Is it slavery one experiences when he leaves the drive-thru of McDonald's, Taco Bell or Burger King? Is he crippled by his own need for convenience and affordability?
Has the monoculture of food made him weak, weary of heart and mind, unable to envision a life that suits him, and food that can truly sustain him? Is he participating in agricultural slavery as he bites into a double cheeseburger?
I'm not in search of a small place of self-righteousness in which to stand. After all, I too have been guilty of consuming the occasional large fries or fish sandwich—disastrously missing the fish. I've been known to claim this as a cultural connection. Puerto Rican food tends to be incredibly heavy and fried. What's so wrong with honoring my roots now and then?
Several years ago, after several minor health problems, I sought some alternative help. I had my finger pricked and the blood that beaded up was examined under a microscope. Through that reading of my live cells, the health care professional was able to decode what was ailing me. She simmered the whole thing down to one simple problem: too much acidity. When the body is too acidic, it creates an environment where everything ill can thrive.
We started with my diet. Gone were the foods I once loved, that I used to comfort myself or get high: carbohydrates of all kinds, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, easy-to-eat-on-the-run processed foods. Instead I ate vegetables (a lot of them), nuts, more vegetables, fruits low in acidity, more vegetables and ancient grains—quinoa, amaranth and millet. I drank apple cider vinegar in warm water and discovered Umi-Boshi, a plum dish borrowed from traditional Japanese cooking, that brings the body closer to an alkaline state. I did this for almost two years. Needless to say, it was difficult in many ways, but what surprised me most was that for the first month, I was a wreck. I imagine it was not unlike coming off of any other addiction—alcohol, nicotine, crack.
I wandered the isles at the natural grocery and realized there was only a small portion being offered that I could actually eat. At night, I lay in bed whimpering. All I wanted were the foods I couldn't have: chocolate, pasta. It was challenging, but I stuck to it.
After three months, my ailments began to disappear. After nine months, I felt a vibration of health I had never experienced before. I was raised on spam and boxed dinners that were made complete by adding water and a flavor packet. It was the most affordable option for my single mother, who was always working. It was the best she could do at the time. Those foods had become familiar, comforting, but at some point, as an adult who had to take responsibility for her health and was tired of paying for prescription after prescription, I took measures into my own hands and truly used food as my medicine.
The two-year endeavor of only eating alkaline-inducing foods has long been over, but those foods still make up the bulk of my diet. During this time, I have grown curious about food in general. I wonder before I put something in my mouth: How will this support my health? Where did it come from? I'm suspicious of cheap, convenient foods and have grown even more suspicious that the foods most readily available and easiest to afford, for most people, are those same foods I grew up on—the foods that steadily erode one's health.