Saturday, January 7, 2017

Food for Thought (APIWATWOL #9)

#9 in my "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Or Less" series. (For a description of how this series works, see Installment #1.)

A shopping cart of food. Why the hell did I take a photo of my shopping cart of food? When I randomly pulled this photo for my APIWATWOL project, I asked myself this question...and again was tempted to pick a different photo. But rules are rules, so a shopping cart of food it is.

The date stamp on the photo file indicates that this was my first grocery shopping trip after returning from a family reunion six years ago. We hold our week-long reunions at the Jersey Shore every three years, and anywhere from 80 to 100 Worthingtons gather to sit, talk, laugh, drink, eat and float in the ocean together. (Relatives who go to a gym during reunions are shunned.)

The shore isn’t exactly known for its health food, so the menu for the week is heavy on cheesesteaks, pizza, sticky buns and beer. During our last reunion, I discovered that a vegetable juice bar had opened in Stone Harbor and when I walked through its door the first time, I practically bowed at the owner’s feet in gratitude. After chugging my green juice, I grabbed a slice at the pizzeria across the street. Hey, just because an old dog learns a new trick doesn’t mean she forgets her old tricks, right?

There are things in the shopping cart above that I didn’t even know existed in earlier years. Growing up, I thought there was one kind of lettuce and it was iceberg. Imagine my shock when I discovered the existence of romaine and arugula, both in this cart.

Avocados, bought regularly now, were something I didn’t discover until moving west of the Mississippi in my early 20s. Because Jack-in-the-Box—aka Jer-Mex—didn’t offer guacamole. Probably because it can’t be deep-fried.

See those two quarts of kefir in my cart? Until about eight years ago, the only kefir I knew of was Sutherland. Now kefir is a staple grocery item. I use it to make my morning shakes, another mid-life discovery. In my 20s and 30s, morning shakes were simply the bi-product of a great party the night before.

Next to the kefir is a bottle of kombucha “tea”—one of the nastiest and healthiest drinks around. Tea is a bit of a misnomer though. More like funky mushroom water. Kombucha will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the excuse Jeff used to ask me out on our first date. In a fit of health-crazedness, he had begun growing his own kombucha mushrooms (basically, blobs of mold in giant bowls covered with dish towels) at the media studio he owned in San Francisco when we met. After our first business meeting, Jeff invited me to his studio to try kombucha tea. Fortunately, our relationship lasted longer than his fixation with growing kombucha mushrooms. Now, we’re down to the occasional pre-packaged bottle of flavored kombucha tea. Usually as penance for food crimes like a week spent eating crap food at the Jersey Shore.

In the bottom of the cart I see my usual bushel of organic cucumbers, jumbo bag of carrots and a few bunches of kale. If you’d told me when I was a kid, or even a teenager, or even a 30-something businesswoman who regularly ate fast food, that I’d one day be jamming the likes of cucumbers and kale and parsley through a masticating machine and drinking what was spewed out, I would’ve laughed. Or run away. Fast.

So overall, I’d say the theme of this trip to the grocery store was Reform. When the most decadent item in the shopping cart is a bag of organic blue corn chips, you know you’re in for a fairly boring-but-healthful week ahead.

Food, like life, has its ups and downs, its crazy out of control times and its periods of smart decisions. And the beauty of food—and life—is that we get to choose.

What’s in your shopping cart?

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