Spoiler alert: it’s about to get real judgmental up in here. But first, an anecdote.
I grew up not realizing that I was white. Not quite in the Steve Martin in The Jerk way, but pretty close. My mother is 100% Italian, culturally, by blood, in guinea hand-jive, and in every other way a person can be Italian. My father is an orphan, and thus adopted her cultural upbringing as his own. From the time I could stand, I was at the apron strings of the matriarchs in my family, helping them to clean cuttlefish, crank out pasta dough, and jar herring to make renga for Christmas. That’s how we ate, every day, all week, for the entire year. Nothing came to our house in a can save for tomato paste and maybe black olives. To this day, nary a Spaghetti-o has passed my lips. Occasionally an anomaly like hash would appear on the table, nights I always hated, and there would be some rumblings about “white people food” while my Dad explained this is what he grew up eating. I can recall sleeping over a friend’s house and being greeted in the morning with something called Carnation Instant Breakfast before I was sent out the door to my mother. Sounds delicious, right? I never found out, because the moment I got in the car, my mother snatched it out of my hand and began a tirade that lasted from the Fitchburg line to our house about what “these people” were feeding me.
When I got out into the world and started getting invites to my friends’ homes for dinner, I can recall a time when I was particularly shocked at what ended up laid out on the table. My well-intentioned but differently kitchen-abled buddy brought over white bread with margarine, a salad of iceberg lettuce salad with hot house tomatoes, white onions and bottled dressing, and some indiscernible meat product with Shake and Bake all over it. This was well over ten years ago and I can still recall how disgusted I was by the spread. As soon as I got home that night, I called my parents and relayed to them my tale of culinary horror. “Yeah,” said my Dad, “White people food.”
Now that I’m older, I understand that I, in fact, am white, but grew up very lucky. It’s not like we were getting bullshit truffled microgreen foie gras amuse bouches and stuff, and we weren’t wealthy by any stretch – single income family on a teacher’s salary back in the 80’s ain’t much – but my Mum knew how to rock the shit out of a pork shoulder and make it last for 3 or 4 meals. She worked, then came home and cooked. EVERY NIGHT. And she did it for over two decades. She’s probably still doing it when she’s home for dinner.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I’m standing in the checkout line at Hannaford with a cart full of hydroponic lettuce, organic cukes and strawberries, Larabars, and two dozen eggs from Hubbardston’s own Country Hen (highly recommended, btw). There’s a guy in front of me and a mom and her son to my right, and everyone’s unloading. I’m a total voyeur for what other people are bringing home, so I watch the conveyor belts carry their selected goods down for bagging. Jarred spaghetti sauce. Cake mix. Gatorade. Bailey’s Irish Coffee Creamer. I close my eyes tight and look away. What’s this guy in front of me got? White hot dog buns, grape juice, baby ibuprofen, some kind of powdered side dish… Like he’s getting the ol’ cult together for a backyard BBQ. Nary a vegetable in either order. Packaged lunch meat. Cans of formula. I’m watching the food pyramid at work here. And judging by the pale, atrophied spottiness of the middle-aged purchasers, it was the funeral homes that would profit.
More or less bolting from the store, I tossed my order in the trunk and hunkered down in the driver’s seat to finish the text-versation I’d started with Coach Sean for moral support while I was mid-trauma. “People don’t realize,” he said, “They think that’s normal. To them, we’re the odd ones.” I considered this. Given my lucky upbringing, my barometer for the measurement of “normal” was probably unreliable. Still, I was sure that I’d seen one of those patronizing “The More You Know” PSAs recently touting the nutritional soundness of shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store. Surely once it reached that level, everyone knew about it, right? Isn’t it common sense to put more green and less shit in a can into your body? Suddenly it occurred to me to begin a guerrilla campaign on behalf of the CrossFit community that involved spray painting one of my favorite Glassman quotes on the outside of every grocery store I could manage to visit in one night: “If you want top-fuel-type performance, you need top fuel; you can’t just piss into the gas tank.”
Granted, I’m convinced not everyone is looking for Maserati handling with M2 capability. However, I hear enough people complain about their aches and pains, their meds, the state their skin is in, their love handles, and their acid reflux to be sure that they’d prefer a well equipped Camry over an ’85 Yugo. To that end, I would like to address the American public at large thusly: STOP CRAMMING YOUR GULLETS WITH GLUTENOUS, GMO, FACTORY FARMED BULLSHIT. Guess what? Farmer’s market season is upon us. Don’t’ tell me it’s too expensive to eat well. Those hardworking people are selling their local, sustainably raised produce, eggs, dairy, and protein for a song. They’re accessible by public transportation. They accept WIC and food stamps. Eat what comes out of a family-owned farm less than 50 miles from you even 4 days a week and you’ll automatically be in better shape. Pass good eating habits onto your children rather than indoctrinating them with the same shitty patterns you’re stuck in. Ditch the dyes, the unpronounceable preservatives and emulsifiers, and high fructose fucking corn syrup. You’re designed to eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no added sugar. Dial in or die.