I angsted over sunflower seeds in Holland and Barrett today. Do I get the Normal ones or the Organic? Can there really be a difference in such a tiny little seed? And the organic ones were £1.20 more expensive than the Normal ones. That’s like $3 Australian! Does it really matter when I’m going to drown them with yogurt and blueberries anyway? What do I do? What do I do?
My mate had the same dilemma this week when buying some eggs. These two little old ladies were cluttering up the aisle and debating.
“You cannae get those eggs, hen! You’ve got tae get the organic!
“The organic! They’re so expensive!”
“Aye but you’ve got tae think of the poor wee chickens! No one buys those other eggs anymore.”
My friend likes to save a penny and he normally grabs the budget ones, but now he stood there in a bind. How could he get Morrisons Extra Val-U eggs after that? And think of the poor wee chickens. Fine then, little old ladies; you win! He plucked a free range box from the shelf.
“See!” hissed the old lady, “I told you!”
There’s a great article in the Observer today about how we’ve all become neurotic and fearful about food. We’re freaking out about fair trade, organics, trans fats and additives, but on the other hand we’re slaves to the supermarket and eat more fast and processed food than ever. These days not even a wee wrinkly lady in Scotland can boil an egg without being tortured with guilt.
I finally grabbed the non-organic seeds and tried to ignore the niggling guilt for buying them at this faceless national conglomerate instead of the local independent health food store. And I really hate Holland and Barrett; they seem to have formed some sort of alliance with that withered crackpot, “Doctor” Gillian McKeith. For those outside of the UK, McKeith is the star of You Are What You Eat, a series in which she visits some of Britain’s unhealthiest folks. She rifles through their cupboards, examines their stool samples, yells at them, then leaves them with a juice extractor and whole lot of wholegrains. Four weeks later she returns and they’re wearing smaller pants and the glowing smiles of the converted. She has educated the nation and made a killing with her cookbooks and Living Food Love Bars.
Now every shelf in Holland & Barrett is plastered with signs with her gaunt little face endorsing various items. Gillian Sayz, Eat brazil nuts! They’re full of selenium! Gillian Sayz, Buy These Aduki Beans! They’ll make you regular or horny or something. Gillian Sayz, Eat Quinoa! If it’s good enough for the Incas it’s good enough for you, fatty!
I really resent that she endorses my sunflower seeds. I don’t want people thinking I’m only buying them because I saw them on Channel 4, or because some woman whose personality was clearly flushed out in her last colonic told me so. I’ve been eating sunflower seeds for years, dammit! I feel like one of those righteous Radiohead fans who curse lowly losers like me who only got into them after OK Computer when they’ve liked Radiohead since Pablo Honey, AND NOT JUST THE ‘CREEP’ SINGLE, YOU LATECOMING SCUMBAG.
So, and this bit has nothing to do with the above, I lined up to buy my non-organic chain store trendy sunflower seeds behind a young mum with a blue-eyed baby in a pram. It gurgled and smiled at me and I smiled back in that uneasy way I smile at babies because I know they can sense my fear.
A little old lady lined up behind me with a carton of rice milk and some organic ginger biscuits. There will never be a shortage of little old ladies in Scotland. “He’s a nice wee bairn,” she said, “Isn’t he?”
“Oh yes, he’s quite cute.”
“You see a wee face like that and you wonder how people can be so cruel to ’em.” She clucked her tongue and shook her permed head.
“And they ARE you know,” she glared. “Cruel! Some people are very cruel to bairns. It’s a real shame.”