As Americans, most of us live distant from our foods. I’m not talking about prepackaged, processed foods or even raw meat, but even fresh produce. We don’t live close to it, or see the steps it goes through to get to our stores, and yet we expect it to be fresh and ripe when we buy it. We expect our Sunkist oranges to look fresh, our Dole lettuces to be bug- and wilt-free. I was aware of this most clearly in China, where veggies come fresh with both creepy-crawlies and nightsoil fertilizer. In China, you really wash your foods good, and you don’t often eat anything raw.
Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh veggies, but there are certain unavoidable health risks with very fresh, unprocessed produce. Take the recent spread of salmonella from tomatoes. People are becoming sick not because they weren’t taking precautions and washing their food, but simply because they were eating something raw that they thought was safe. Ultimately there is going to be a ‘culprit’, some poor individual who didn’t wash his hands or is otherwise responsible for not taking safety precautions. But sometimes I wonder if we’re not asking for too much. Should we be guaranteed the safety of fresh, raw produce? Or is the cost too high? Should we all go back to keeping our own gardens? Or should we be more careful about eating raw products that we cannot guarantee the safety of? Should we all be buying from local small farmers anyway?
All I know is that every tomato I’ve got is going into tomato and egg soup (think egg drop, except better and with actual flavor), rather than for fresh eating.