tense, sad, and overwhelmed by my personal life predicament. Out of my context, away from my sacred space in the Portuguese hills where no one can get to me and I can meditate, scream, dance, write it out or make myself a sacred healing smoothie… and having fallen prey to the barrage of marketing around me, I told my sister what I really, really wanted;
“I want to eat something really naughty and comforting”
“Ice Cream?!!!” She perked up, always keen for a sugary treat.
“Or perhaps a soda pop” I said…
So we Googled the closest convenience store. We deliberated about an icey 32. oz. Doctor Pepper, but were saved by a selection of flavoured Coconut water (I got the chocolate coconut water so I could feel I was justifiably naughty) and a small bag of cheese flavoured potato chips, of which one or two chips were sufficient to remind me why I don’t eat them regularly.
I felt that lovely little release of hormones, and the fleeting satisfaction of indulging myself and throwing my caution to the wind.
Whatever. Look; life is rough sometimes. We need to take care of ourselves. Sometimes maybe it comes in the form of potato chips. But maybe if we are honest with ourselves that the treat might be a temporary emotional band-aid, or an attempt at stress relief, or an inexplicable urge, or lazyness, we can recognise the addictive nature of fast foods, and the incredible effectiveness of marketing… then at least in that honesty we are free to make the choice to “take care” in the way we choose in that moment. Knowing that deeper methods always exist for deeper levels of self-care.
Recipe for the day? Simple. It’s a healthy version of the very addictive slushie coffees they peddle around here: Add some powdered cacau or carob to coconut (Cashew/Almond/Hemp) milk, a touch of vanilla, a pinch of sea salt and some sweetener of your choice (Honey, stevia, agave, rice syrup…etc…) blend it with ice in the blender. Drink with a colorful straw. And tell me that doesn’t just hit the spot.
Sending love and strength… we all need it!