The Hazards of Social Eating

Summer has always been my favorite time of year. Between long hikes, warm nights and a lush garden, there’s not much I can complain about during the warm season here in the Pacific Northwest.

Summer also provides the opportunity for more social gathering. BBQ’s, beach parties and an occasional outdoor music event make for good times. But they also stress me out. Why? Because as I’ve become better at eating it’s become harder to navigate the social element of food.

Whenever a well-intended friend or family member offers some new culinary selection my brain kicks in with a interrogation-like chain of questioning: is it organic? Is it pasture raised? Grass fed? GMO-free? Healthy for me? 

Family events quickly become a challenge when Todd and I are the only ones that even know what a genetically modified organism is. No joke.

So as the BBQ heats up and the family starts passing the cool-aid (no pun intended) I try to quietly sneak on my own special grass-fed, farm bought beef patty onto the grill without drawing too much attention.

Then of course, there’s these dreaded words Ooooh, you must try my _______.

At this point, I find myself having to make some light hearted joke about being on a super-restrictive diet that doesn’t allow for sugar or dairy or whatever the darn dish is made of and then quickly retreat back to the BBQ to check on my grass fed beef patty. Nope, not quite ready.

In a recent gathering on my husband’s side I cringed as they bragged about the awesome deal they got on their new grill – along with a bunch of “free” hotdogs….surely made out of CAFO meat fed GMO grain. Bite your tongue Chelsie! You don’t always need to read the ingredient list to know it’s bad for you.

Next comes the plate of Rice Crispy Treats. One of the younger kids literally grabs half a cookie sheet worth and starts chowing down. The elders crowed about the young one’s amazing feat – “did you see that? Bobbie there just ate a half sheet of treats!” Yes, a half of sheet of empty calories devoid of any nutrients and surely to be regretted later in life!

All I can do is manage a weak smile and check on my grass fed beef patty. Almost there. 

Inevitably, guilt starts to creep in. I chide myself on acting like some elitist foodie. Who am I to judge?  Yet, I know in my heart of hearts that I’m making the right choices for my body, my mind, my sanity. Eating organic*, GMO-free, chemical-free, humanely raised food does not make me an elitist. It makes me a conscious consumer that is trying to do right by my health. I am lucky in that I have a decent job that pays my bills and enables me to eat good food. But for those folks that imagine that organic, healthy food is only for the well-to-do, I ask them this: do you have cable TV?

No, seriously. Do you have cable TV? because I don’t. I also don’t have a nice new car that I make payments on (I drive a 2001). And do you go out to the movies? Because again, I don’t. I don’t do a lot of “normal” things, because instead, I spend my money on healthy food. And like many of you reading this, I also garden, raise my own chickens and prepare many of my own meals.

Not that having cable or driving a newer car is wrong. That’s not my point. The point here folks is that it’s not because I have all this expendable income to toss around that I choose organic. I choose organic because I know it’s the right thing for my my health. It’s the right thing for my spirit. It’s the right thing for my environment. It’s the right thing for future generations.

Now, is that grass fed beef patty ready? Finally, time to eat!


*Organic is a word I apply not only strictly to USDA stamped organic, but also those foods I source direct from farmers, certified or not, that I know practice chemical-free, sustainable farming as well as those foods I source from my own garden or I have foraged.