Saturday, September 13, 2008

Natural Foods

For me, the process of buying and eating my food is so much more enjoyable if I trust where my food has come from. I used to feel that way about Whole Foods. I’d go in there feeling that everything sold was quality, healthy, and oh so tasty. Unfortunately, the high prices now temper my enthusiasm and I’m no longer as excited to set foot in a Whole Foods as I once was. Trader Joe’s makes me happy these days, especially their canned and packaged food and their wines. But since we don’t have one nearby, visiting a Trader Joe’s is a real treat.

I do get this feeling at our local seafood shop, where the ground is slick with water from the spray used on fresh fish, the employees are friendly and I know the fish goes right from the ocean or river to this shop’s cases. They also stock some fruits, vegetables and pies, all top quality and so beautiful I imagine what I could turn them into as soon as I see them. For both my husband and I, going there is a treat because the shopping is a pleasant experience and because we know we are receiving a great product. However, since most of the fish runs $10-20 a pound, we have to limit our visits.

So, I was so very excited to find a Pennsylvania Dutch market, where people I believe are Mennonites bring in fresh food from their farms and sell it at very reasonable prices. Their cows roam free, they don’t use hormones. Nothing carries the official organic or other quality labels. But because they are dressed in dresses with aprons and caps or pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats, I have more confidence in their production beliefs than a label would provide.

I try to buy all of our meat, poultry and dairy there. I can buy milk that isn’t labeled organic, but is so smooth, sweet and velvety it’s like drinking cream. They sell Amish creamery butter and yogurt made from grass-fed cows. The prices are closer to a regular supermarket’s than a Whole Foods-type store and I can feel comfortable preparing the food for my baby.

In addition to a fun shopping experience, it just makes me feel good to go there. I like handing over cash to people who are closely tied to the farms that produce the farm. I enjoy seeing people I normally encounter in my community and to see the racial and ethnic diversity of the shoppers who buy their products.

I took Mark there today for the first time. He was excited to take advantage of the $6.99 all you can eat breakfast. “It’s nice to come here,” he said. “It reminds me of the diversity of humanity.” As I drank my third glass of milk today, it reminded of how good things can taste when animals are allowed to roam freely.

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