November 24, 2011

Give Thanks: Fifty-three Kinds of Cheese Curls for a Better Life.

Give Thanks. Fifty-three Kinds of Cheese Curls for a Better Life.

When the new, revamped Whole Foods opened on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, my response was shock and awe to the amount of food I saw before my eyes. Could people really eat this much food and did we really have that many people in the area to consume the rows and rows of prepared foods, pre-cut foods, baked goods and fifty-three kinds of munch-able cheese curls, pretzels and chips? 

In my post-apocalyptic fantasy mind, I imagine that we will run out of gas, cars stranded in the middle of the street, and grocery stores like Whole Foods offering two types of bread, two types of milk and eggs, and one prepared item per day. I fantasize about looking back to the great and grandiose abundance of food that I used to see at the market. One hundred foot rows of produce, all green, fresh, vital and robust; Hundreds of cartons of eggs, glassy topped and freshly frosted cakes, pies and cookies; Pretty glass cases filled with candies, truffles, multicolored frosted and perfect confections; Hundreds of freshly baked breads behind the bread counter; Hundreds of cheeses from around the world. Wow.

My visceral response to all of this food: one would expect this to be normal by now. My heart rate shouldn’t rise, and I definitely shouldn’t feel as excited as I do, wanting to run up and down every aisle. I am simultaneously overwhelmed by the amount of food I see and wanting to run out of the market and hide. I’ve been walking into supermarkets for the past thirty years and seeing much of the same. My mind is absolutely perplexed by the quantity of pre-made sushi, prepackaged soups, chocolates, chips, sauces, and meat; the meat counter, almost one-hundred feet long, has so many kinds of sausages, lamb, poultry, beef and bison. I’m startled by all the flesh, ready for consumption. Does all of this food usually get consumed? How much gets thrown away or donated and where does it all go?

Is this something sustainable? What is the carbon footprint of each of the items on the shelf? Has anyone tried to calculate this for just one local super-sized supermarket? Have you ever been to a market in another country? Why do other countries have one to two brands of a product, yet our country has twenty varieties of the same product in the same market? How long can we sustain this?

I love the food. I love the abundance. I continually wonder about the awe I feel every time I walk into Whole Foods. Isn’t it great, isn’t it magical, isn’t it…scary?

Next time you are in the market, take it in. Give Thanks. I wonder if this level of abundance will exist in fifty years. Just a thought.


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