Friday, August 4, 2017

SPORTS and COOKING in the Family

I AM fortunate that my birthing and flow out of innocence have been blessed with a sportscentric and cookery crazy family. My father is a hyper soul whose ageless chakras know no respite. That's him playing chess with a tribal leader in Ifugao mountains back home. Dad would travel rough roads amidst typhoons and countryside strife just to hang with his superhomeys. And play chess and backyard basketball. Paulo built a martial arts gym at the back of the ancestral house when we were kids and, with Uncle Jimmy, taught us and other kids in the `hood karate, judo and arnis. (No, dad didn't teach us the Valentino lover-boy moves, we were just grade school kids, ha!)


          Mom used to manage a bowling alley in a mining village where we once lived so we learned how to play it when were just little kids. All nine of us siblings, especially the boys, got into sports early. We didn't just play them, we also organized summer sports events as well. Putting up basketball events in the community was my brother Sonny's summer madness so much so that his first job as a teenager was as sports organizer for the city government's anti-drugs program. Two of my bros got some kind of school tuition privilege playing basketball. One commits to village-level sports clinics, pro bono. My older brother Alberto is a golf champ but not like PGA kinda, but still a champ. He also won bowling tournaments when he was working in Saudi Arabia. 
       Cousins and a niece (CD) are chess champs in regional school events. My son Duane, who is a professional artist and writer, is also a mixed martial arts fighter and now a trainer. Nephews got athletic scholarships and stuff, and sports still meld the family today as in the past. When we argued as siblings (featuring second youngest bro Allan The Enforcer) and cousins, dad would usher us to the punching bag and get the rage off our chest in the gym, or let us play basketball and sweat it out. Definitely no unfriending.


         
And cooking. My youngest bro Alvaro was on national ABS-CBN television showing off his culinary arts prowess, in a gig that was booked by my daughter Donna. Alvaro was also featured on TV in re his free summer sports camp/s. Whenever we gather (which is often), a top competitive flair is who's going to be the day's (or weekend's) chef. Of course on my last visit to Las Vegas to see family last winter, I was waylaid in the kitchen by my eldest sis Tess, sis in law Ate Rezy, bro Alberto, and daughter Daphne. My Marseille-Style with Beurre Blanc Shrimp Stew was no match to Tess' Spanish Callos Royale. I need more practice, I guess. So I simply, humbly gave way and just washed dirty plates and pots and pans and mopped the kitchen floor. At least, I am still the Kickass Dishwasher! Uh huh.

SOME COOKING thoughts and ruminations.

THINK of another human activity that is closer to sex or lovemaking? Cooking. Why? Well, it's all about touch, smell, feel, sound, taste—all senses come into play. And it's very individual and personal. Cooking is rhythm, like dancing, like bedroom scrimmage—it's cadence, flow, vibe. So cooking is best when you really know the person you are feeding.

IT is always tough to cook for kids. I had to come up with a few kidstuff BS to be able to convince this sweet little girl to dig in my spaghetti magic. I tried, “Santa Claus dropped by today to give me this recipe...” and “I cooked this just for you because I know you love spaghetti.” But what worked was, “That cheese on top of your spanghetti is called Hello Kitty Cheese!” I remember when I was a kid myself, I won't touch dinner unless there's broth on the side, or I never ate any food that is dark (like black beans, chocolate cake etc). My eldest daughter Donna refused to eat any food that didn't pass her olfactory standard, and well, once I've set her plate in front of her, nobody touches that plate—otherwise, she won't touch that food and dinner is over!

COOKING is personal—it’s like poetry, like sexual intimacy. Cooking flows from your inner self and into the stove. It is about smell, taste, sight, hearing. Sensitivity. Touch and feel. When you feel like writing, write; want to cook, cook; feel like making love, do it—these are the best moments to flow… Sexual intimacy or the cooking process—it’s communication between you and your senses, sensuality/sensitivity channeled to your partner. If you don’t know your inner truths—it’s not possible to project it, or derive pleasure from sharing it.



I WOULD love to cook for you...” That offer always, instinctively, comes out of my mouth—when I meet new friends. Food could be the most accessible and most convenient gesture of human connection. I eat whatever is offered me by friends, relatives or and even strangers. It is a natural reflex... Food breaks ice and starts conversations on a freewheeling, relaxed mode. Food also loosens up supposedly super-serious, ultra-dramatic, nerve-wracking conversations. I always say, if we have food on the table and we are all having fun eating—there's not much room to argue about anything at all. In fact, when the food is so good—everybody's silent. Living good, loving good, eating good.

I ALWAYS nurtured an indulgent fascination with feeding people. Eating is human right as well as living imperative, and food is as basic as shelter and education. Yet I get the heat from vegetarian friends when I say that mere contemplation of a life without meat is a luxury, a romantic snobbery by the affluent first-worlder. Truth is, the world's poor doesn't feast on dead flesh—they eat whatever is available so they could live another day. Over all, rich nations eat much more meat than poor ones, and raising animals takes more agricultural resources than raising crops--so less affluent people eat less meat. Even if I maintain a non-meat diet all my life – when I go out there and see starving humanity, I will still feed them with whatever is called food. Food keeps people alive. When it comes to eating, my logic is gut-level.




MY cooking reflex is random but calculated, non-systematic but adaptive. How is that? First, I don't religiously follow recipes—I just basically refer to them as “guides” or motivational patterns. The most important aspect of cooking is the significance of feeding people, of knowing individual tastes: what do they wish to eat, what are their preferences, ingredients/spices/herbs that they avoid etc. I am very confident that whatever foodstuff, condiments, herbs etc are available in the fridge, cupboard, garden—I can whip out a good meal from those. Cooking is like playing music—you fit in, fill in the blanks, jam in the vibe, work it out as the beat flows. Art is never prearranged. Cooking is art. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Anybody for the Environment?

I AM usually silent in regards what most of my enlightened friends and colleagues are fighting for. Maybe they've already unfriended me and boxed me in a crate they reserve for “rightwinged moomoos.” That's the way life is these days, I guess. You disagree with the enlightened you are a Conservative. You diss the Conservative you are stoned-cold homeless. Either way, you are unfriended. LOL! For the first time in my life though after four decades of being labelled a hardcore Leftist, I am called rightwing skynyrd! Ah! Freebird. Seriously though, I don't expect to be labelled left or right when I talk about the environment. I hope.


          Has anybody taken to heart and soul the danger of sea-level rise after Katrina and Sandy, more than we spend huge energy debating and discoursing stuff? Stuff like The D and The H over the B? When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, it flooded more than 88,000 buildings in the city and killed 44 people. That figure may not shake the skeptic, I'm sure? Yet that was a transformative event. By 2030 or so, the water in New York Harbor could be a foot higher than it is today, according to mostly Dutch experts that the city government hired following the disaster. That may not sound like much, yet even with a foot or two of sea-level rise, streets will become impassable at high tide, snarling traffic. The cost of flood insurance will skyrocket, causing home prices in risky neighborhoods to decline. So says a Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell.
          But that is not the real fear. There will always be a big storm coming. A year from now, 7 years, maybe 20 years. It might be smaller than Sandy, it might be a lot stronger that the strongest that hit the Philippines or China. Of course, governments are working things out. But if you add a foot or two of sea-level rise to a 14-foot storm tide, you have serious trouble. And if it hits before we actually constructed or implemented mechanisms to lessen damage of such a calamity, then we got serious problem.
          Sea-level rise is no joke. And news from the Arctic is not good. Of course we know that the big guys have been melting ice there for more oil diggings so we can gas up more and watch “Game of Thrones” more. This summer, temperatures in Greenland spiked to the highest levels on record. If just one-tenth of the Greenland ice were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by two feet. The breakup of West Antarctica, which has showed signs of increasing fragility, could raise the seas 12 feet.


          Hugely contributing to environmental ruin of course is the greenhouse effect, a process by which radiation from a planet's atmosphere warms the planet's surface to a temperature above what it would be without its atmosphere. Earth’s natural greenhouse effect is critical to supporting life. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have intensified the natural greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
          Approximately two-thirds of all industrial methane and carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere since 1854 can be traced to burning fossil fuels and producing cement. Over the decades, scientists have succeeded in confidently tracing how much of climate change can be directly tied to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. Sadly, the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are now higher than at any point in human history, further worsening the ‘greenhouse effect’ contributing to global warming and the consequences of climate change. In fact, recent data shows that global carbon dioxide emissions were 150 times higher in 2011 than they were in 1850.
          And who are the main contributors to global warming via our lifestyle? Or carbon footprint, the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Top 4: China, the US, India and Russia. Cement? Top 3: China, India, the US. Steel: China, Japan, India, the US. 

            Still, we do think that we are doing enough for the environment? No. Instead of fighting for bike lanes and bus transport, we fight for (I don't wanna say it). We listen to political humor more than we listen to, for example, the Dutch who knows how to prevent floods (well their country is under water protected by dams, dikes and levees) and they are also number 1 in use of bikes not for recreation but for basic transport. How many of us will boycott Walmart but are you willing to boycott your gas station? No. You get my drift. We love that car.

          Anyway, it's past 2 AM now. I gotta digress. And sleep. Uh huh. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Food That We Eat

THERE's just so many food/s and foodstuff to choose from around us. If there are only three of the same food, not 35--then probably we'd break `em down to the only ones that we really need. Just like the good old days before local business grew into such a gargantuan ogre otherwise known as corporations. Then there is this ailment we call consumerism. We buy and buy and buy. 


          Most poorer cultures buy foodstuff that are consumed only for a day or max of three days because that's all that their cash could afford at a given time. They buy in open markets where vegetables/meat are fresh and with lesser chemicals or "bad agents" since these directly come from the farm. Most local produce are consumed by the locals. Some are transported by only via 6-8 hour transport time direct to the store. Those that are not bought are "recycled" as animal feeds or compost/fertilizers.  Economics is also part of it. Pesticides etc are expensive. Then traditional/tribal cultures that don't rely in over-marketing and produce smothered with chemicals. You buy directly from farmers. Etc etcetera. Here, even if they say kale are organic etc, most of these are transported from somewhere else, frozen and stocked in shelves for days and weeks. It's basically the same as those they said antibiotics-laden. But then I don't think about it much. I cook, I eat, I dance. Burn the crap out of my system.

IT is weird, I know. Some people in coastal villages (in Asia) sometimes dine on mussels and other seashells that are washed to the shore by toxic waters/wastes on certain seasons. I also saw a documentary movie about how survivors of the bombing/s of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were able to consume fish and seashells and land produce after their environment was devastated by nukes. I guess, humanity's body functions and elasticity is adaptable to whatever condition. 



          My guru in India has a better explanation to this though. As for me, it's the old-school feeding/food culture that helps a lot. We cook our food usually because we know what our body wants exactly. Restaurants may offer those of course but the internal satisfaction of eating per se makes digestion and nutrition work well. We are also feeding the mind.

WHY do people in other cultures could effiortlessly dine on food that normally make us sick? Immune system brought about by their body's adaptability with the environment. I am not sure but these people live. I don't think it's "food allergies" per se since, for example, the prevalence of "questionable" street foods remains as is per consumption. Food that are sold in open markets don't go through strict inspection or regulation. Including hogs that are butchered as per community--these are simply distributed among villagers. No health department inspection whatsoever. I don't even recall food poisoning or untoward incidents. Food that we normally reject here are embraced somewhere. Spam is "good food" among native Hawaiians, all parts of the chicken are eaten in most of Asia etc. But these people are not necessarily unhealthy. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cooking Stuff and Other Things

COOKING is like music to me. Rhythm section is the basic/fundamentals, the improvisation comes with the guitars and sax and horns and stuff. It's always hit and miss. Right key, right blend.


FOOD is a mystery, but it's an endearing adventure to know and understand what people eat. I try all kinds of recipes that I read and encounter and then interface my own take (that somehow go in a book that I am writing--island cooking, herbs, sustainabilty, cultural interface). Cooking is intimacy. If we don't know how to feed the people we're with, then we need to explore more that relationship. Something's missing. I like cooking for the people I love and the friends that I hang out with--although I also cooked for typhoon victims in the Philippines and poor urban workers in India. Cooking is always hit and miss, that is why I continue knowing/learning.

ORGANIC food has become much more popular and mainstream in recent years, accounting for 3 to 4 percent of US food sales and climbing. In the UK, for example, 40 percent of baby food consumed is now organic. But I still don't trust it, especially when “organic food” is sold in relatively bigger stores—compared with my community grower whose produce I can see blossom from seed to harvest. Otherwise, who cares about “organic”? Check this out: Hershey's owns organic chocolate maker Dagoba; Pepsi bought Naked Juice; Coke and Odwalla report to the same boss; Nestle and Tribe Mediterranean Foods are the same. 
          More: Kellogg also owns Morningstar Farms, Kashi, Gardenburger and Bear Naked, and ConAgra/Lightlife. General Mills, Cargill, Kraft, Cadbury, M&M Mars and others also own a host of natural brands. The conglomerate Hain Celestial Group is a major player in the sector. Meantime, in Asheville, a Trader Joe's, which specializes on organic and vegetarian foods, competes with Greenlife Grocery on the same block on Merrimon Av. Trader Joe's also owns Aldi's, which sells foodstuff that an average joe and jane could afford but snobbed by “organic-only” patrons. What's scary about giant food companies? They mass-produce their products, and here's a sample of their production line: Farmed in Guangzhou, China; washed and cleaned in Madras, India; packaged in Cebu, Philippines; and repackaged in Matagalpa, Nicaragua; then shipped to Asheville, North Carolina. Can you trust that? I don't—but I don't want to lose sleep over it. I'd like to simplify my food and save my stress to the next NBA playoffs. I will buy food that I can afford, eat anything that looks good, served on a clean plate.

DANCE! Cook. Write poetry. Crack jokes. Do art. Don't explain yourself. Dance. Keep on dancing.

I'D love the challenge of cooking an awesome dinner for a mixed martial arts lady champion who has just been knocked out. And see what happens. Quite a job, I reckon.

IF we can't understand and accept a people's food we can never understand and accept them. It's like making love. Food is intimate like shared nakedness.

WHAT do I do when I am bored (when I am not writing). I roam the streets like a Blues Brother, I meditate by the sea, I pretend that I am Batman Junior Jr, I eat, I fight it with my Incredible Hulk hand. Or I just cook.

I AM a grandfather. I would love to walk my grandson to the open market and tell him stories about grandpa picking ripe guavas in the mountains as a kid. Or read my granddaughter "The Little Prince" and how a fox's ferocity can be tamed by patient friendship. Then cook them plantains on rice wraps and stuffed with jackfruits, chased down by a cold coconut juice right off a tree.

I AM happy that there's a steady stream of wonderful Facebook friends who “like” what I post on dizzying succession almost 15 hours a day, nonstop. Thank you, thank you! I wish I could invite y'all in a dinner party on a prairie and satisfy your wildest, most virulent culinary cravings—with all the awesome food that I could cook! Seriously.



I HAVE a simple philosophy or reflex/deduction in regards eating. I eat to live. Am I eating safe or unsafe food? Well, that is common sense. If I've been eating poison food in the last 50 years of my life, then I must have resurrected 50 times already? I am still breathing...

IF I could, I just want to shut my mouth—stride to the kitchen, put on some Bee Gees or Led Zeppelin or Andres Segovia, and cook. I will cook till I drop and sleep... Uhh, before I'll sleep I'll post what I cooked first, click on a Netflix movie, and sleep in peace and quiet. I don't mind sliding into a dreamland kitchen, still cooking.

I WOULD love to own a house with an outdoor kitchen, wood stove, and stuff. Of course, it's not that easy in an urban setting with neighboring condominiums and apartments. Lots of issues... Nevertheless, I enjoy watching the fire, the raw smell of burning wood, embers fluttering by, burnt clay pots, veggies off the farm still smothered with muddy soil, fish set to be gutted and all, herbs all over the yard—the breeze or rain and birds chiming along as the dog and cat saunter by.

BACK home in the islands, or long time ago in America, we don't have an apt word for organic since most food are "organic." Meaning, straight from the farm, local, non-pesticide, non-stocked (in shelves) hence no chemical agents to give it longer shelf-life, non-packaged/ready to go as is, non-transported from other sources--and sold right in the open market by people who live in the same community. So when people say “organic” and then they head to a “healthy food” franchise grocery, and negate the local/community grower, I tend to rant. But I digress.

MANY days my life's pursuit of happiness is simply focused on hoping my home team, the Charlotte Hornets win a game. Or I don't argue over some silly, redundant item. Happiness is a sweet two hours goof-around with a child, a cool walk with a babedawg by the river's side—or I get to eat a really fresh and delicious seafood dinner.
I WANNA say, "Let me cook for you, my love. Stay in bed today, rest your back, play a Rising Appalachia CD. Relax like a fairy. Let me handle your sweet lips and warm hips in a bit." Those lines even rhyme, isn't it?



WHEN humanity is well fed and sheltered, and the world and society provide art and music for dancing in place of too much talk, scrutiny and judgment by way of our diversity and differences--then, there will be lesser arguments. There will be Harmony, Love and Peace.

COOK like a world music artist. Not just a cover band. Recipes are fundamentals, let's infuse our personal magic.

"BIZARRE Foods," the TV show, is interesting to me because food is the best way to harmoniously interface with other people's culture. A shortage or lack of understanding of cultural truths pave way for animosities and discrimination between countries. Sadly, we in the West, have become more choosy and picky with our food--sometimes judging others' culinary identity as strange and disgusting. Fact is, we waste a lot of food enough to feed more than half of starving the human race.

EATING is better than arguing. Dancing is better than fighting. Kissing is better than Breaded Pork Chops. Got problem with that?

WE lost the glory of simplicity because nothing seems simple anymore. Food is so complex. Is that GFO-free? as in genetically-fucked up? Ah, gimme safe food or I starve myself to death! Language is so complex. Political correctness needs to be a college degree,I guess—your main job is to correct people, politically. It is easier to junk a cellphone since before there's only 1 house phone to 101 houses, one TV to a barrio of 2,000... Food is what mom placed on the table, EAT! These days, younger people don't have an idea how to it was then so they tend to get depressed with seemingly "simple" things. What? There's no Wi-Fi in the woods? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Chinese Work Ethic

THE Chinese work ethic and business sense continually mystify me. They've been in the Philippines long before the Spaniards and Americans did. Although the old Astronesian natives have long traded business with China, the one Chinese dude that registered in Filipinos' psyche was a pirate named Lim Ah Hong. Probably Senor Espanol and Mr Smith thought it convenient to create a “pirate” image of the Chinese to sort of lessen competition? Not sure... But what's sure is, the Chinese have long upended the Spaniards and Americans in the Philippines even before Beijing entered WTO in early 90s, and evolved into the unparalleled manufaturing titan of global business.


          Historically, the Chinese work silently, yet effectively. They worked in railroad construction under the Vanderbilts, they sold silk and flip-flops in every little corner of any city in every little corner of the world, and they had pretty cool lo meins at Lim Ho Fook, as well, so says Warren Zevon, right? There was this barbershop banter in regards Chinese business camaraderie that always fascinated me. They say that when a diner goes to a Chinese restaurant and asks for a dish that happens to be missing in the menu folder, the waiter will say, “We have that, Sir!” and then he runs out by the backdoor and goes to another Chinese restaurant where the owner willingly gives him what the customer is asking. There! They collared a client, that's the bottomline... The Chinese don't compete with each other, they actually support each other. When they entered WTO and got factory deals from the West, the big boss Chinese dude gave out capital to smaller entrepreneurs in the provinces so they'd get all the job orders from the US and Europe and elsewhere.
          Yup, the Chinese work ethic and business sense are very mystifying—and effective.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where Do You Buy Your Chips?

“NAH, I DON'T shop at Aldi. Yes, chips and stuff are inexpensive there but I don't support huge corporations that sell us junk. They are evil! I go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Sometimes Greenlife.” Good. My ramens budget is kinda limited too so I go to stores that sell them really low like 15 packs for 50 cents, with a $2 Slantshack Jerky coupon. Yeah. It's all economics to me. Health-wise, I let my weird logic take over. Inhalation of carbon dioxide and methane emissions a.k.a. carbon footprints a.k.a. greenhouse gas a.k.a. pollution—plus a dose too much of political campaign speeches—will kill me faster than two Cup-a-Noodles a week. But seriously, if we really want to improve or change consumer behavior with a goal of minimizing “poison” in our food, let's try to shake the source and support local growers and producers. That's a good start.


       But let me ramble first... Aldi and Trader Joe's, you see, are owned by the Albrecht brothers Karl and Theo of Germany. There are 10,000 Aldis in 18 countries and 457 Trader Joe's stores in the US, heaviest concentration in Southern California. Founded by a cool dude named Joe Coulombe in Monrovia CA, Trader Joe's—a market leader in organic and fresh food groceries in the US—has long been bought or acquired by Theo Albrecht. Damn goofy Theo, right? Meantime, Whole Foods Market Inc., a supermarket chain specializing in organic food, is a Fortune 500 company—the 30th largest retailer in the US. Some of its One Percenter investors are Vanguard Total Stock Mkt. Index and Harbor Capital Appreciation Instl. Think GMO, think Monsanto. Whole Foods is also the owner of Greenlife Grocery (located in my home city of Asheville).
       The boom in organic food has boosted sales over $32 billion annually and has led some of the nation’s biggest food companies—General Mills, Coca-Cola, Perdue, Kellogg—to acquire or take stakes in smaller organic outfits. To name a few: Hormel’s acquisition of Applegate Farms for $775 million; WhiteWave’s acquisition of So Delicious/Turtle Mountain for $195 million and Wallaby Yogurt for $125 million; General Mills’ acquisition of Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million; Pinnacle Foods’ acquisition of Boulder Brands (Earth Balance, Evol, Udi’s) for $975 million; Post’s acquisition of a number of cereal and egg brands (including MOM/Malt-O-Meal/Better Oats) for $1.15 billion; and JAB Holding’s acquisition of a number of coffee brands (Green Mountain Einstein Bros./Noah’s, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, Peet’s, and Caribou).
       That's just the way of the world, I guess. Remember those two kids who invented a Batman-laser instant-flash whatever you called it beamed on building walls to supposedly announce a “secret” Occupy convergence? Those kids are now under the employ of giant techno gods—collectively, these techno billionaires drop $5 billion a year for R&D budget alone, more than the annual national budget of my home country, the Philippines. Start-ups? Sell them to the big guys. Dig? I don't have any problems with that—I mean, I ain't gonna lose a good weekend's sex for that! Look, one day I will come up with 501 ramen recipes and maybe H.J. Heinz or Kraft Foods will be interested to buy me out, right? Then I will steal the title “Ramen King” from its inventor Momofuku Ando.
       Thing is, let's take it easy. We know who are damn selling us the good food and the bad food. The same Wiley E. Coyote on Brooks Brothers suit! Win win for the dude. Oh well, I wish organic produce and non-GMO stuff are more affordable than the poison brands, just like when I was a kid in an island-galaxy so far away. Open market produce and other meats and fish etc are a lot inexpensive than manufactured shit in groceries. Yet we weren't really paying much attention on “healthy” or non-pesticide/no-antibiotics reminder—it was all about economics. I mean, many times when I hear people say, I don't go to Walmart or I don't support franchises, I can't help but wonder out loud—are you saying we both hate the One Percent or you just want your shit healthy or organic? If your answer is the former, then—let's go to the tailgate market this weekend and buy some homegrown cabbages and okra. Life is cool when it is simple. Feel me? 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Organic and Stuff

ORGANIC food has become much more popular and mainstream in recent years, accounting for 3 to 4 percent of US food sales and climbing. In the UK, for example, 40 percent of baby food consumed is now organic. But I still don't trust it, especially when “organic food” is sold in relatively bigger stores—compared with my community grower whose produce I can see blossom from seed to harvest. Otherwise, who cares about “organic”? Check this out: Hershey's owns organic chocolate maker Dagoba; Pepsi bought Naked Juice; Coke and Odwalla report to the same boss; Nestle and Tribe Mediterranean Foods are the same. More: Kellogg also owns Morningstar Farms, Kashi, Gardenburger and Bear Naked, and ConAgra/Lightlife. General Mills, Cargill, Kraft, Cadbury, M&M Mars and others also own a host of natural brands. The conglomerate Hain Celestial Group is a major player in the sector.

       Meantime, in Asheville, a Trader Joe's, which specializes on organic and vegetarian foods, competes with Greenlife Grocery on the same block on Merrimon Av. Trader Joe's also owns Aldi's, which sells foodstuff that an average joe and jane could afford but snobbed by “organic-only” patrons. What's scary about giant food companies? They mass-produce their products, and here's a sample of their production line: Farmed in Guangzhou, China; washed and cleaned in Madras, India; packaged in Cebu, Philippines; and repackaged in Matagalpa, Nicaragua; then shipped to Asheville, North Carolina. Can you trust that? I don't—but I don't want to lose sleep over it. I'd like to simplify my food and save my stress to the next NBA playoffs. I will buy food that I can afford, eat anything that looks good, served on a clean plate.