|Simply food if you can see past the sugar|
Afterwards I retraced my steps to Haymarket station and popped into the railway Marks and Spenser outlet so that I wouldn't have to go out again on my aching feet to buy groceries. I am, as regular readers know, on the Blood Sugar Diet, which means shopping carefully.
A railway M & S is small and naturally does not have the variety of foods of a big M & S food hall--which itself does not have the variety of a Tesco, Waitrose or Sainsbury's, come to think of it. It is a fast food joint of a supermarket, more of an upmarket convenience store. And although there are many more natural ingredients to be found than in your standard convenience store, and even healthy, calorie-controlled, 'superfood' salads for sale, it caters to the modern snacking habit. Suddenly I was struck by how many items for sale in Marks and Spenser are either composed of, or include, vast amounts of sugar--and if sugar isn't necessarily a poison, it certainly can be.
Row upon row, rack upon rack of delightfully packaged poison---so much poison and so ubiquitous that the shopper has to search carefully and read all labels so as to find a food that doesn't contain it. And suddenly I saw that the M & S was a microcosm of the world and all it has to offer--so much beautifully wrapped poison, so much work to screen it out and find the good stuff.
Once upon a time, there would not have been so much sugar on offer, or so visible, or so readily eaten. For one thing, before the 1980s, the British did not snack: there was a strong cultural protocol around eating, which changed slightly from class to class, but always included a horror of spoiling your appetite for the next regularly scheduled meal. There probably were no M & S's in railway stations, either.
High-fructose corn syrup became available only in the 1970s, and in the UK cane sugar was expensive and even, at times, unavailable. Thus, before the 1980s sugar-as-food was a rarity and a treat, generally confined to puddings, jams, and a lump in your tea, and it wasn't snuck into every prepared food, should you be eating prepared food. But today, of course, cake, chocolate and candy are staples of the British diet.
I don't care much for Emma Thompson's politics, but I was struck by her unpatriotic opinion that "Britain is a cake-filled, misery-laden, grey old island." What made this clichéd self-hating British whine new was the mention of cake. Personally, I think Britain is delightful. It is not more misery-laden than, certainly, Toronto, and it isn't grey, it is green and gold and pink and blue and beautiful, and if it is as old as Arthur's Seat, it is also as young as the wee lambs gambolling on the hills. However, it certainly is cake-filled.
Does Britain appear so misery-laden and grey to Emma T because of the too-frequent cake? Yes, it rains a lot, but it is thanks to the rain that Britain is green, not grey. Too much greyness, of course, like too much sugar--and a culture of sin--leads to depression. I wonder if E.T. would have made such a gloomy denunciation of her homeland after a long weekend of hiking through the British countryside, far away from media, modernity and cake.
My feelings after a long tramp through a relatively small part of France--which included the sight of excited and curious little baby goats--is that the world, especially the European part of it, is an absolutely beautiful place, once you get away from the harmful things and the uglier aspects of modernity. (I'll say this for modernity: clean little hotel bathrooms with hot water, big towels and packets of soap.) There is so much nourishment to be found in European landscapes and cultures, as long as one stays away from the deceptively packaged sugar.
The Great Gifts of Our Otherwise Wicked Age to Human Happiness and Flourishing
1. Superior women's undergarments--so much better than before Vatican 2, not that Vatican 2 had anything to do with this, of course.
2. Clean indoor bathrooms with toilets, hot water, white towels, soap.
3. Relatively inexpensive hotel rooms with beds featuring clean white sheets, comfortable mattresses, locks on the door and no bugs.
4. Establishment of English as contemporary secular lingua franca. Controversial, but convenient for anglophones and an easier language to use than French, especially as anglophones don't mind what foreigners do to our native tongue. Mangle away, we don't care. (Naturally some of the most uplifting moments of the Chartres Pilgrimage was when 10,000 voices lifted together in our shared Christian Latin.)
Please add your own personal favourites to the list.