On a long road trip from New York to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with my 19-month-old toddler in tow, we had to make frequent stops. I had my new app, Food Tripping, which filters Eateries, Farmers’ Markets, vegan & vegetarian restaurants and juice & smoothie joints for you while you are on the road all fired up. Somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, eager to find a lunch destination, I came across a great vegan restaurant option. I couldn’t believe it! It looked amazing. I called the restaurant, and indeed they were open. I spoke with the owner and explained that I was traveling with 2 vegetarians (myself being one), one gluten-free eater and I had the little guy, and wanted to know if he had food that would be appropriate for all of us. He reassured me: yes, he cooked beautiful food, with no GMOs and would take care not only to feed my gluten-free brother-in-law, but also recommended that we give my son gluten-free food as well. Well tickle me happy! By the time I had finished my conversation, we had driven over 20 miles past the destination . . . . one note to road-tripping app creators, make sure the mapping feature can hone in on whether you are driving towards the destination, or away from it :-/
Unwilling to turn back, we had to recalibrate. We soon realized that we had precious few choices. We were encountering a vast culinary wasteland along Interstate 95, and on top of that, it was Sunday, south of the Mason-Dixon. If you couldn’t tell already how bad my food-snobbery is, McDonalds was not an option. We tried one more spot that Yelp recommended, a southern-style lunch counter, but at 3:05pm, they had just closed and would not even show us a menu. My kid screaming, we pulled off of the highway at the next sign for a restaurant.
I don’t remember the name of the North Carolina town, or the restaurant, so let’s just call it “Bubba’s Buffet.” By this point, I was actually excited at the prospect of french fries and L-cysteine laden grilled cheeses, and I was the first person out of the car. Walking in the heavy hot air from the parking lot to the front door of “Bubba’s Buffet,” I was swatting around my face at gnats that seemed to stick to my skin. I asked the stone-faced cashier if I could look at the menu and buffet line. She said she didn’t mind but looked like she did. There was no grilled cheese sandwich on the menu. They did offer liver and onions. And patty melts. And chicken fried steak. No vegetarian options– as in, none. And we were afraid to order french fries as it seemed insane to ask if they used a separate fryer for the fries as the chicken fried steak. After glancing over the buffet bar, which had canned mandarin orange sections, jarred pimento olives, macaroni salad and shredded slightly-brown iceberg lettuce, we decided to grab 2 bags of Cape Cod potato chips at the adjacent convenience store, and go across the parking lot to a Quiznos / Dairy Queen Plaza. Deep sigh. I gave my son a tuna sub. It was definitely made with a sugary versus tangy mayonnaise, and definitely had more mayo than fish. And my health-conscious friend’s recent words about canned tuna having the highest count of mercury than any other fish rang in my head, but as I watched my son smilingly eat the sandwich and run around the dining area getting his energy out, a few gnats attached to his skin, I had to just relax and deal with it.
Luckily, my mother-in-law and the rest of our family are conscious eaters and really good cooks. Since we arrived at our beautiful two-week condo-rental, we have all pitched in and enjoyed home-cooked meals with the healthiest items that we could find at the Publix supermarket, and a local farmers market offered gorgeous tomatoes, fresh basil, kale, carrots and some wonderful homemade pickles and sweet potato butter. My brother-in-law brought his juicer and we are making out very well. I have to remember to be thankful that I am surrounded by like-minded people who really care about the food that they put in their bodies, and understand that the energy output is directly related to the quality of what is put in. It still shocks me to encounter places like “Bubba’s Buffet,” and supermarkets with no organic sections, while they offer boxed frozen burgers labeled all natural while listing 5 different countries from which the meat is sourced. The evidence is overwhelming that eating non-organic meats, GMO derived grains and produce, all of which are represented in ingredients used by Quiznos & DQ, is extremely detrimental to one’s health. These days, sadly, if something is not labeled organic, it contains GMOs and other nasty chemicals.
Just use common-sense logic and imagine one example: if companies like Montsanto engage in practices of genetically engineering seeds not to germinate, common in corn, wheat and soy crops, which means that the plants grown from such seeds only have one life-cycle and don’t produce any seeds themselves, and the consumption of such foods, which are in their nature infertile, very well could translate to infertility in human beings. Not to mention all the land that could be bio-dynamically recycled to continue growing crops and feeding so many families year after year, is wasted on GMO seeds, which cause the land to run fallow after one season. Dead plants need to be dug up, and the soil has to be renewed for anything to grow again. There are so many obvious examples of wasteful practices like this in the world of “Frankenfoods,” that it really scares me.
Let us take care to raise awareness, learn about sustainable agriculture, preserving the Earth’s resources, and feeding our babies healthy, viable, non-carcinogenic foods so they may thrive and achieve whatever their goals may be. Greed is pervasive in our food systems in America and it is pernicious and leads to great suffering. No, one Quiznos sub won’t kill you, but a lifetime of eating non-viable foods sourced from test-tubes and unsanitary practices might.
-Sarah Willis, Founder of Yogini Cuisine.