Food Without Fear

April 2004

“I just got home from Whole Foods, and they promise me it’s OK.” It’s my mother on the phone, and I have no idea what she’s talking about. Two days before Christmas, with a house full of in-laws, I haven’t watched the news and, no, I’m not aware that a dairy cow in Washington has shown evidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Eyeing my family’s beef lasagna leftovers, I’m flooded with a perplexing blend of guilt (world’s worst mom!), frustration (lasagna shouldn’t be dangerous!), and apathy (it’s always something – who can keep up?).

The incident, it seems, was isolated, and like many I was scarfing burgers by New Year’s. Nonetheless, the prospect of mad cow so close to home – and my utter obliviousness to it – left me rattled. Despite a passionate interest in all things culinary, I’ve always tended toward the mainstream in my shopping and dining habits. My devotion to Whole Foods for meat and seafood has much to do with the store’s high turnover and little to do with sustainable farming and fishing. I buy what’s fresh, tasty, and affordable – organic or not. Or at least I always used to. Months after the mad cow scare, I’m still wondering about the cost of this carefree attitude.