My recent trip to the verdant hills of Sonoma reminded me that food is a luxury, and fresh simple ingredients always win out for health and taste. So I was pleased to read this morning in Salon that an expert on food and nutrition, Marion Nestle, reinforced my idea of shopping the periphery of the grocery store. Here’s an excerpt from the 2006 Salon interview with her:
So, how would you suggest shoppers navigate the supermarket?
I have these facetious rules. Always shop the periphery. Don't go into the center aisles. If you do go into the center aisles, don't buy anything with more than five ingredients. If you can't pronounce the ingredients on the package label, don't buy it. Don't buy anything with a cartoon on it. If you don't want your kids eating junk food, don't have it in the home.
To be fair, the mouth-watering chemical in this blog title is actually something found in shampoo (hey, you’ve got to read something while waiting for your conditioner to do its thing). But scan through the ingredients on something as simple as ice cream, and you’ll find plenty of tray-clearing 100-point Scrabble words. Recently I bought some strawberry ice cream that tasted like carrageenan, which is a linear sulphated polysaccharide. It made the ice cream taste like flavored gelatin. Why, I ask? Why do I need this crap in my ice cream? Will cream, sugar, and fruit really break down that quickly in the freezer? If you check out supermarket bread you’ll find plenty of things that ought not be in bread. Good bread can be made from four ingredients: water, flour, salt, and yeast. With a wild yeast starter, you can get that ingredient list down to three. And my breads will last long enough in the breadbox without any preservatives, shellac, or petrochemical preservatives.
For my next grocery trip, I’m going to see how easy it is to follow Ms. Nestle’s advice. I’ll report back on what I bought that meets the criteria, and which so-called necessities cannot be bought without an accompanying chemistry textbook to understand and pronounce all the ingredients.