Yesterday I was standing in the grocery store waiting for a lady to pick some eggs. She turned around and said, "Geez like it – what should I choose free range, canola or grain fed?"
"Geez like it" indeed!
I had to agree with her. Even buying a simple loaf of bread has become a 10 minute affair scanning a wall of bread from low GI, reinforced vitamins, cracked wheat, soya, lentil and crushed wheat and they come in so many shapes and sizes... so make that a double "Geez like it"!
Add that you now also have to consider if your food was produced in an ethical way. If it's not seasonal and local then the paw-paw or pumpkin you're eating has left a nasty carbon footprint all the way from Guatemala to Grahamstown. And if you thought fish was safe, guess again. Before you tuck into a delicious piece of sole or kingklip – remember both are on SASSI's (Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) watch list as types of fish that are on the brink of being overfished.
Suddenly it seems that you need a degree in environmental studies and a diploma in nutrition to buy groceries for a week.
On top of that everyone and their uncle are trying to stick a green label on their products and in the process they are just confusing us more.
And if start you wondering about the concept of stressed produce, genetically modified seeds and the influence of pesticides and hormones on your food – well it's time to book your ticket to the nearest asylum for the food petrified. Oh, and remember to take along your own 5kg bag of beans and lentils for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
What has happened to food glorious food?
It just feels like we are over-processing food in a completely new way and taking away all the comfort, enjoyment of flavours, textures and combinations from it.
I always think of a scene in Antonia's Line, a lovely Dutch movie, where Antonia's gypsy-esque family had these lush farm lunches. Bowls of delicious dishes were passed around with love while they tore chunks of bread from a huge loaf dipping it in mouth-watering sauces and dishes while swallowing it down with large swigs of wine.
That, for me is, the joy of food. A blissful enjoyment of the people around you heightened by delicious flavours and textures all culminating in a warm comforting feeling that shoots up from your belly straight to your heart – in a good way. Of course it helps that all the food came from her own farm and was probably organic to start with. Sigh...
So where does that leave us? We're obviously living in a time where we need to think about what we eat. But hell, I still want to be able to eat without brain gymnastics or guilt.
So here are my five pointers to avoid the asylum. Buy organic as far as your budget can allow. I know some products are 'really' not that organic at all but at least the producers made some kind of effort to be kinder to the environment.
Plastic is the devil – chuck a whole lot of bags in your handbag or car and re-use them when shopping. Also, think about individually wrapped products, over-packaging is just more plastic.
I got this advice from Janet Steer (our whole food guru) for buying bread. Look for bread with the least ingredients, that's usually your healthier option.
Keep your eggs free range. You can book a ticket straight to the asylum if you start thinking of chickens in tiny little cages with tiny little legs popping out eggs as if they're factory machines.
Walk – before you get into your car to drive three blocks to buy milk, why not walk? It's good for you, saves you money and hey... you did you bit for the ozone layer as well.
What you are doing to avoid the food-petrified asylum
Ilze Dreyer is the deputy editor of Food24 and has not yet seen the inside of the food-pretrified asylum.