I have been one of those “label readers” for a long time, ever since it began to be important to know what I was buying to eat. Then, at some point in the 1990’s it became a critical thing: what am I thinking to eat here? I discovered a bunch of very long words for chemicals I had never heard of, let alone even pronounce! Well, I knew I was not exactly going to trace each and every one of those chemical additives, or understand what each of them was for, which was certainly the case before we had bigger computers and our present scourge: Google. Now we have Google and GMO altered not quite edibles and a lot more chemical additives many of which are problematical, it has shown me how well I have supported my aging body from the early 1970’s forward. At 80 something, folks, it is a really good idea to know what I am putting into body as fuel!
Then I came upon the big idea to begin a new life in Ecuador and off I went, at only 76, in my packed van aiming myself southward first through Mexico and Central America. I stashed basics: quinoa, organic olive oil, proper salt, miso paste for soups, cans of sardines for small fishes and useful fats, those kinds of things that support my natural foods diet.
Of course, at some point I was buying farmers vegetables from their sisters in villages, and in larger towns, the farmer’s local markets, in cities, Walmart, a somewhat different kind of store in those countries than in America.
One afternoon I was on the look for yogurt. My habit of reading labels had become a life preserving pursuit: the labels told me I was not looking at containers of yogurt but something else.
Then the topic of this article became obvious. There was a big difference from the food I wanted and needed and the “food products” I was holding in my hands.
I made the distinction in a kind of aha experience except this was a beware kind of aha rather than a sought after and welcome, aha! I did not find any simple, whole, naturally made yogurt until I reached El Valle in the mountains in Panama! It was there I discovered in the dairy case a locally produced simple yogurt without anything in it except milk, cream and the proper bacteria which I needed to support my digestion.
Whoa! This was the moment when I first made that instant distinction: there is a difference between whole and natural food and “food products.” Milk and cream had chemical stabilizers: food products. A can of tomato paste had MSG flavor enhancer in it: food product. Bread and buns and cookies had additives to the flour and stabilized fats. High fructose corn syrup was in all the juices. Any kind of refreshing soda was aspartame which I had investigated as a hormone disrupter. Food products everyone, non-nutrition, even anti-nutrition.
There came a ray of light in the small villages. I met bunches of ladies, young girls, older mums and their mothers, the grandmothers coming to the store direct from their fields with well worn, dusty clothing and dirty hands full of radishes, carrots, spinach tied in bundles which they had from weeks previous planted seed, had watered and weeded and now brought to their market to wash and set out to be sold these freshly loved, tenderly raised real organic vegetables. Yum!
Figure it out, my friends! When I looked at these ladies, I knew this was real food they were offering. Even if they had wanted five times what they asked, it was a huge nutritional deal.
This 76 year old grandmother saw clearly what this was all about, so I brought the gratitude and the lesson home with me.
There is a very large and very distinct difference between food and food products. Understand that it is almost a total guarantee anywhere in our north American countries that corn and corn chips and corn flour are food products made with GMO altered corn #2, Monsanto’s gift to early dementia. The perk from those lesser states, those peasant cultures in Mexico and central America of small farms: I could buy organic corn masa for my own hand made tortillas. Thank you very much!
When I do this kind of writing, I wish to stay in our vernacular rather than go all scientific or doctor-like. I am older woman looking to hang around getting older and wiser rather frail and decrepit. I believe it is useful to give our experience to our granddaughters so they may someday have granddaughters as we have them today. Maybe this is also your plan for those treasured times when you, too have become older than dirt.
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