Sunday, November 14, 2010

Looking for Lettuce in Chicago

Now that I have been home for a couple of weeks, I can look back on my vacation with a little perspective. One of the vacation stories that we have found ourselves recounting most often to our friends in Cali is the day we went in search of lettuce. I have a habit of eating a giant bowl of lettuce for lunch every day. Usually it’s organic baby lettuces with a bit of crumbled feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. After having gone for a couple of days without my salad, I was having salad withdrawal. Ron took me in search of lettuce. We were in a good neighborhood of Chicago when we spotted a grocery store and pulled into the parking lot. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there was no lettuce in this grocery store. Vegetables yes. Green beans. Sorry limp broccoli. Bags of grated cabbage with a brown tinge. No lettuce. In the whole store. If memory serves, we tried the next store we passed also and again had no luck.

My ingenious husband then searched Whole Foods (better known to us at home in Cali as “Whole Paycheck,” which is why we usually never shop there) in our GPS device. We found a Whole Foods not far from where we were and headed there directly. I confess that I was ready to check in for the rest of my stay in the Midwest. I didn’t want to leave. It smelled like home in that store. Fresh produce. Good herbs and spices. There were heaps of gluten-free food and we even found gluten-free bagels (Udi’s) for the first time ever. We bought steamy cups of fresh organic coffee. Cheese. Apples. Grapes (from Mendocino County). My lettuce of course. And more. I even found my favorite lip gloss (Alba’s coconut) – yum. Since our return we have had many conversations with fellow Californians about how lucky we are out here to have such fine food. When you hear about compromised food sources in the ghetto in big cities and unjust food access issues, it’s not a lot of baloney. It’s true. We couldn’t find lettuce in a good neighborhood in Chicago, let alone in the ghetto. Many of my in-laws live in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and you can’t find decent produce (sometimes ANY produce) at all in these places. If you seek out quality produce by leaving the neighborhood, you discover that it’s too expensive to afford on a low income. How can people stay healthy under these conditions? Answer: They can’t.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I invite you to visit my recipe blog for some vegetarian, gluten-free, and/or vegan recipes to use at the holidays. I'm posting recipes specifically for Thanksgiving in the weeks leading up to the day. Click here.

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