I am so lucky!
My education happened mostly in the streets on the wrong side of the train tracks. My parents were lower middle class, ex-farm people trapped in the concrete jungle of South Providence, Rhode Island. A relatively happy childhood was nevertheless one of no direction and little inspiration. Graduating high school with a C-average having majored in radio and TV repair, a subject for which I had zero aptitude, I headed out into the world to be an obedient functionary, to work, procreate, bow to the political and religious leaders and feed from the troughs of the ever expanding corporations that were systematically demolishing the small time purveyors of food, medicine, news and entertainment. By age 30 I was alcoholically inclined, overweight, depressed, praying for the second coming and wondering what was wrong with me and with my world.
Did I begin this article by saying I am lucky? So far it looks like the luck I’m referring to is of the “bad” variety, but let me press on.
The Vietnam War was winding down, Watergate had brought Nixon down. What was bringing me down? I was only smoking 20 cigarettes a day, drinking 3 or 4 bottles of beer a day and eating cheese sandwiches and salads in between splurges at McDonalds, but off-setting the poisons with lots of exercise and Diet Coke!
I knew that the 20 Marlboros a day were causing my shortness of breath, but what of all the other symptoms; the high cholesterol, the depression, the body fat? So I quit smoking and almost immediately gained more fat.
Now thirty-five years into a healthy regimen, enjoying a 68-year-old body that thrives without pharmaceuticals, I look around at my fellow humans who are still dipping into the corporate troughs and wonder what to do about this sad situation.
Thirty-five years ago I firmly believed that the tomato and onion slices, lettuce, cheese and special sauce loaded onto that grey slab of cow meat, encased in a sesame bun was providing me with a balanced diet. I wasn’t stupid, just brainwashed. “I’m having a Happy Meal,” thought I.
As I said before, I am very lucky. The luck initially came in the form of a wakeup call from a group of Seventh Day Adventists who ran a health food restaurant in Peekskill, New York. The food was not that great. The Veggie Burger wasn’t bad, but I had trouble warming up to seaweed, brown rice, cous cous and the dark tasteless bread that was hard as a brick. What got to me was the freely disbursed literature that graphically depicted the unbelievable suffering of the animals that were destined to become my Pepperoni Pizza, Big Mac, Thanksgiving Turkey, Chicken Basket and Christmas Ham.
In those days I somehow believed that this so-called food had nothing to do with the animals in the factory farms. With the Seventh Day people’s encouragement I set out to educate myself as to what constituted the meal I was chomping on. Where did that Big Mac come from? What was in it?
Even though I was a fanatic carnivore and loved the smell and taste of bacon, pork chops, sirloin steak and all the other forms of carnivorous delights, once I had a face to face encounter with those tormented animals, the switch to vegetarianism was relatively easy. A few months into my new regimen the positive changes were dramatic. My energy was increased. The body fat was melting away and I was depression free.
I went further into the research because now I wanted to know as much as possible about the food that was going into my system. “You are what you eat” was a phrase popular at that time. So, what was I becoming as I ingested the rice, beans, cheese, bread, cereal, vegetables, fruit, soft drinks and beer?
Around that time I joined a small commune of back to the land hippie types and immersed myself in the cultivation of an organic vegetable garden. For the first time in my life I grew and harvested my own food. As I feasted on potatoes, carrots, squash, corn, lettuce, tomatoes and fifty other delights from the backyard I realized that I now had an intimate knowledge of my meals. I knew for instance that the potatoe I was enjoying had only one ingredient – POTATOE, nothing added, no artificial ingredients, no bug spray or chemical additive.
It was a Garden of Eden kind of experience. This was real food, as fresh and wholesome as God intended! I even purchased eggs from a local organic farm and the first time I cracked one open I thought something was wrong with it for the yoke was almost blood orange. Wasn’t an egg yolk supposed to be pale yellow?
I was getting leaner and healthier, and I wanted even more. I wanted only healthy food experience with the exception of an occasional ice cream or chocolate bar.
I always thought of bread as an uncomplicated phenomenon. It was simply a grain, some yeast, dough starter and one or two other ingredients. One of my hippie housemates made bread occasionally and it was so delicious, fresh from the oven. She told me that all four ingredients were organic. Four ingredients? I wondered how many ingredients were in the store bought bread, and thus began my lifetime obsession with reading labels. Here is the list from a whole wheat supermarket bread that advertises itself as HEALTHY – Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Brown Sugar, Yeast, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Vegetable Oil, Dough Conditioners, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Monoglycerides, Calcium Iodate, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, Datem, Azodicarbonamide, Cultured Wheat Flour, Vinegar, Calcium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Yeast Food, Ammonium Sulfate, Soy Lecithin. As I am typing this, TEN of the words have become underlined in red, signaling me to check the spelling. I did. They are all spelled exactly as they are on the label. What does that say?
I wonder if any scientist is capable of accurately assessing the effects that combination of ingredients would have on the human digestive system. One of the arguments for eating only one, or at most three or four different foods at a sitting is that when the digestive system encounters an introduced element, say an apple, it begins a chemical analysis of the apple and simultaneously begins to excrete appropriate chemicals to perfectly facilitate the digestive process. The body taking in that 24 ingredient piece of bread along with the myriad elements that compose the meat, cheese, Coca-Cola, salad dressing and chips that accompany it simply shuts down its chemical lab in a state of overload and frantically attempts to hurry the hundred element glob through the colon and out of the body. The colon eventually clogs and becomes dysfunctional and, believe it or not, that simple organ all 60 inches of it, becomes the breeding ground for most of the major and minor illnesses that plague us. That’s the theory anyway, but I’m not a scientist or an expert in the mono diet cult!
What’s in a Twinkie? A hot dog? A hearty Man TV Dinner? A frozen Pizza? And not only what ingredients, but where did they come from? How many people handled them? How many days or weeks have they been warehoused? And maybe most important, what chemicals have been sprayed on them or injected into them?
I’ve done the research and I can tell you that even the CEO’s of the corporate food industry cannot accurately answer the questions. That loaf of bread or TV dinner has ingredients from dozens of locations and nobody can tell you exactly how old, how stored and how chemically altered those ingredients are.
Add to this disgusting scenario the horrible reality of Monsanto Corporation’s genetic engineering and these foods truly become FRANKENFOODS.
Remember it seems to be true that “You are what you eat!!”
The Good News
Real food still exists. It is available, but not in the middle aisles of America’s supermarkets. Only Franken foods exist there. Bring your reading glasses and you will discover unpronounceable words. The four ingredients necessary to create bread are surrounded by 15 to 30 others, most of them having to do with artificial additives and preservatives. But, back to the good news. With a little leg work and careful shopping you can find organic, local, healthy, delicious food. You will pay more, but you won’t need the headache remedies, stool softeners, cholesterol medication, heart medication and eventually the chemotherapy, radiation, by-pass surgery and all the rest of the modern medical miracles that are needed to correct the conditions deliberately caused by Monsanto, General Foods, McDonalds, the Beef, Poultry and Pork Industries and the politicians funded by Frankenfoods, Inc.
You know, ever since I’ve retired from the Mental Health profession I’ve been writing articles on various aspects of mental, physical and spiritual health, and I guess I’m an okay writer. I’ve been published several times, but always in the “alternative” press. I’ve been preaching to the choir. My readers already know this stuff. My concern is to reach the people who were sort of like me thirty five years ago, people who are saying “Why am I sick? Why am I getting fat? Why does my body need drugs from the pharmacy?”
In closing let me just say that the damage done to our animals, our forests, our streams, our air and to your health by these Franken-Corporations is criminal, but you are also culpable by lining up at their troughs. You can be healthy. You can protect your air, water and land. Say a resounding NO to corporate greed and YES to the re-creation of the Garden of Eden!
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