It’s funny how limitations become malleable. In order to get out of the house yesterday, I went to Wegman’s with Ron while he shopped for groceries. It is like hunting for him. He makes a list divided by categories, checks the sales, organizes his coupons, girds up his loins and plunges into the store. He loves it. I am indifferent to hostile about it, a result of reaching a space in my life where eating and cooking are a matter of necessity for me, not fun, unless there are friends coming over, but as a daily routine--snore. So while he was slipping up and down the aisles hunting the best deal on cannelloni or some such, I was walking the perimeter, as fast as I could go in a crowed store, with my big boots, cane, and winter jacket. I can’t walk outside. Too icy, and a fall would not be good. The carbon steel hip won’t break, but it can come out of the socket until all the muscles and such heal. So I am exercising in this huge, fancy grocery store, glancing at stuff as I go by.
Stuff. Four thousand kinds of cereal, all but three not fit for human consumption. What is wrong with us? How is it even legal to sell that shit? And who would eat it,much less put it in their children? These are not rhetorical questions? The few kinds of cereal I ate as a kid were not so bad, my family having an abiding passion for oatmeal. I confess to an abiding fondness for Mapo and regret its loss, but never as a grown up have I eaten Frosted Flakes, despite a passion for tigers. Now, if I eat cereal, I just eat steal cut oats with maple syrup. Food, as Michael Pollen would say. Things my grandmother would recognize. But what is in Cocoa Puffs, or Lucky Charms? Here is General Mills’ description:
Magically delicious Lucky Charms cereal features frosted oats and colored marshmallows.
The kids’ brand with adult appeal for more than four decades. Made with whole grain, Lucky Charms is fortified with 12 vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of calcium
And here are the ingredients for, God help us, the chocolate version:
Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Marshmallows (Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Gelatin, Calcium Carbonate, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1, Red 40, Artificial Flavor), Corn Meal, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Caramel and Beet Juice Concentrate Color, Corn Starch, Salt, Canola Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Artificial Flavor, Trisodium Phosphate, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), A B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), A B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Wheat Starch, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness
Magically delicious frosted oats? And colored marshmallows? Without getting into the obesity debate, the awful thing is that this stuff tastes bad and degrades the budding taste buds of the children who eat it. Aside from that, which is evil enough, we are bombarded with several score kinds of this junk. All probably roughly the same shining examples of capitalism gone amok. Sell stuff at all costs. Caveat Emptor. No matter if the product is worth the money or worthy of consumption by any one.
The bread section, which i never go in , but was on my route, since we get our bread at the bakery section(bread snobs), is the same. It is a bit smaller than the hangar size cereal section.. In this part of New York, a place of massive Italian immigration, good bread is appreciated and sold even in regular grocery stores, which Wegman’s is not, and in various bakeries. Still there is a sizable section of enriched styrofoam, sliced. And I am stuck, food snob that I am , asking myself, who buys this stuff. It isn’t slicing that makes it attractive. You can get any loaf sliced. Maybe, I tell myself, it is the soft crusts. I know of adults who won’t eat crusts if they can avoid it. What baffles me is what are those consumers looking for? Certainly not an assertive bread. Something that gives one an excuse to eat bolonga or flutternutter sandwiches? Just eat the stuff out of the jar, for Pete's sake. . Isn’t bread part of the sandwich experience? White? Sure. We have a friend who makes a white bread to die for (Julia Child’s recipe), a white bread that is redolent of wheat and a hint of yeast, a bread that complements anything put on it, that turns into toast to make you swoon. White bread, plain, sustaining, tasteful. So how in the world did we get from there to Wonder bread in what, three generations? Ease. Feminism. Laziness? Did our mothers and grandmothers really find ready made bread superior or were they so exhausted that taste no longer mattered?
I wander back to Ron who is standing in the soup aisle. We buy Campbell’s tomato soup, cream of chicken, and cream of mushroom. We use the latter two for sauces and cooking. We eat the tomato but doctor it with garlic and dill weed. It is the only canned soup that doesn’t taste of the can. I don’t know why. I tell him I am converting to 1905 Marxism. He nods, preoccupied with his ‘hunting.’ I rave softly about a waste of resources, over choice, abuse of the people by massive corporations. He puts the soup in the cart and laughs at me. He agrees, mostly, but he is caught up in the hunt for bargains and the good stuff amid the dreck. There is nothing I can do to prevent the corporate breach of the walls. I limp off to the produce aisle, looking for food.