Michael and I had breakfast with his mother, Marie, today. As we sat around our table at a Rochester favorite, Michael picked up the maple syrup, a staple for restaurants that serve mostly pancakes. He was intrigued to find a drawing of beautiful pine trees and a log cabin on the cover and flipped it over to find out where the syrup was made.
Most of you have probably never heard of Batavia, so let me explain a few things. First of all, Batavia is a Northwest suburb of Chicago, much like the suburb I hail from. In this area, there are no trees or log cabins like the one depicted on the label. There is also no tapping of maple trees, or really any other food production in the area aside from corn. In fact, the surrounding area, which includes my hometown and Batavia, produce little more than government subsidized corn byproducts. Sure enough, looking at the label we discovered that there was no maple syrup anywhere in the bottle, only things like high-fructose corn syrup.
Marie then began to tell a story about how she was trying to teach her young son about what really goes into food. On a recent grocery shopping trip, she had taught him how to read labels, and how to only look for foods with three ingredients or less. He was appalled by what he found in some of his favorite foods, perplexed to not even be able to pronounce some of the ingredients. He had picked up a bag of Fritos and was delighted to find that it only contained three ingredients!
Although we should not all rejoice that Fritos are so called “simple” foods and buy mass quantities, it is important to take away the moral that Marie, Michael, and I took away from this story. As educated, conscious, and healthy citizens that we all were, we agreed how easy it was to be duped by the foods that lined our shelves. Even though Michael and I use mostly whole ingredients, not things that come in boxes with food labels, we are still tricked into believing that some things like our watermelon are as natural as possible. Do you really believe seedless watermelon is an act of Mother Nature?
The most alarming thing, perhaps, was the fact that no matter how conscious we were about the foods we chose to eat and no matter how many articles and books we read about food, we would always be blind to many of the true facts that surround our food. Why do we have to settle for the fact that most of our food is sweetened by corn? Or that the cows that become our steaks are fed an unnatural diet?
We ultimately have the choice about what we put in our bodies. The sad part is that short of becoming a homesteader and growing all our own food, we cannot be 100% sure about what exactly it is we are eating. However, this is our chance to take the industry out of food. I dare you to shop at your local farmers market and make friends with the person who grows your vegetables. Chances are, he or she isn’t a farmer for the high profit margin (there isn’t one). They are growing food because they care about what we put in our bodies, and perhaps they want to stop the madness that has become everyday grocery shopping. Let’s create healthier choices for everyone by educating ourselves about food, seedling to dinner plate.