‘Couver-copia: Why you should avoid the supermarket

The side effects may include better tasting food and helping the environment.

Credit: Flickr / The Nickster

Supermarkets offer a Stepford-wives selection of uniform fruit and vegetables but not a lot of flavour

Supermarkets seem a necessary evil in our fast-paced Western world. The advantage of everything-under-one-roof is, well, self-evident. The disadvantage is that it’s another step away from real-food culture, and one step (at least) further from the food producer.

Artisanal producers—think butchers, bakers and camembert-makers—tend to use more traditional methods. These traditional methods were originally developed to help preserve food (cheese- and yogurt-making for example) and the natural combinations create delicious foods, the by-product of which is to make the nutrients more accessible. These producers are often farm-based, or one step removed, and on a small scale, negating the need for preservatives that your body has difficulty breaking down.

The breakthrough

There’s a moment of epiphany when you rediscover “real food.” Your brain suddenly says, “that’s why we eat these,” or “that’s why Italian cooking tastes so good.”

A locally grown, vine-ripened tomato appeals to all five senses. Its commercially produced cousin, also succulently red, lacks the scent (and taste), which is very confusing for the body. Tomatoes are notoriously difficult to ship, so they’re picked green and sent to their destination where they are “ripened” with ethylene gas. This process develops fewer taste compounds, resulting in a poor substitute.

Taste, the great motivator

It seems absurd that we eat foods that offer fewer nutritional rewards and less visceral pleasure. Additional side effects from eating fresh foods may also include:

> A renewed enjoyment of food shopping (you get intelligent conversation from people who know their shiitake)
> Less packaging (great if you like the planet and dislike lugging the garbage out to the dumpster)
> Keeps money local (not that I’m a xenophobe, but if I can invest in local growers and get fresh food, I’m all for it)
> Ecologically kinder (think of all the gas and the refrigeration involved to move your food long distances)

I realize it may take more time to get everything from a specialist provider, but it’s time well spent. And you don’t have to do it all at once. Start by introducing yourself to your butcher this week. Meet the baker the next.