Sunday, September 7, 2008

Through the eye of the needle

Sometimes I get disgusted at the wastefulness of American consumerism. Like on move-out day after graduation. The dumpster on Landrum Drive served four buildings, and was an avalanche of discarded purchases that had once seemed vital to students' existences. "Perfectly good" futons, lamps, mattress pads, and other furniture items spilled out onto the road and were slowly ruined by the rain. (It was a generally dreary and depressing day. The overcast sky did not make packing up and leaving college behind any easier.) I'll admit, I added a printer to the pile. It still functioned, but badly.

That consumerism orgy made me glad I was going to be "living simply" with the VSC. Of course, that has been easier said than done. My stipend is very small, but I always have my savings to fall back upon if I can't afford that birthday party at Dave and Buster's or that dinner out. Today I faced another source of temptation: the siren song of Whole Foods.

My love affair with that hub of "whole paycheck" gourmet food has been gradual. If you had told me four years ago that I would stand before a Whole Foods butcher demanding grass-fed organic bison for my mother, I would not have believed you. I used to think of the place as some sort of left-wing cult. But now, I fully embrace its appeal as a place where BMW-driving yuppies and hemp sandal-wearing hippies can shop side-by-side, united by the self-satisfied idea that their grocery purchases are somehow helping the earth. The stores and food are attractively packaged. Whenever I walk inside, I can't help earnestly believing that buying stuff there will make me healthier, skinner, happier. My hair won't be frizzy and my body will be purged of free radicals, or whatever else magazine editors tell me is bad this month.

As if. Instead, the tasty snacks are quickly eaten and my wallet remains emptier. Arrg, I can't believe I blew $30 today at Whole Foods and its quirkier cousin, Trader Joe's. And that was after I put back the gluten-free bread mix and the second carton of delicious, delicious gourmet dairy-free ice cream. My wacky food intolerances do put a cramp in my dining style. I can't just reach for convenient pizza, mac'n'cheese and sandwiches. But does that really entitle me to those expensive GF cookies? Am I ever going to find a diary free, GF bread that doesn't have the consistency of Styrofoam? Nope-ity, nope-ity, no. Instead, I need to learn to make do with brown rice, cans of corn, and hash browns.

Plus, the New York times editors tell me beets are the new superfood. I did cave and buy an organic bundle today. But hey, they were only $2.50. And they say the greens make a tasty, nutritious salad after you have roasted the root.

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