Craig's question clearly implied that organic food is costly, which is why he asked for shopping tips, and I certainly don't contradict that claim. I attempted to give him sound advice for reducing his overall costs by avoiding the nefarious gimmicks used by the food industry to boost its profits. Certainly, the upscale market is guilty of many of the same bad practices: It offers all sorts of prepackaged, processed, and often pretentious products you can easily make yourself (my salsa takes about 10 minutes), while importing from all over the world to pamper consumers who insist on product availability 365 days of the year. Someday, food snobs will be buying mushrooms grown in "natural caverns on Mars, using rare Martian water from subterranean, crater-fed springs, naturally aged in transit through the solar system." That doesn't mean we have to buy into the hype.
I recognize that many people do not live near a farm stand or a "trendy" store, but they can certainly inquire about the source of products at any store. They can also look into various delivery options from nearby farms. Localharvest.org has extensive listings for finding sustainable grown foods all over the country.
I strongly disagree with your assertion that most working families do not have the "time, energy, or disposable income to garden or cook from scratch." For many, many years, I've been part of a working family of five, in which both spouses have generally been employed full-time--or more--and spent at least an hour a day commuting. But we still find time to garden and cook from scratch--and actually save a considerable amount of disposable income by doing so. The average weekly price of food for a family of five, according to the Food Marketing Institute, is $136.40. By eschewing highly processed, advertised, and packaged products, I feed my family on about $75.
It can even be made into an enjoyable family activity if you're so inclined. Tell the kids to turn off the TV, unplug the video games, yank out the earphones, and get their worthless little butts in the kitchen and chop. Who knows, they might emerge having learned a marketable culinary skill. Better to lose a finger in the kitchen than a mind to television.
Yes, millions of people work long, hard hours. But my point is that we've been conditioned to think everything demands too much time and energy because we've been brainwashed by advertisers to perceive simple, everyday activities as burdensome and tedious. As a culture, we suffer not just from overwork but from a socially constructed weariness--some of which is no doubt a result of the dreadful diet foisted on us by the same industry that claims we're too beat to cook. A fascinating vicious cycle.
Thanks for proving the point made above. Us environmentalists always love affirmation. (Not that we haven't had our share in recent months, what with the grim satisfaction of seeing our direst prophecies fulfilled. But it's not much fun to say "we told you so" in the face of hurricanes possibly caused by global warming and certainly made more lethal by a multitude of rotten environmental practices, ranging from deforestation to overbuilding on wetlands and coasts.)
Canned foods have suffered far too long from a bad rap. Many foods do not lose as much nutrition in the canning process as is popularly believed. It is also a fabulous practical way to store solar energy. The solar benison concentrated in your vegetables could be lost if it weren't for the invention of canning in 1795 as a method to feed Napoleon's troops. Oops. Strike that. Faster than you can say "oil slick," Bush and company might use the promise of another such discovery as a new argument for war: "Military research has had very beneficial consequences, blah blah blah." Just be sure to keep recycling those cans.
Thanks for the tip. Now that even George W. Bush has acknowledged that we ought to try to save energy, maybe the ideas in this book and others, like Jane Holtz Kay's fabulous Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back, will finally slosh into the great crankcase of the American soul.
Views expressed by readers may not reflect those of Mr. Green or Sierra magazine. Reader suggestions have not been researched or tested.
Mr. Green illustration by Melinda Beck; used with permission.
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