Don’t tell my coworkers, but I “borrow” their salad dressing in the office refrigerator if I’ve forgotten to pack some of my own. My teenage experience sneaking gin from the bottle in the laundry room taught me how to do so without getting noticed. (Sorry, mom.)
I found myself in this situation today at lunch – tasty salad made with lettuce and cucumbers from my CSA, but nothing to put on it. (At home I use lemon juice and olive oil and I’ll usually make a vinaigrette to bring with me to work.) The fridge had recently been emptied, so the pickings were slim. A nasty looking “Italian” dressing and bottle of some weird zero calorie thousand island. How the hell could thick, congealed thousand island dressing be zero calories? Curious, I tried a taste, and it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, but it was palatable. It tasted a whole hell of a lot better than the italian stuff so I went with it. And then I made the mistake of reading the ingredients. I don’t think there was anything in that bottle derived from actual food products. It didn’t even claim to have “natural flavoring.” Ehh.
Eating my organic salad covered in chemical dressing, I started to think about “diet” foods and their health value. After some stern words from my doctor, I’ve made a major effort to improve my eating habits and the quality of the food I eat. This garden and my participation in a CSA are part of that effort. My consumption of vegetables has certainly shot up over the past few months in large part because I think it’s wrong to waste my wonderful CSA produce. My olive oil and lemon juice salad dressing may have more calories and fat, but can one even consider the weird no-calorie salad dressing to be food? Additionally, I don’t see any evidence that these diet foods help one lose weight. There is a group of women in the office who have frozen, microwavable diet meals every day for lunch. But after years of eating the same sodium and chemical-laden food, they appear to have gained, not lost, weight. I could go on about the diet industry or the state of food production in the US, but I’m not an expert on either. All I do know is that after a few months of eating a mostly plant-based diet and exercising regularly, I just feel better. And I must be looking better because I’m getting way more catcalls when jog through the neighborhood. I’m not about to be come some sort of moralistic, organic food crusader, but I think from now on I’m going to make sure to bring my own salad dressing.