Sunday, August 12, 2007

Did you want a real egg?

At my job we have a very cheap, very tasty cafeteria open for breakfast and lunch. I head down there most mornings before I begin my day looking for hints of brilliance that may help the company in its turnaround. There's a terrific grill station that serves my favorite - bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel. Delicious.

I happened over there late last week and the usual grill man was out. When I ordered my sandwich the replacement guy asked me, "Did you want a real egg?" (huh?) "A real egg?" As opposed to? "Yes, a real egg, please." Later that day I also happened to hear about Dole's genetically engineered bananas and packaged meat that is "gassed" to extend shelf life. That night I was meeting my friend, Dan, for dinner and I came across a place down the street from my apartment that boasts "natural pizza" right next to the organic dry cleaner.

I've been thinking a lot about this desire to be "natural", to eat and live healthfully. And I wonder if it's really possible. I wonder if short of growing our own food and living off the land it's too much to ask for a natural life in this day and age. We've gone so far toward engineering everything we eat and every service we receive to get it exactly the way we want it that maybe it's actually altered the very essence of the thing itself.

Last week there was an enormous toy recall by Fisher Price due to suspected lead-based paint in some toys. My mom said to me, "How could that possibly happen?" Very easily I thought. Do we really have any idea where our food comes from or where our packaged goods are manufactured? Not really. We trust that because we live in a first world nation that what we pay for is safe. We expect the suppliers of the products and services we use to have integrity and have our safety in mind.

I am not suggesting that we all go into a state of hysteria, worrying about the origin of every morsel we eat. I have no desire to become Bill Murray in "What About Bob." What I will do is be more conscious about supporting businesses that put out there that my safety is part of their strategy. I want to know that these businesses have their customers' safety and well-being at the top of their minds all of the time. That may not always be easy to discern, though I believe that raising my level of consciousness on these matters may help me live a more "natural" life than I may be able to live otherwise.

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