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Gill was explaining to me the difference between British and North American health food stores. I believe she finds the UK ones somewhat substandard, but given that many Brits seem to have a preference for boiled meat, mushy peas, and the all Brown Diet, I suppose that’s not surprising. I know that things have improved, food wise, since I visited the island many moons ago, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they DO have Jamie Oliver now and have even sent him to North America as an ambassador to improve OUR eating habits. Wow, that’s a case of the pot and kettle, no?

First off, it strikes me as strange that these stores are called ‘health food’ stores. Is that to imply that other grocery stores specialize in ‘unhealthy food’? Them’s fightin’ words and  should, I think, at least here in North America, be grounds for several million dollar lawsuits…even if it is true that much of the food in our grocery stores has no food in it. Just chemicals and additives from Dr. Frankenstein labs.

I personally have witnessed the evolution of health food stores since my mother used to frequent them back in the 50s. Back then, it was not unlike visiting a speakeasy to buy booze during prohibition. Stores were dingy, usually found in a questionable area of town, and the other customers looked neither healthy nor robust. In fact, most of them were a great advertisement for where NOT to shop. They were pale, frail, and looked one step away from the Grim Reaper.They also looked around furtively to be sure they hadn’t been recognized, such was the stigma attached to customers shopping in such questionable establishments. I don’t know why, but they were the stores’ own worst advertisements. Thinking back, I cannot remember what they sold, but I do recall a certain strange odour emanating from within. Perhaps that doesn’t merit further investigation.

If I might venture an observation, I’d say that modern health food stores  are a tad faddish. They carry non-gluten, peanut free, dairy free foods to cater to those who have jumped on those specific bandwagons. Often, people diagnose themselves and are convinced they have allergies to certain foods when they don’t.They just want to be ‘au courant’. Gill and her siblings definitely had childhood allergies…you can tell your kid is allergic when he erupts like Vesuvius after a dairy bender, breaks out in hideous rashes,  runs for the toilet with ‘the drains’ or lies on the floor writhing in pain after eating a suspect food. Everything up to that is merely an attempt to get out of doing homework or tidying the toys. Trust me. I know…

Don’t get me wrong. If health food stores in the 80s had had the variety they have now, my kids would have been spared a great deal of agony and wouldn’t have been the social outcasts they were. I mean, would YOU like to be the kid who takes his own carob cake oozing in carob frosting to a birthday party while all the other kids are devouring that yummy store-bought confection from the french bakery? Or the kid eating the goat milk ice cream while the other guests sniff the air to find the stray goat that wandered in and is smelling up the house? Or the rye crust pizza so hard it can’t be cut with anything other than a chainsaw? Oh, and it has no cheese…Now, THAT was deprivation. Sorry, Gill, Crazy D and L’il Sis. It was because I love you…

So I am really the last one to complain about the breadth of products now available. And, unlike the products of decades ago, this food actually tastes like normal food. Progress is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Now healthy food tastes just like unhealthy food and people rush to buy it. Truth really is stranger than fiction.