We are suffering from a food crisis in this country. I’m not talking about a crisis where people are starving. I’m talking about a crisis where people don’t know what they are allowed to eat anymore.
First we couldn’t eat fat. Then we couldn’t eat carbs. Now we have to ensure we eat responsibly and intelligently without causing harm to another living organism.
To top it all off, the birth of the Internet has transformed the world into 6 billion judges.
“Carbs are as bad as cigarettes!” claims a pasta-hater, when denouncing the serving of home-cooked lasagna we have feebly fed our family.
“Do you know that chemicals from your plastic leak into your frozen food and can poison your baby?” says another virtual voter.
Ordinary citizens are not the only ones to heap judgment on the choices we are making.
“You are killing your children!” Jamie Oliver proclaimed to a woman on his show who was just trying to make ends meet in a small rural town in the South. The Brit’s intentions were good. But he would attract more bees with honey, even if it wasn’t organic.
On Oprah recently, a beautiful blonde woman peered directly into the camera and voiced her reason for becoming a vegan.
“I just couldn’t look a chicken in the eye and tell that chicken, ‘My life is worth more than yours.’ ”
No wonder Oprah is retiring. She is exhausted from trying to persuade people to approve of her food choices.
A little knowledge about every issue on earth is an exhausting thing. Everywhere I turn, someone is judging what I am eating or where my food comes from. I feel sorry for the kids at school if they are mini soapbox versions of all of us. What’s next? Bologna bullying?
I was beginning to have a vision of the lunch table of the future.
As a little girl takes her ham sandwich out of her lunch bag, a second-grader in pigtails asks her, “Did you ever stop to think where the pig came from that gave his life for that sandwich?”
Another little boy, tearing the top off his Jello, bristles when she asks him, “You know those are ground-up bones you’re eating, don’t you?”
Turning to another student, she crunches up her nose in disgust and asks, "Did you ever stop to think about the cow that you are putting into your body?”
After lecturing the lunch table, a young boy turns to her and asks a simple question, “What are you eating for lunch?”
The little girl sniffs as she announced her choice.
“I am eating beans that my mother soaked overnight and steamed this morning, with organic tofu stuffed inside a 100 percent whole grain pita pocket made from grains purchased from endangered tribes in Africa.”
“Oh,” says the little boy. “I heard tofu is full of hormones. I can’t eat that. My Mom says if I do I might need a bra.”
There is mayhem. The children have to be sequestered for a seminar on bullying led by the school psychologist who is in danger of losing his job due to budget cuts.
The point is this. Can’t we have a little more celebration of food? A little less judgment? When Oprah is done lecturing us, can’t we all step away from the soapboxes for a while? What would the world look like if 6 billion judges put down their gavels just for the day?
We could call it “Day One of the rest of our Oprah-free lives.”
But that won’t end the Organic Panic. Nor should it. Awareness is crucial. Delivery is everything.
Out with friends one evening, we asked how their son is doing in college.
“He says that the cows are pumped full of hormones and it’s leaking into the environment. Now even our drinking water and all our vegetables have chemicals and hormones in them.”
“Uh-oh.” I ask, “What’s the solution?”
“Well, he says the only answer is to be like China,” my friend said, smiling, hoping I won’t shoot the messenger. “We have to have a limit of one child per American family because we have too many people and can’t feed them.”
“Thank goodness Kate got her eight in when she did!” I shot. “I guess ‘23 and Counting’ will be history!”
At least there will be fewer children at the lunch table to judge each other.
Maybe the few kids that will be left at that table of the future will finally have the Utopian society we all dream of. They may finally eat a proper, healthy lunch that doesn’t harm anyone.
“What are you eating?” asks the little girl.
“PBJ,”says the boy.
“How about you?” he inquires.
“Ham and cheese,” she says flatly.
"Mmmm," he says. "Wanna share?”
“Sure!” she says, and a friendship is born.
In an ideal world, the peanut butter would be organic, the ham free-range and without chemicals. But the real victory would be the end of Bologna Bullying at the lunch table.
In the real world, I try to do the best I can, even when recycling, shopping organic and reading about nutrition has got me so full of information I’m due to crash and burn soon. But these are the earmarks of our generation.
Thankfully, there are a few souls who lighten the load for those of us who feel they must shoulder the blame for the world’s problems.
In the kitchen last week, my phone vibrated with a message while I was soaking my organic black beans. The message was from my one-line-wonder husband. Some couples like sexting. I prefer jexting: the punchlines produced by my court-jester and consigliere.
His message confirmed why we’d be going to the grave together.
“I just looked a chicken in the eye and told him I was better than him.”
I’ll share his sandwich any day.