When I was growing up food was an issue. We spent Saturdays driving to one place for organic chickens and another for organic eggs. Bottled dressing was not permitted. It had to be olive oil, course salt, fresh garlic and lemon shaken in a mason jar. Lettuce presented in a pre-packaged bag was cause for rejection-of-the-contribution at a family gathering. We grew Boston lettuce in a suburban plot and ate it with avocados. Once, my mother made raspberry sherbet from the berries in the garden. It was great.
So why is Coffee-mate in my cabinet? Why do I rely on frozen foods and canned frijoles instead of homemade black bean soup from page 26 of my Moosewood cookbook? Why do I pause at the grocery store and stew over organic apples and milk? Are the levels of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics in standard products truly harmful? When my home was on the market a friend suggested I stock the fridge with Whole Foods products as people open the fridge and judge. So I did.
Maybe the deviation from all-natural is laziness for washing and chopping, resistance to current trends, a need for quick and convenient or just a logical choice.
There is debate in the current literature about organic food enhancing health. Some scientific studies suggest that the difference between organic and non-organic food is negligible.
If this is so, then why the organic craze? Perhaps intuition or positive experience with natural products is spot-on even if science cannot back it up at the present time. An organic lifestyle can foster a sense of optimal living. Wellness may be less about intake and more about enhancing existence through activities linked to an organic lifestyle. Belief systems provide identity, a sense of belonging, a way to select and method of doing. Promoting health and protecting the environment can feel elevating, psychologically organizing, comforting and soulful.
Chopping striped radishes or red kale, peeling blood oranges or yellow beets, toasting pine nuts and tossing pumpkin seeds feels good. Doing, making and preparing with others in mind lifts moods. The primal need to use our hands, stimulate our senses, tend to friends or family, community and the earth is met. Fresh products have a natural aesthetic appeal.
A month ago when a colleague of my husband's, a busy, sleep deprived female surgeon, told me that during residency she was up at 2 a.m. mashing fresh beets for her baby, I was astounded. If she, (a single parent during this period) thought it important enough, perhaps there was something to this. I asked her, “What is the deal?”
She explained that she does not serve anything but fresh, real food to her child and an occasional chocolate chip cookie. “There is no wheat in the wheat anymore. Processed food is hurting us.” The chemicals are destroying natural digestion mechanisms and engendering a mass of people who need to be gluten free. Genetically modified products may be cheaper to produce and more resistant to disease but they were not designed to protect our bodies or enhance our health.
Organic can be expensive and prohibitive, but any fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain, nuts and seeds are great. Some of these foods are thought to contain mood enhancing elements.
Two weeks ago a friend enticed me to join her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) community. I did so as I wanted to support the cause, be a part, experiment with new dishes and “get back to where I once belonged” to paraphrase John Lennon.