Saturday, July 24, 2010

Food Revolution Road Trip 2010: A Clarification

Recently, I felt the need to write a clarification of what Food Revolution Road Trip is all about and address a few things. This post isn't directed at anyone in particular but rather than let things get out of hand, I wanted to get this off my chest right away.

Firstly, people need to know that we live in an isolated community with a population of 8000, outside of the big city. Products arrive to our area by boat, and our access to a wide array of grocery products is limited. I have exactly two stores in the immediate vicinity to choose from. I do not shop at health food stores, buy organic produce (too expensive), or even visit the weekly Farmer's Market that often. We are not at the far end of the healthy eating spectrum. However I have lived my entire live in BC, ranging from Richmond to Campbell River and Courtenay, so I'm well versed in what products are available in my home province.

My family's definition of 'healthy' is based on:

-is it real food? Or is it full of things we can't pronounce?
-whole grain/wheat breads
-under 400 g of sodium per serving
-no artificial colors or flavors
-no preservatives
-can't be deep fried
-low in sugar

We do the best we can with what we have available. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what you can live with, and what you can't. There are many things that we don't eat (ie: bacon, mayonnaise, soda) that are based on personal preference. Some restrictions are because of genuine health reasons.

We chose our criteria for Food Revolution Road Trip based on what WE consider healthy and what WE were willing to eat and wanted to see if we actually could stick to that criteria while on a 2 1/2 week vacation in America. Having taken long road trips every summer in the USA for the past 8 years or so, we knew exactly what we were getting into and I feel that having spent so much time on the road in the USA, I can draw a pretty good conclusion of what it's like to try to live eating at mid-priced family restaurants in the Western United States.

Readers will obviously have their own opinions in that area. What other people choose to eat is their business, not mine. Food Revolution Road Trip focuses solely on what WE EAT and what's available, NOT what my fellow travelers eat.

Later on, Hubs and I take another road trip, albeit for a shorter period of time, in Canada. Is it any different? You'll have to wait and see.

In some places, I can honestly say sticking to our criteria was really difficult. In Rapid City, I literally searched through EVERY brand of bread in a store to find the one without high fructose corn syrup. In other places, it was easy. Each stop was different-each state, each town, each store. Do not assume that this is going to be a "bash America's way of eating based on one town" thing. Wait, let the story play out, and then draw your conclusions.

However, I'm going to go out on a limb and just call it like it is; South Dakota's obesity rate is topping 28%, and it has the 15th worst weight problem in the nation, according to this article that was coincidentally published while we were there.

There IS a problem. It doesn't take me rooting through the bakery to figure that out.

In my experience, I have to point out that while yes, there any many processed foods in Canada, the selection and quantity available once we cross the USA border always takes us aback. There are products that are simply not available in our country. The food is allowed to have things in it (high fructose corn syrup, hormones in milk) that are simply not allowed in Canada. Even the simple candy selection at a tiny gas station in Blaine, WA is easily double the size of anything I've ever seen in Vancouver, overflowing with products that are completely foreign to us.

The same is true in the freezer section of every grocery store we visited in America. The selection of processed food products, from my experience, is ENORMOUS. And what shocked me is that they are just so CHEAP compared to where we live.

Food Revolution Road Trip is, in no way, an attack on America or the people who live there. Cultural differences do become glaringly obvious in places, especially in South Dakota where we often found the political opinions as well as the menus to be very different from our own. Different doesn't mean bad or wrong. It's just different.

At times I'm going to mention observations that we made during the vacation. They are, in no way, judgments about how my readers or Americans eat. They may be products that we have never seen here at home, or just things that we noticed that were very common occurrences and I included because I felt that they conveyed the atmosphere of where we were. The woman drinking a pop for breakfast while her kids ate donuts? Totally common. Signs for 64 oz Coke? Everywhere. Kraft Easy Cheese? Every gas station.

In no way am I saying that we are better than anyone, or that I have all the answers. My family is not perfect. Food, I know, is cultural, primal, and evokes strong feelings in all of us. Keep in mind that my finding some food items "interesting" (such as the Kraft Easy Cheese) is no different than YOU coming to MY home and thinking sushi or salmon is disgusting. I would not take it personally, and neither should you.

However, I am going to say this; what you are getting is the truthful, factual picture of what our experience was like, and our honest opinions. I will not sugar coat or gloss things over in fear that I'm going to offend someone or lose readers. If anything, I'm striving to be genuine and authentic, by conveying my own opinions and perspective. If you are offended, and I know some people will be, perhaps reading this series isn't for you.

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