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Preserve Us

by Stephen Lautens


August 22, 2003

It’s true that you are what you eat. Think of doughnuts. They’re an essentially happy food. They come in bright colours, and smell of maple, cinnamon, and my favourite - raw sugar. I’ve seen people cry into their beer, sulk over liver, even throw a tantrum over broccoli. But any face I’ve ever seem with a doughnut wedged in it has been smiling.

By contrast, I’ve yet to see anyone in a health food store who isn’t cranky. The clerks look unhappy. The customers look positively hostile. Maybe it comes from trying to get your organic peanut butter home in a string bag without first putting it in an environmentally-unfriendly plastic container. Not only that, but anyone I’ve seen in a health food store looks pale and malnourished. They don’t even look like they have the strength to carry their loaf of acorn bread home.

Experimenting with healthy foods has not been very successful for me. It started with preservatives. A lot of foods on the grocery shelf proudly announce that they contain no preservatives. Those are the ones I walk right by.

Personally, I like preservatives. Preservatives are one of the greatest of human inventions - right up there with refrigeration and stuffed-crust pizza. I like food sturdy enough that you can leave it on the windowsill in the sun for a week, or bring home from the store and unpack a few days later.

Fresh baked bread always suckers me in. It smells and looks great, but is moldy by the time I get it home from the store. With preservatives in it, if bread goes on sale you can buy 15 loaves and store them in a dark, damp garage until you need them. White bread bursting with chemicals never goes bad, even if it’s made out of essentially the same stuff as the plastic bag it comes in. I suspect eating it probably will keep me fresh for a couple of years after I’m dead.

It may be that health food shoppers always look so tired because they have to keep running back and forth to the store every 20 minutes to stay on top of everything in their fridge that has gone bad.

I admit to having a vested interest in all this. It’s my job to throw all the furry food out of the fridge. My wife could do a double lung transplant with a spoon and not flinch, but for some reason she’s squeamish about tossing out hairy leftovers.

Maybe it comes from the time my mother sent us home with a frozen pork chop. Somehow it got under the car seat and was forgotten until a particularly warm spell three or four days later. I think my wife suspected the smell was me until we found the offending cutlet. Thankfully the incident only turned her off old food and not me.

A friend of mine swears by his juicer. Everything goes into it to make his lumpy brown drinks, which are no doubt full of life-giving nutrients. He raves about his avocado, carrot and birch bark shakes. While I might not be the picture of health, I bet he’s had as many colds as me this year.

Still, looking at his juicer I can’t help wondering - what would you get if you put a couple of jelly doughnuts through it? Whatever it is, I bet it would put a smile on your face and keep forever.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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