In one of my favorite Doonesbury cartoons, a very old one from the early 1970s when hippies still had a trace of hip about them, it’s Zonker’s turn to cook dinner, and he serves his housemates a big bowl of salad.
Mike Doonesbury peers into the bowl suspiciously and says, “Hey Zonker, the lettuce is dirty!”
“Yes, but it’s clean dirt! Ecologically pure dirt! No chemical additives–you’ll love it!”
Mike and Bernie opt for McDonald’s.
Somehow, though, the way they agree on it suggests the understanding of the early 1970s: McDonald’s was cheap, it was easy to find in your town, but it wasn’t really dinner, it was what you did when there was nothing decent in the fridge.
For decades now, government health agencies, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and whole parades of morning talk show guests have been advocating that Americans eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and juices don’t count. The studio audience members, mostly soccer mom-looking women, only with impeccable makeup and pristinely unwrinkled clothes, bob their heads on cue at this wisdom.
But nobody’s gotten serious about how veg-phobic most people suddenly become when they actually approach the vegetable aisle in the supermarket, and no one’s taking enough pictures of what’s really in the fridge or on the cutting board most nights in most houses. All I can say is that many, many of them, if they buy vegetables at all, buy prepared or precut vegetables instead of bulk. Why?
Bulk vegetables–a whole head of cabbage or lettuce or broccoli or cauliflower, a bunch of celery or carrots–are bulky. Heavy. Hard to lift and hard to maneuver into those thin plastic produce bags.
They’re also round. They take up a lot of space in the refrigerator. They don’t stack neatly and they don’t necessarily fit into the shallow, measly vegetable drawer that comes with today’s Lean Cuisine-friendly slimline refrigerators.
They require washing, and here I wonder if we’re getting to the part people are most squeamish about. There’s…there’s (I can’t say it) … there’s DIRT on them!
Why washing it off scares people so much these days I have no idea, but maybe it’s all that liquid hand sanitizer and overly perfumed liquid hand soap that have poisoned the atmosphere this past 10 years or so. When your soap company can convince you to buy watered-down soap in a decorator squirt bottle, your friendly produce-packing plant can probably sell you overpriced broccoli florets in a small plastic bag.