One night while shopping for a salmon dinner I had an interesting encounter. I was living in Stamford, New York; a small village in Delaware County. I had a diner there called The Hungry Moon. It was a small diner, in what I already mentioned was a small town. There was one bank, one grocery store, a disproportionate number of bars, and two diners. Owning one of the two local diners made me highly visible, and I quickly found out that everyone knew everyone else’s business, which naturally had its advantages as well as it’s drawbacks. But this story is about my salmon dinner.
I was at the Grand Union, the only grocery store in town, and since a good deal of my food was provided by the diner, I was picking up just a few things. I had a small basket in my hands and was waiting in line behind two women who each had full carts, and seemed to be friends. Among other things in my basket was some broccoli, and a piece of salmon. I love looking in other peoples’ carts and baskets to see what they are buying, in my Whole Foods Market days I loved bagging groceries- it gives me a glimpse into who someone is, to see what they like to eat, and this is also a fun way to see new products (yes, I freely admit to being a grocery nerd). Anyway, with that in mind, it didn’t bother me that one of the women in front of me checked out my basket, though the conversation that followed did.
Woman #1, turned to her friend, made an unpleasant face, and chin point to me and said full voice, “Huh, I wish I could afford to eat salmon for dinner”. When I then looked into her cart—and not the least bit sneakily—I was surprised to find it filled with frozen dinners as well as all kinds of other junk. Her friend took a look and said “Yeah, must be nice to be rich”. (Which I certainly was not.) I wanted to tell them that contrary to what they thought, my salmon dinner was a much more economical option as well as nutritionally sound choice that the crap in their carts, but I didn’t, I just got embarrassed, looked away and pretended to read the magazines in the rack.
I don’t fault these women for their beliefs, though they were rather rude…. We live in a world filled with cheap calories. One in which people are led to believe that a $3.00 frozen meal is a good value, where fast food seems like a wholesome economical way to feed a family, and where people are too tired, stressed or don’t know how, to cook. Salmon may be a luxury to many people, but the irony is that so is a frozen meal. It’s really a shame that schools no longer teach home-economics, to both boys and girls! The practical skills that kids could learn in a semester or two of home-ec would be skills with a lifetime of rewards.
I have always been conscious of the ingredients in my food, and lately I have been reading more and more about what is happening to our food supply I have become more acutely aware of the ads in print and on television touting the wholesomeness of all types of frozen and prepared meals that are far from wholesome, and certainly not whole. I wish I had been more open to talking to those women at the store so long ago. I wish I had been able to talk to them kindly and honestly about their choices compared to mine, but that’s not really so easy. I wish I could reach more people and show them how simple and how much less expensive it is to cook a real meal rather than to buy what a huge company fashions for them in a huge factory, and only resembles food. I wish it was easier to feed a family fresh, real food, than to grab a box of empty calories from the freezer section of any grocery store including the ones selling ‘natural’ and ‘health’ foods!