Thursday, July 9, 2009

to market, to market.

I am wondering when the nearly entire United States population suddenly became lactose intolerant. Did we find en masse that we had a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme that aids the digestion of lactose, before or after every product in the grocery store that contains a trace of dairy began marketing itself as "lactose free" ?

I am one of those people who reads every label at the grocery store. My current fixations include scouring the fine print of non-perishable and preserved items to determine if they contain high fructose corn syrup or any related ingredient; seeking out produce that is not from CA, but from TX, LA, or Mexico (usually unsuccessfully); and squinting my eyes at the signs in the seafood section to figure out which fish is from my region, which is farm raised vs. wild, and to weigh whether purchasing the wild Gulf-caught fish that could be high in mercury is better than purchasing the farm-raised fish that is probably mercury safe but also probably putting a lot of fishermen out of business (Norwegian and Finnish fish are a no brainer - I'll eat those when I finally visit Scandinavia, but I don't need to cook them in my own kitchen at home.). Sometimes, I stare at the produce and try to figure out which items are actually in season as opposed to available at my fingertips because I am a spoiled American and I expect the seasons to keep up with my wants.

Reading the fine print means it takes me twice as long as it takes most people to shop. Taking twice as long in the supermarket means that purchasing groceries is a chore that I get a lot of angst over; I don't like to be in the grocery store. But usually, I manage to occupy my mind with some food-related train of thought. Today, it was lactose.

I am really anxious to see the movie Food Inc. in good and bad ways. Will it take me 3 times as long to get groceries once I've seen the movie? Today I didn't buy any chicken, pork or beef products, because I'm already anticipating that I won't want them once I see the movie. On Saturday I'll try to wake up in time to check out the meat and poultry at the Farmers' Market. Yes, I think it's worth the extra money. I don't care how poor I am, my financial matters need to be pretty dire before I stop thinking it is a priority to put good food in my body.

All this said, food is not something I truly obsess over, but once or twice a month when I go to restock my refrigerator, this issue rises to the surface of my thoughts. I've already made the leap in my mind about certain things: buy locally grown (but not pesticide-free) produce over organics from other regions and countries (which may not contain pesticides, but do contain chemical preservatives and ripening agents). Got it.

But now, what am I to make of the lactose issue? Is this savvy marketing on the part of the soy industry, or are we really, as a nation, all prone to lactose intolerance? Food is hard to get right. As a person who really loves to eat, I find food as a business to be a frustrating reality.

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