Nothing. No cookies. No candy. Not a oxidized chocolate chip or a honey stick in sight. I keep digging and, suddenly, hit the mother lode. At the bottom of the cereal basket my hand brushes a foreign plastic clam shell. I pull out a container of Lucky's brand chocolate chip cookies. I have no idea where these came from. I didn't buy them. Did I? I haven't shopped at Lucky's in at least a year, more like two. If I did buy these back then, they are remarkably well preserved. I sniff them. They smell fine. Not a crumb is out of place.
I can't resist though. It has become habit. I flip the container over to peer at the ingredients. The main purchased sweets we eat these days are cookies sold at the farmers' market by a local bakery. The bakery's label boasts five ingredients. Lucky's cookies? I stop counting after twenty-two - seventeen of which are recognizable only to someone with an advanced degree in Chemistry. I relocate the cookies to the trash.
A few months ago, I polished off In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. The book delves into the not-so-tasty world of processed food products. I say "food products" because most of the stuff gracing supermarket shelves these days is not actually food but food wannabe. It is often laden with corn syrup (which wasn't invented until the 1960's) and comprised more of chemicals than real food. Thankfully, Mr. Pollan sets out a number of suggestions for better filling our plates, including two of my favorites:
1) Only eat something your great grandmother would identify as food. Plastic yogurt filled tubes would not be recognized. Neither would squirtable cheese or diet Coke.
2) Avoid products containing ingredients that are (a) unrecognizable, (b) more than five or (c) high fructose corn syrup.
In the past several months, we've abandoned most pre-made goodies in favor of homemade treats comprised of local, organic and fair trade ingredients: rice pudding with honey meringue, meringue cookies and granola bars. Baking from scratch keeps all that junk out of my trunk and, because I'm not using all the plastic wrappers, cartons and bags from store-bought sweets, keeps junk out of the garbage collector's trunk as well.
Indeed, Mr. Pollan agrees that junk food is okay if we make it from scratch . . . and if we don't eat it all the time. I've done very well with the former but have successfully ignored the latter. Unfortunately, it shows. A daily (or twice daily) ration of homemade chocolate pudding or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies is not so good for the junk in my trunk.
To further reduce my carbon bite and the size of, um, my trunk, I've joined Blue Collar Crunch's Diet for Global Hunger challenge. Blue Collar Crunch asks participants to (a) abandon fake food (check), (b) eat real food (check), (c) eat lower on the food chain (check, I'm a vegetarian), (d) determine our recommended daily caloric intake (er, check), (e) lower our daily caloric intake if we're carrying excess weight (um, er, yeah, I'll work on this), and (f) take daily action to raise awareness about the food crisis (no problem, check). Mr. Pollan would surely approve.