I stopped into Safeway today for what I believe was my first visit there since December. Remember, our buying habits have changed dramatically since then. The purpose of my trip today was simple: a bag of lettuce, a loaf of french bread (a big treat for us since it's made with refined white flour), and money to pay the babysitter. When I walked in, though, the Special K caught my eye. It was on sale for $3/box and I immediately (and fondly) remembered eating almost a whole box while I was sick in Mexico. It sounded good, so I picked it up and looked at the ingredients. It's much easier to read ingredients (especially chemical derivatives) in English than in Spanish. I looked at the Special K with strawberries first. Sugar was ingredient number two and HFCS (that's high fructose corn syrup to those who haven't been studying food politics) was high on the list, too. So, I looked at the regular Special K. It also had sugar and HFCS high on the list. Don't the commercials say that Special K is supposed to be GOOD for you? Aren't you supposed to lose weight if you eat it for every other meal? At what cost, I guess is the question. Who wants to trade weight loss for cancer or some other disease of Western Civilization? I put the boxes down, disappointed. I guess I really can't eat any industrialized food. I mean, if Special K is bad, what's not? Grape Nuts? I haven't looked at that label, yet.
As I collected the items on my list, I noticed the bright colors and cartoon characters that seemed to be jumping out at me from the end of every aisle. I was...overwhelmed. It's not like I live in the forest and rarely venture out. I mean, I do shop. Sometimes even at Target where there's plenty of HFCS and cartoon characters to be found. I shop at Costco every few weeks, and I just don't feel as overwhelmed there. Costco doesn't have so much crap (nutritionally speaking) on the ends of their aisles. Sure, they have jumbo bags of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips ("NO, Hillary. Don't buy them!" I tell myself. Control your environment!) and two pound bags of Starbucks coffee beans and six packs of all-natural spaghetti sauce on the aisle ends. These things, though, don't come packaged in a way that is meant to attract the eyes of the preschoolers and elementary school kids shopping with mom.
I am sure it's the colors and characters posted at the end of every Safeway aisle that get me. I don't venture into the aisles of many stores (I shop the perimeter, even at Whole Foods), so I should be able to avoid the marketing. Today I didn't even have my kids with me, but I felt accosted by the packaging. I was ready to tell my invisible kids, "No, you can't have that. It has HFCS in it. No, you can't have that either. It comes from unhappy cows. No, that has too much sugar in it. That's made almost totally of genetically modified corn and soybeans. Forget it." Being in that environment, as silly as it sounds, stresses me out. It made me feel like I might hyperventilate. Give me my little natural food co-op or the Whole Foods produce, bulk, and dairy aisles any day. That's really all I need. At least when I'm there, once in a while I can say "yes" to my kids.