I try to stick to food for this blog – but today I’ve been really struck with a few items that while not directly related to food, do have a union with that topic, and are worthy of spouting off a bit about. Nor am I normally so vulnerable here, but I believe I need to be. It is good therapy for me. And perhaps also for you. Today I am haunted by my own consumption. Judes and I joked a little over the holidays about how I believe that our consumer culture is the root of all evil (and, well, I do). But nonetheless it is our culture – so how do we live in this culture and keep a clear conscience? I’m not sure that we can.
I spent $50 a Wal-Mart today. I went in because it was convenient and I wanted to buy a mixer for less than $10, and Target was out. I hate shopping at Wal-Mart. Nickel & Dimed just flashes before me at every turn. I was both appalled and secretly thrilled to find things there so cheap. Two frozen rising crust pizzas for $8? Normally that would cost $10-$12. And they carry things with the appropriate key words: natural, organic. I can never decide if I am actually making the prudent choice or just being deceived.
I did end up buying organic milk and butter (something I NEVER do because of the cost differential) partly because I felt guilt for being in Wal-Mart period, and partly because I just watched Fresh. I mentioned this film in a previous post, but it really is sticking with me. I’ve known about the horrors of the meat and food industry in this country, but this film sort of solidified them for me. In particular the scene of baby chicks being dumped on the ground out of plastic bins – they make a terrible squawk, as well as the description an industrial turned natural farmer gave of a wound he received from one of his own pigs. The injury proved UNTREATABLE because of the amount of antibiotics pumped into his animals. Thinking about the schlock that makes its way into my food, before I even begin to work with it, horrifies me. Matt and I cannot afford to buy all our meat and food product as “organic” and “free-range” or “natural.” But I sure do want to. Not so much even from an environmental or political standpoint (all though those are important to) but more from a health standpoint. If am going to eat fats and meats and what not – I would like them to be doing something for my body other than making my summer pants too small. And not eating meat isn’t really an option at this point (although I considered it) because I cook for and eat with a Texan – to whom vegetarianism might as well be asceticism.
Another stroke of guilt that rolls through me when shopping (and not just at Wal-Mart) is that of indulgence. Unfortunately attending private college gave me a taste for expensive things – DAMN those wealthy roommates. For example, expensive candles really do smell better. So I will periodically indulge in one of these items, today it was nail polish, which really wasn’t that much of an indulgence given it was Revlon, but anyway – I spent about $8 on nail polish and as I was driving home was panged with the thought of how far that $8 could go in Haiti right now. HOW DO WE MANAGE THIS PEOPLE? Is it wrong to buy nail polish when we I could be making a donation to support Haitians? I rather think so, and yet, I rationalize the purchase as an attempt to better enact my femininity, which I regularly suck at. That is lame too. Not as lame (lame is not the appropriate word here but bear with me as I attempt some parallelism) as the horrific situation in Haiti, but lame.
At least the drive home was stunning. The wind is blowing snow around today, so the trees our delicately outlined. The sky is white – so the limbs appear delicate, black and tender. My trip home from Wal-Mart involves a long downward stretch lined densely with trees, and in concert with the sky today, they moved me to tears. Granted, it may have been the stress of deciding between nail polish and Haiti, or organic milk for $3.50 vs. standard antibioticized milk for $1.50 that built me up to that point, but the trees put me over the edge. And although my father will cringe to read this, I was so thankful for the opportunity to send all of these thoughts – the fear and guilt over Haiti, the concern over our food stuffs, and the awe for natural beauty – to God. I don’t feel like here is the place to justify or discuss my religious standing as I am kind of trying to wrap this all up nicely, but I will gladly go into more detail later (for a quick overview of my feelings perhaps watch a little Studio 60? I sort of rest somewhere in the middle of that argument). But today it was nice to put faith in the idea of a plan – that somebody, or something, some where’s got all our backs. Whether we are painting our toes or navigating rubble, I praise God for the peace and opportunity to put it all up to him and mindfully get on with our day.