Cultivating Gratitude: Evil Grocery Stores, Fresh Food, & Your Dining Room Table

As we’ve spent time thinking about how food and justice go together, something that can’t be ignored is the messy problem of poverty, hunger, and access to good, whole, fresh foods.

It’s all fine and well to criticize Fallmart and Broger for their complicity in a variety of evils*,  but the truth is, due to many irreversible reasons, at least in the short-term, they are providing a necessary service in our communities. (It is interesting to note that both of these two mega-stores are now advertising that they sell “local” produce. That means, for example, that a fraction of the squash, tomatoes, cukes, and peppers in my Broger comes from really big farms in Tennessee, rather than the family farms here in Kentucky, but hey, it’s better than California.)

All of that to say, discussing food ethics is complicated because access to food is complicated.

And I fully acknowledge that not everyone can pay for farmer’s market tomatoes. Or blueberries. Or peaches. And not everyone has a garden in their backyard.

Not everyone has a backyard.

Those of us who can–and I’m speaking to myself here–should really be more thankful and a little less judgmental, because the truth is, we all make sacrifices. And we’re all inconsistent, selfish creatures, who don’t see the world from other people’s perspectives. And if we are in the teeniest percentile of folks who are ever standing at the grocery store trying to decide whether we should buy organic potatoes or regular potatoes (or, um, instant potatoes), no matter where they come from, we should consider ourselves pretty dang fortunate.

Most people around the globe, and for the entire history of the world, have not had the privilege of making such decisions.

And on that note, here’s the gratitude I’d like to cultivate today:

All food–even those grocery-store veggies–came from somewhere.

Somebody’s hands touched that produce at some point along the way, before it got to us. Picked from the field, perhaps, if not by machine. Thrown into a box, perhaps. The box piled in a truck. The truck emptied at the warehouse. The store shelves stocked, balancing the produce precariously on the displays, all so it can appeal to our senses as we stand there, debating what to buy.

We are fortunate.

I have heard that one of the biggest culture shocks of folks settling into the US from poverty-stricken countries is the overwhelming nature of our grocery stores. There is so much food, all under one roof, shiny and fresh and colorful.

We are fortunate indeed.

And yet we find reasons to complain about it.

So here’s what I’ve been doing lately to try to make myself a little more thankful, a little more attentive to the food I am fortunate enough to be able to buy, a little more thoughtful about the people who don’t have baseball-bat-sized zucchini in their backyard (more on that later) or can’t shop at a farmer’s market:

I’m becoming a lover of still life.

Yep, that’s a bowl of fresh stuff, right in the middle of our dining room table.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that though it is a very simple idea to put a bowl of food on your table, the immediate prompting came from a “Faith in Action” step in the Just Eating? curriculum.)

In this photo, we’ve got tomatoes and a banana pepper from our CSA, eggplant, a bell pepper, and Cubanelles from a local “orchard,” and organic lemons from our co-op (purchased for the lemon meringue pie escapade).

All of this food, sitting right out on the table. I see it when I walk through our dining room, which you can’t really avoid doing in our little house.

Now, I can hear someone saying, “Put that food in the refrigerator!”

Well, I plan to eat it soon, thank you. In the meantime, I’ll be a wee bit more grateful than when I am hunting through the frig looking for a snack later on tonight.

So that is my gratitude recommendation for today. Put some food on your table, whatever you’ve got. Right now, we’ve got some peaches in a bowl, since we ate through all of the above over the weekend when we made ratatouille for our potluck on Sunday. So just peaches. Earlier we had just lemons.

I don’t think the giant zucchini will fit in a bowl, but I considered it.

Food + You = Gratitude.

_____________________________________

* Regarding my use of “evil”: I would say I use the term loosely, but, well, I really don’t. I consider human trafficking and human rights abuses some of the worst evils of our time (go here to see Kroger’s implications in this problem), and destruction of small-town Main Streets, independent grocers, and Mom and Pop shops  pretty bad, too.

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4 comments on “Cultivating Gratitude: Evil Grocery Stores, Fresh Food, & Your Dining Room Table

  1. Kathy Fraley says:

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you for making us aware to be thankful for our everyday convenience we have of grocery shopping or farmer’s market shopping. Two summers ago when Anna and I were in Ghana, Africa, teaching for 3 weeks – we were so aware of how MUCH we Americans have. What a great experience to see and live a simpler less complicated life – although meager as well. We found the people friendly and content – even if they did eat rice everyday with a few other choices. Yes, we Americans have so much to choose from as far as food and drink go.

    Kathy Fraley

  2. Bonnie (Mom) says:

    I have enjoyed displaying fruit and vegetables in a bowl for quite some time now, the bright colors are beautiful. If they are in plain site I tend to use them more readily (and tomatoes taste SOOOOO much better at room temperature and really do last a long time). I also think I am generally thankful, but because of your comments, I am now ‘specifically’ thankful. I also am ‘thanking the hands that touched . . . . ‘

  3. Have had my bowl on our kitchen table for a few weeks now…I love it! Thanks for the reminder to greet it with thankfulness daily.

  4. elizabeth says:

    Kathy, Mom, and Faith,
    Thanks for commenting! I appreciate the feedback and hearing others’ thoughts and practices.

    Writing about being thankful is an important way to remind myself to be more thankful, too. It’s just too easy to get used to things, isn’t it? Even beautiful produce on our tables!

    And, Mom, I like what you’ve said about being “specifically” thankful. Nice way to put it.

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