Saturday, October 19, 2013

More swan songs about buildings and food

Is it just me, or is the quality of the fresh fruit and vegetable supply in Clear Lake continuing to decline after being bad to start with?! 

A month after publishing "Groceries in Clear Lake:  More ugly pictorial truth", let me round out my documentary with some ugly video truth:
I followed the same procedure that I used in "More ugly pictorial truth":  I went to one of the reputationally-best grocery stores in Clear Lake and I bought a sample of the freshest broccoli I could find, so that I could take it home and document its condition without fear of being sued for identifying the retailer who is guilty of offering such poor quality to customers. 

As you can see from this video, this broccoli is inedible.  It is wilted and rubbery to the point where there's no way I could possibly prepare it as a component of any dish.  Proper broccoli is incredibly crisp and solid.  It will snap immediately if you bend it. 

Here's what makes this particular instance noteworthy:
  1. I've only observed broccoli to be impacted by this supply chain problem within the past couple of months.  For many years now, broccoli has been one of my "go to" vegetables, a vegetable of last resort to be purchased when the more delicate cultivars for sale by local grocers had been rendered inedible by post-harvesting degradation.  So this part of the problem is new - I now can't find edible broccoli in local grocery stores at least 50% of the time. 
  2. Broccoli is robust.  You have to really screw up to ruin broccoli to the extent shown above.  A properly grown, harvested, and refrigerated broccoli crown will remain crisp and fresh for weeks following harvest.  If this rubbery broccoli could talk, I'm not sure that I'd want to hear what it has to say, because it has obviously been through some kind of factory-farmed hell.  Whatever horrific treatment it was exposed to along the way, I wouldn't want to be putting the results of that into my mouth.   
As I've noted before, this whole situation feels particularly surreal to me given the increasing focus on the nationally crippling dual problems of obesity and diabetes, a focus emanating from all levels of society and through a diversity of channels. 
Wants me to eat my vegetables?  Is that a fact??  Well, if I could only buy the danged things, that might be a little easier, wouldn't it?

Screengrabbed from this People magazine site
"Do we have a vegetable on the plate??"  No, we don't, because half the time, I literally cannot buy what I need, and I live in one of the wealthiest segments of America.  There's a link on Mrs. Obama's Let's Move website which directs readers to healthier recipes.  That's great, but if the ingredients are not for sale, the information is not worth much. 

"The overall message of Let's Move is balance."  What I find for sale in grocery stores today is balanced, indeed:  It's almost perfectly split between over-processed carbohydrates and over-processed fats. 

Screengrab op. cit.
Still fuming over the broccoli bungle, yesterday evening I went to a different local grocery store intending to get my daughter some bananas as she had requested.  Bananas are a great example of a fruit-of-last-resort because it's really hard to screw them up.  Unlike tomatoes for instance, they can be harvested green without sacrificing taste, and they can spend a long time meandering through the supply chain without losing a lot of quality.  But here's what I found in League City yesterday when I went to buy bananas:
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor kid a banana;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor kid had none.

I had to crop out identifying information for the grocery store in question, again, for fear of liability.
I'm not making this stuff up.  Am I the only one singing about this particular emperor having no clothes?  This is absurd:  I'm living in a two hundred thousand dollar house (which is above the median value in greater Houston Texas).  I can afford the granite countertops you saw in the video above, and I can also afford custom stacked-stone landscaping using materials imported from Oklahoma, but I can't buy a freakin' fresh vegetable to save my soul! Nor could I buy one of the most common fruits on the market yesterday. 

And if conditions are this bad for me and my family, what are they like for Americans on the other side of the median market value?  Where do we go from here??  Those are the questions that are foremost in my mind at this point. 

The proof is in the non-pudding:  That's a best-available grocery store bok choy in the upper photo (reproduced from "More ugly pictorial truth"), and my first ever home-grown bok choy as it appeared this morning, currently growing in one of my six-foot stock tanks

When I started raising my own fruits and vegetables three years ago, my intention was to do it purely as a hobby, but it's feeling more and more like a basic necessity

Inspiration for this blog post title here, in case you're not familiar with that particular body of creative work. 

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