Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grocery Store Horror Stories and Demanding Environmental Responsibility

Last Friday night I made a mad dash to the grocery store because I had a disaster on my hands. For the first time (EVER!!) my pizza dough flopped. I had everything else ready to go – oven warm, sauce made, cheese grated, onions caramelized, and hungry kids distracted – and then I opened the bread maker and found a lumpy glump of pasty flour that didn’t look at all like the soft, kneadable dough I’d expected to find. Dinner was already late, so I flew to the local grocery to buy pizza dough. The only dough they had was in a tube (what?) and full of all kinds of things I can’t mention on this blog. But I figured it was one night, right? And besides, Halloween was coming the next day when our entire systems would be flooded with artificial everything.

I make it sound like it was just that simple – go to the store, find the dough, buy the dough. Not so fast. This was the night before Halloween and since I don’t frequent this particular grocery store I was not aware of the significance of the night before Halloween. The entire store was clogged with children and employees (not always so easy to tell apart) in Halloween costumes. Intermittently throughout the store, employees were positioned with buckets of candy to dole out to already sugar-hyped kids. I suppose this was a nice community service and oh, by the way, since you’re here why don’t you buy something? At any rate, it made my task of locating pizza dough in unfamiliar territory even more challenging. I retreated to the place I am most comfortable – the organic aisle. It is almost always less crowded than the others. But even the organic aisle was in on the Trick or Treating, so I wormed my way in and picked up some organic treats for my kids (yes, I’m wearing a costume – I’m dressed as a frantic, pizza-dough-less mother in a loopy grocery store). The “treats” were three packs of different organic vitamins and a juice box/bag from a new organic company.

Once safely home, my kids were delighted to munch on chewy vitamins and syrupy juice while I tried to figure out how to work the dough in a can. (Not good, by the way, nearly impossible to roll out and laden with sugar and preservatives) When dinner was finally eaten, I collected the empty juice bags. As I tossed them in the garbage it occurred to me that there was something terribly wrong with the amount of trash three small servings of organic juice had just created. It seems counterproductive to sell organic juice in un-recyclable containers.

Shopping today at my health food grocery store, I was keenly aware of the multitude of organic products that are overpackaged. If organics are about healthy and sustainable living, then these companies have a responsibility to produce environmentally friendly packaging. I believe this, so I wrote a letter to the juice bag company. I’ve yet to hear anything, but I’ll let you know if I do. I’ve shared this rambling story with you to encourage you to also insist on environmentally responsible packaging. Nothing changes unless consumers demand it. Even Wal-mart is making a tiny attempt to reduce packaging, so how is it that a company proclaiming to be “organic” doesn’t lead the way? I don’t know. That’s why I wrote my letter.

It’s time to speak up. It’s time to stop making excuses for the waste and the laziness. I have complete faith that there are creative solutions out there. Just today I purchased reusable “produce bags” to put my loose fruits and veggies in. They are simply cotton mesh bags that weigh nearly nothing. I can’t wait to pull them out at the Giant grocery store and freak out the cashier. But they’ll get there. Just like the reusable grocery bags – eventually, they’ll get it. Reusable produce bags are good for the environment, work just fine, and, bottom line – they will save the store money. And isn’t it always that bottom line that motivates?

You have rights as a consumer, so exercise them. Don’t support companies that overpackage their products and let them know why you won’t support them. If more people did this – change would come much more quickly. If it’s just one nut-job lady at the Giant check-out it may take awhile.

Just in case you don’t know that homemade dough is MUCH better than dough in a can, here’s my recipe. I use a breadmaker and just dump in the ingredients in the order listed. I’ve also written out directions for anyone not blessed with a good breadmaker.

Pizza Dough

1 ½ cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon succanot (or organic cane sugar)
¼ cup flax seed meal
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups organic white flour
2 teaspoons yeast (or one packet)

Directions for handmade dough:

Use warm water (hot enough to wash dishes, but not boiling) and dissolve yeast.
Add sugar and salt; stir to dissolve.
Add oil, flax seed meal and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Mix thoroughly.
Add the rest of the flour. Work in to a good size lump of dough.
Place in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm spot for 1 ½ hours.
Punch down the dough and let rest 5 minutes.
Roll out dough to make pizza crust.
Sprinkle corn meal on pizza pan before placing crust on it.
Top with whatever you like.
Bake at 400 for 12 minutesish.

1 comment:

  1. Cara, In Italy shoppers are charged a small fee for bags, so many people bring their own. Also, fridges are smaller and many still frequent individual shops and carry small parcels on foot sometimes, too. I liked daily shopping when I lived there, and loved it again during our time in Venice and Portovenere. Big cars, living far away, and giant refridges ain't all it's cracked up to be.