Darlings, have you ever had one of those terrifying moments when you unthinkingly and involuntarily do something that is entirely what your parents would do? You know, the kind of thing you as a kid swore under your breath that you would never, ever do when you were a grown up? It happened to me today at a Chinese buffet of all places. Let me tell you, muffins, it was like I was standing outside my body looking at myself in slow motion while thinking, “That’s not me. Who the hell is that creature inhabiting my body?” And then I realized to my horror that it was … MY MOTHER!
The reason for my matriarchal mental moment was a family of five people who had stuffed themselves silly with buffet style Chinese food (and by that I mean greasy mystery meat in gluten-based sauces that have been percolating botulism on a steam table since the Justice Alito confirmation hearings). Now, I know it’s rude to criticize people you don’t know, and yes I know it was none of my business, but each time these pigs went back to graze at the trough, they brought back a ton of food and only ate about half of it. The sheer greed and waste of it all was driving me NUTS. Then to add insult to injury, when they were clearly about to burst on their last trip, they loaded up their plates and left almost all of the food when they waddled out (leaving the waitress a hefty $1 tip, by the way). I was fit to be tied, petals! Because if there is one thing that makes me go absolutely apoplectic, it is waste. Oh, and white vinyl fencing. But I digress.
Now, let me give you a little context about the upbringing that shaped my dangerous mind. I came from an intact, Norman Rockwell, working class family with Mom, Dad, three kids, several cats, several dogs and a canary named Pablo. We weren’t rich but we weren’t poor, either. So my parents (being the children of Depression era parents) instilled in us solid working class values about money, self-reliance, hard work and the difference between “wants vs. needs.” At the time my parents’ lectures on thrift and avoiding waste just caused me to roll my pre-pubescent eyes into the back of my prepubescent head and wait until it was over. But now as I look around at the inevitable international food and energy shortages, I realize exactly what they were trying to say.
Pumpkins, we are a wasteful nation that needs a spanking. We waste energy. We waste gas. We waste food like it is inexhaustible, and all the while we bitch about rising costs and the failure of government to do anything to relieve our “pain.”
As consumers we have become so obsessed with our wants and not our needs that we turn a blind eye to where and how our food and goods are produced. As long as Wal-Mart can keep shipping cheap flat screen TVs halfway around the world, we can ignore child labor abuse, appalling work conditions and impending environmental disasters. As long as we can get grapes in the middle of our winter for less than $1.29 a pound, we can feel pretty damn superior and never think about how they got to our refrigerators. We think it’s OK to produce disproportionately more pollution than the rest of the world, as if doing so is somehow our birth right. It’s not cherubs, and we need to start rethinking about how and where we live.
It’s not all bleak, kittens. Coincidentally this is the kick off of Local First Month. It’s a good chance to get familiar with the local businesses and retailers who support your local neighborhoods and produce local goods. I encourage you to skip one meal at a fast food franchise, and venture out to a family-owned restaurant where they make your meal from scratch. Support local music, theater and artists. Find some room in your garden to plant native shrubs and perennials. Wander around the downtown Farmers Market and buy what’s local, fresh and seasonal. Trust me, you will feel soooo much better for it. Ciao, babies!