It's a bad time to be hungry in America.
First, let me say that it has been a bad time forever to be hungry if you are poor and impoverished anywhere in the world.
Today I am speaking of a different matter: the increasing numbers of toxic foods, and the food danger warnings that assault us every day.
Remember those olden days when we would hear people say, "I think I'll have a nice piece of fish"?
That used to be known as the choice to eat something in the "healthy" category, rather than going along with the heavy meat and potatoes diet that was pure Americano.
Just think of it. "A nice piece of fish."
Does such a fish exist anymore?
According to a multitude of health news websites that have my email address (and also apparently my personality "number"), we are warned to avoid all imported farmed fish.
The toxic crowding of fish farmed in China alone, which allegedly accounts for 25 percent of the fish eaten in America, leads to epidemic fish death, which the surviving fish swim in.
Along with this, the mercury levels of certain fish have to be memorized. This has been true for decades. Remember Marvin Gaye singing the line, "fish full of mercury"?
Mercy, mercy me.
And now the alarming elevation of Pacific Ocean fish radiation levels, as a result of the Japanese tsunami, headlines the news.
I don't know about you, but perusing menus used to be one of my very favorite activities.
Now I search a menu for something that is least likely to kill me. Or, as a physician acquaintance suggested one night at dinner, "The secret is mixing your poisons."
How about corn, on or off, the cob? I may be in the minority, but knowing I am eating genetically modified, aka GMO, vegetables and fruits turns me so off that it shuts down my biological hunger response.
Well, not completely. I am not anorexic, nor would I ever encourage disordered eating.
But I do find myself trapped in a tidal wave of knowledge that makes me wonder. Is it better to be ignorant and eat toxic foods or is it better to spend a lifetime reading ingredients on packages and asking where meat and fish were born, and what their astrological signs are?
Last Christmas, standing in line at the Santa Monica Whole Foods deli and searching for dinner party recipes without GMO canola oil, a woman next to me smiled wryly at my ingredients investigation.
"Oh", she said, "I used to eat kale. I am totally off greens and grains now". I was curious and asked her what she is eating now and why. She laughed and said, having spent decades as a vegetarian, she today eats chocolate and sugar exclusively.
She then told me she was diagnosed with something deadly. She was dying.