Eating Bad in the USA —
I am proud of the American people — my people. I am proud because my people have somehow managed to take food from the earth, process it into a plastic, and then turn around and sell it to me as food again.The USA has the worst cheap food on planet earth.
“I am also trying to eat healthier, so I bought the bread that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient, even though it was like 20 cents more,” my wife spoke bitterly.
I have been on the Road in the USA for the past four months, traveling from Maine to Arizona, Arizona to New Mexico to St.Louis, St.Louis to Rochester, NY to New Jersey to New York City back to Rochester, NY. I am now in Bangor, Maine. My family has completely traversed this country two times in a season, and, outside of the times where we were privy to Mom’s home cooking, have eaten the worse we ever had together.
I cannot wait to leave the USA. This is not for the usual reasons of satisfying the Wanderlust, but because my guts, my arms, my legs, my entire body is craving real, non-processed food: food that comes from the ground — not the bag — from the tit of a cow — not the inside of a powder packet — from the innards of an animal — not the inside of a wrapper.
I want food that I can tell what it is by looking at it. I want food that has one part, not a conglomeration of a hundred ingredients. I want vegetables that still looks like plants, meat that still looks like bloody muscle. I want a meal that does not leave me wondering what I just ate.
I want to consume the sustenance of my being that was not liquidized, transformed into a paste, and re-solidified with a spin of a magician’s wand into something palatable. Or so I am lead to believe is palatable.
The USA has master the art of taking food an turning it into a plastic, then taking this plastic and convincing the population that it is food. Processed food is the cheapest food in the country. To eat an old fashioned meal that is the sum of its obvious parts means that you need to fork out the money: you must pay to know what you eat.
In most countries, eating cheap food means fresh vegetables and meat sold in an open air market; in the USA, cheap food means prepackaged, never dying, mysteriously created, perfect looking, cryogenically preserved “stuff.”
Why does my cheese glean like the hood of a well waxed sports car? How did my frozen carrots come to be shaped into perfect cubes? Why is this tomato perfectly red, perfectly round, without any sign or semblance that it came from the soil of this earth?
My Chinese Medicine professor in Hangzhou once warned me: if the vegetables in the grocery store look perfect, stay away from them — if nothing was able to nibble on it before you it means that it was unsuitable to eat. Look for vegetables with insect bites taken out of them or with a live worm or two squirming on them. If an insect can survive eating your food, you can too. Everything else has been poisoned.
Cheap, wholesome, straight from the earth FOOD is the hallmark of the poor of most of the world. The peasants who toil in the soil are the people who reap the benefit of their labor — the poor are the people eating fresh vegetables and recently slaughtered meat, and dairy that came from the breasts of cows that are still kicking.
Processed food from squeaky clean supermarkets is usually the reserve of the wealthy and middle classes of the world. Food from the package is a status symbol.
But this is reversed in the USA: fresh food is for the rich, processed food is manufactured in bulk for the masses. The people who cannot afford to eat well take their sustenance from plastic bag and tin can. The rich shop at organic farmer’s markets and eat un-poisoned vegetables and meat.
It is funny that the term “health food” is now attributed to food that was once, a long time ago, plainly referred to as “food.” Where did this designation come from. By the nature of its being, shouldn’t all food be “health food”?
Most of the food I eat here in the USA, I fear, is older than my baby girl. Most of the food that I eat here in the USA, I fear, may have the potential to outlive any of us. I eat the cheapest food I can find as a rule. I cannot spend $1 for one tomato, I cannot drop $2.50 for a head of lettuce, and there is no way that I can spend dozens of dollars for a single pound of meat.
So as I traveled to Arizona and back to Maine, I ate food from the package. I ate at Subway, I ate $1 double cheeseburgers at Burger King, I ate granola bars and peanut butter and tuna fish and cheese and bread.
I once chided a politically active squatter for eating regularly at McDonalds, for supporting a multi-national corporation. I can remember how he looked into my young face that had eyes that shined with petty idealism.
“I am homeless,” he spoke, “I eat the cheapest food I can find.”
I have since learned the wisdom of this statement.
Cheap food in the USA seems to be more of an edible sort of industrial monstrosity than food.
Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness)
What is this stuff?
It is the ingredients of a cheap loaf of bread.
Cheap food in the USA sort of looks like food — or the idealization of food — but it tastes like an ideal of itself, it is hyper sweet and super salty, it usually has the consistency of rubber. I feel as if I am eating the artfully designed dishes of fake food that the Japanese place out in front of their restaurants to attract customers. It seems as if the food making companies are in an all out competition with each other to see who can make an article of food with the most ingredients possible.
What I am eating here in the USA is the idealization of food, not wholesome food itself. And I can feel the difference.
I feel worn out, beaten down, like I am harking for some higher nutritional height, like I am reaching for something else each time I eat. My belly is full here, but the filling is lacking. While surveying in the Arizona highlands — walking 10 to 20 miles a day through rough terrain — I saw my body growing more and more conditioned, but I did not feel any more conditioned than when the work began. I thought this was interesting . . . until I looked at what I was eating.
Bread is suppose to be flour, water, yeast, vegetable oil, and salt.
I am glad that I live on a planet where most countries still believe this to be true. I am on the doorstep out of the USA, and my stomach is smiling at the road that lays ahead.
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