High Fructose Corn Syrup

            When it rains or snows or for some other reason I can’t be outside, I tend to immerse myself in books or DVD’s that deal with my family’s quest to live sustainably. Being well informed, I believe, is one of our greatest tools in making appropriate decisions which will allow us to be happy with our personal outcome and the resulting (larger) consequence. I do feel though, that people increasingly rely on misinformation handed out by companies or organizations trying to make a profit at any cost as opposed to seeking out information that is both useful and reliable. This is not to say that I will always go through every bit of information available before reaching a decision or that even with all of the information available I would make the best decision, but it will be well informed nonetheless.

            I know my husband secretly cringes when I bring home a stack of books from the library. I believe he especially cringes when he sees me bring the same book home several times in a row. He sits patiently behind his current Tom Robbins novel waiting for the inevitable request for a new animal, a new shed for a new animal, or on the really bad days, both. He has learned that my reading leads to ideas; my ideas lead to my wanting something, and my wanting something leads to me asking him for support in my latest venture (usually in the form of manual labor).

            When we first bought the Acre, I took to reading all of the literature that we received from the electric company about usage rates of common appliances and so on. I quickly became obsessed. I put all of our appliances on power strips and smart timers, replaced old appliances with newer Energy Star models, and switched every room over to CFL bulbs. Over a period of just four months I watched our daily KWH usage drop until I had literally cut our usage in half. I squealed with delight, my husband squealed in terror. No doubt he became scared of what I would do next, scared of what extremes I would travel to in order to make our life more ‘green.’ After all, so far it had lead to chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, honey bees, a 2500 sq ft garden with orchard attached, as well as plans for pigs, sheep, cows, solar panels……the list goes on. He probably feared that in a few years time I would have us living off the grid, generating our power with a stationary bike, and pooping in a hole in the woods. Instead of having business cards that read Husband/Firefighter, they would read Hunter/Gatherer/Hole Digger.

            When I explained to my husband that my latest idea would have us focused on something we should ‘not do’ as opposed to something we should ‘do’, I think I noticed a little sigh of relief. That is, until he came home to find half of our food in the trash can. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Until now my motto had been ‘everything in moderation.’ But after watching ‘The Future of Food’ and reading ‘In Defense of Food’ in the same week, I decided to take a different approach.

            ‘Woman! What now?’ my husband says as soon as he steps foot in the door. After asking him to hear me out, I explained my new views on corn syrup, soy lecithin, GMO food products and processed food in general. Luckily, all of our organic items were safe on or shelves as they didn’t contain any of the above mentioned ingredients. However, I was shocked and horrified to discover that almost EVERYTHING else in our pantry contained HFCS. Goodbye graham crackers, jellies, breads, prepared horseradish, tonic water, etc, etc, etc. Holy cannoli , this stuff is pumped into almost anything and everything that has been processed.

            Being lactose intolerant, I’m accustomed to wanting a few things here and there that I just shouldn’t eat. I figured that our next round of grocery shopping would simply involve reading a few more ingredient lists and omitting the items with the one or two extra ingredients that could not come home with us. We had planned on having guests over during the weekend for burgers and beers, so I checked out the hamburger buns. CRAP! Not a single bun for sale that doesn’t have HFCS in it. Maybe I’ll make a veggie tart instead; I spring toward the freezer section. CRAP! Puff Pastry has HFCS in it. I quickly tell my husband that we are never coming back to this store again. ‘Yeah, that’ll work,’ he says, ‘until next week when we need groceries again.’ CRAAAAAAAAP! He’s right. This was supposed to be nothing like protecting our hens from the fox, or getting our milk, cheese, and yogurt from our goat, or braving a hive of bees for some sweet, sticky honey. This was supposed to be something simple that we could ‘not do’ to preserve our health and sustainability. But now it looked as though it would require me to make our own bread, puff pastry, and anything else we couldn’t afford to buy organically for our growing (and hungry) family.

            All in all, I still feel like it was the right decision to make. It appears that both marriage and living sustainably are not easy tasks to undertake. I rank them both among the ‘well informed’ decisions I’ve made throughout my life. (I’m sure my husband wishes he had been a bit better informed.) Both are far from being effortless, but both are well worth the work. All I can do is take in the information, use it to make a decision as to how to live my life, and hope that my husband doesn’t decide to build a shed for me to live in amongst the animals.   

Jennifer Welch lives and writes in the Arkansas River Valley and currently has not had any HFCS for several months (and is not experiencing any withdrawal). You are welcome to send thoughts, inquiries, and suggestions to her at crowdedacre@q.com

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