Friday, June 6, 2014

Another Theory

Lily and the boys and I ate at Moe's today after we went to the museum. Lily and I were starving, it was almost two o'clock and my smoothie had long since disappeared.
Moe's is a, well, what is it?
A sort-of Mexicanish place. A chain. You order your burrito or salad or nachos and go down the line and tell them if you want chicken or steak or tofu and either pinto or black beans, grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes, all the way up to jalapenos and cilantro and guacamole.
I got a Joey, Jr. which is a "small" burrito with chicken and pinto beans and spicy guac and jalapenos and tomatoes and cilantro. I got my choices of salsa at the salsa bar and we all started to eat and this is what I realized:
American food has no flavor.
It just doesn't.
Compared to what I was eating in Mexico this food tasted like wallpaper paste.
And I kept eating it because somewhere inside my head there was a voice that said, "If you keep eating, eventually you will taste something like food."
And you know what? That's why Americans are so fucking fat.
Well, one of the reasons, at least.
The only damn thing in that meal that had any flavor at all was the chips and their flavor was fat and salt. But it was flavor!
Our junk food is so packed with sugar and salt and fat that we can actually taste it which is one of the many reasons we eat it.

Cozumel is a small island and everything that you find there has to be shipped in by huge container boats that look like this:


And yet, no matter where you eat on the island, whether upscale restaurant which caters to tourists and American ex-pats or sidewalk hole-in-the-walls or beach bar on the side of the island which has no electricity, you're going to get food that tastes of...food.
The flavors are strong and real. The meat doesn't taste as if it came out of a factory but something that actually lived and ate and pooped on the ground it was raised on, the seafood tastes like it came out of a salty ocean, not from a fish-farm somewhere in Thailand. The tortillas are made wherever you're eating them and the chips you get with all of your meals are made from those very tortillas. The pico de gallo you get with those chips came from the kitchen staff's hands that morning, not a jar. And the tomatoes and peppers it's made from are probably not GMO and they probably don't look as good as the ones we buy in the store which are flavorless and have the texture of something that is not actually food-like. I noticed that the egg yolks of my breakfast eggs were as yellow gold as my own chicken's eggs. The guacamole is not a green slimy paste but merely chunked up avocados mixed with a few chopped tomatoes and garlic and lime juice.

Remember when I said that the lime soup Mr. Moon and I were eating when we talked to the cruise ship guy who told us about eating three entire lobster dinners aboard the ship, probably had more flavor in one spoonful than all of those lobster dinners combined?

It's the fucking truth. And that bowl of lime soup was as satisfying to the tongue and to the body as anything you would need. When we ate those fried shrimp tortas at the little lunch counter that day, I could hardly finish one and it was not the gargantuan size that one would be served here which I could probably have eaten entirely and still felt vaguely unsatisfied, even if my belly felt as if I had swallowed a brick.

And sure, my food in Mexico came flavored with peppers and I put more peppers on them but the other spices on the food were not overwhelmed. There was cheese, yes, but I didn't have to eat a pound of it to taste anything but the oil it was made from. I think of my Huevos Veracruz which I loved so much for breakfast, a plate full of refried black beans (which I am sure were made right there) full of flavor and fiber, two eggs overtop, over-easy with a bit of cheese melted on them. I would ladle the pico on it, a little macha sauce, and spend twenty minutes, enjoying every bite which would hold me through most of the rest of the day. The fruit plates I would get, always different depending on which fruits were available and ripest. Some days there was mango, some days there was not. Cantaloupes and watermelon, pineapple. Every bite delicious and full of juice and flavor.
No, the pork was not as tender as American pork but it was a thousand times more flavorful. Same with the beef, the chicken. These were animals who used their muscles instead of being caged up in spaces so small that they never could, fed growth hormones and who-knows-what to bulk and fatten them up in the shortest time. And no, they did not have as much fat on them and yes, they were incredibly delicious. Every bite, EVERY BITE, registered as food. Which meant that we didn't have to eat nearly as much of it.

We walked through the mercado, the old market downtown, and saw pieces of animal, hanging from hooks, bins of fishes, their eyes as clear as glass, fruit piled with brown spots on it, looking as if it had been plucked from trees, not grown in greenhouses.

And here's another thing- I ate peppers that burnt the crap out of every part of my digestive system when I was there. I drank molasses-brown rum like it was going extinct, I had lime and garlic and tomatoes as my main vegetable, fried chips twice a day, and I had absolutely no heartburn.

Here I am, home in American and eating pretty healthy, as you know I try to do, and yet, I've had heartburn every day. Except for the day I ate the ceviche with that I made myself with peppers and lime juice and tomatoes and onions and garlic. Raw shrimp and scallops, "cooked" in lime juice.

We are not eating food which our bodies recognize as such here. That's all there is to it.
And even if we grow our own, catch our own, hunt our own, we have to fill in with that which is available.

It's something to think about.

I've made a spaghetti sauce tonight with organic grass-fed beef, onions, squash and peppers from the garden, garlic, and olives, canned tomatoes and a jar of spaghetti sauce. I will make a salad with greens and cucumber. I think it will be good. I have basil from the garden to chop up into the sauce right before I serve it. I am hoping that my mind and tongue know it is food and tell me when I have eaten enough of it.
And I am thinking that we have gotten things truly screwed up here.

But that I will do my best with what is available.

I may be working in the garden tomorrow.

Love....Ms. Moon

12 comments:

  1. This is a stunning insight. I bet you're right!

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  2. My husband and I were just talking about this very thing tonight. We went to the first farmers market for the season in Arizona....it is about four or five small producers. They didn't have much because it is early in the season (elevation 4500 feet) but they did have fresh lettuce and eggs. We came home and made a salad and it was DELICIOUS...it tasted of the soil...in a good way. I told my husband it is just sad that anything (even organic) that you buy in the big stores is just junk...We are going to eat local grown in season etc...or we will do without.

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  3. We've been having the same talks too!!! Time to take an organic stand!

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  4. Thats why I said to you the other day, eggs and guac every morning! Hell yes!! That's not bad...better for you than white bread or genetically modified something. I'm not doing anything remotely close to what I SHOULD be doing, but I know that healthy fats are good, period.

    We've lost our way as a country in so many ways, and yet I know we're moving forward in tiny, tiny ways.

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  5. Do they still yell "Welcome to Moe's!" when you walk in the door at Moe's? That always annoyed me.

    You are SO RIGHT about food. American food is so adulterated with fillers and corn syrup and all kinds of junk. European food is somewhat better, but it's still not as good as the food I had when I lived in Morocco, which was as you describe -- locally grown and seasonal.

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  6. Moe's isn't even good Tex-Mex, which is pretty bad itself. Everything that you ate there arrived in a sealed bag. Last year I saw a story about the most unhealthy meal in America. It looked like a plate full of fried brown unidentifiable cardboard. I posted a picture of the meal on Facebook and asked if that even looked like food. Most people, even people who eat healthy said that it did look like food to them. I thought that was pretty sad. My grandmother probably only ate at a restaurant 4 or 5 times in her life and never at fast food places. I know kids who don't know that food comes from anywhere else.

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  7. It's so sad, isn't it? And think about what the average person eats, how much of it is not actually food, but 'food like substance'.

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  8. there is something to this theory of yours....

    i find when i eat crap food i want more of it and then feel worse the next day (call it a crap food hangover).


    xxalaianxx

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  9. Angella- You know it has to be true on some level. We, as animals, are not supposed to eat a lot of the so-called food that we do. And as such, it can't be good for us, either physically or otherwise.

    aint for city gals- And yet, so many people can't afford or don't have access to real food in this country. As we "progress" in our farming, we lose the very ground our food comes from and it's wrong.

    heartinhand- It doesn't even have to be organic- just...real. I don't know how we can reclaim this very basic human need.

    SJ- And sometimes moving forward is going to require us to move back.

    Steve Reed- Yes. They still do yell that.
    Why is it that sometimes the poorest countries can have the best food? If you can afford to buy it, of course.

    Lisa- Exactly. It's just all so wrong. And it's all so weird- how we have come, in a few generations to accept this shit as normal.

    Jo- I do think about that.

    Mrs. A- Yep. A real thing.

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  10. Just one more thing ...I volunteered at the food pantry for a long time. Now my husband and I eat a lot of beans, rice, cornbread (that I make from scratch)and eggs because we like it and think it is halfway food. And those same things were what the people that used the food bank did NOT want...they didn't want to cook! They wanted the processed day old bakery stuff, the sugared cereal etc. The fresh vegetables would just sit there. So it is not just having the access to real food it is the desire to feed ourselves the best we can.

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  11. I fully agree with what you're saying here. And I think you're right. I also know that, after years of eating at Chipotle, Noah and I ate at Moe's and were disgusted. So it does get better than Moe's. But it could get A LOT better everywhere. I am hungry now for Cozumel.

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  12. Everything processed here is crap and is killing us. We have had some fish tacos for a couple of nights. Delicious flounder grilled and then our own sauces. I think that why so many people are sick with diabetes, cancer, and a host of other ailments is because of the terrible food and all the additives.

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Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.