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Is It Food, or Is It Foodiness? Or Maybe It's "Berry-ness"?

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Down here in the Foodiness Fallout Shelter, we really enjoy thrift. As an avowed thrift lover and general cheapskate, I'm always looking for free stuff to fill the shelter with. Free castoff furniture, free magazines from the recycling bin, and free food (in the wild) when I find it.

I spend my summer weekends at my teeny-tiny bungalow in lower-upstate New York, (which I was able to buy because I saved so much money scavenging free stuff) and I regularly hike (free) the small mountains in the lower Hudson Valley. And every summer around this time I stuff my face, as I hike, with wild blueberries. Last weekend, as I hiked and picked, hiked and picked, I ate so many blueberries that I'm sure I pooped blue. Every year, like a ravenous bear or a deer, when there's wild food around, I gorge on it 'til its gone and then wait for next year.

This year the blueberries are abundant--maybe it was all the snow, or the late spring, but we're getting a big crop. And they are right there, free, for the picking! The weird thing is that while I see lots of other people hiking these trails, I don't see anyone else picking. My hub and I are the only ones. I mean, that's fine by me, more blue bounty for us...but I think it's because people are afraid. Afraid to take a chance on a wild food, one that's infinitely more nutritious than store-bought food and oh yeah, did I mention free? I think we're so conditioned to be distrustful of the wild that we only trust the cultivated. As if the cultivated were safer? Um, you do know how many chemicals are sprayed on your food, right?

So I picked blueberries like a hungry bear, and I plan to do it again every weekend until they're gone. We have a mulberry tree in our front yard of the bungalow, and sometimes I gather and eat those, although I don't love them, they're kind of bland. The deer and birds and squirrels and raccoons sure love them, they swarm the tree day and night, you can hear the raccoons fighting on the roof at night over them. I get it, a good berry is hard to find, and it's not like they can just order a stack of pancakes during mulberry madness month or something. And right after the blueberries fade out, along come the wine berries, which are like a wild raspberry, but they are an invasive weed and grow like crazy. Most people consider them a nuisance, I consider them a tasty (free!) snack. They're delicious, and after we blueberried ourselves out we took a walk down the road and binged on wine berries.

A neighbor of mine was horrified that we'd eat them, right off the vine like that. But I'd rather eat those car-exhaust-covered road berries than some industrially grown, chemically-sprayed, picked-by-underpaid-abused-labor pint of blues from the mega-mart, that's for sure. I did buy some blueberries at the store, from New Jersey, cultivated blueberry capital of the world. They had so little flavor that you couldn't tell what you'd placed in your mouth. in fact, they had anti-flavor. They made you wonder if you'd ever be able to taste anything again...And then, as we walked home from the wineberry orgy, I spotted a black raspberry bush! This was very exciting, because I never see those around, maybe climate change has brought them to zone 7, so we picked and ate a few handfuls of those, too. But the holy grail for me is the perfect blackberry. I mean, I love my wild blueberries, and wineberries and black raspberries are a seasonal treat, but the blackberry is the ultimate in berry eating for this lady. This weekend I'll be in Portland, Oregon to visit my BFF, Lisa. Oregon is covered in blackberry vines, they also consider them a scourge and are always fighting them back, but I make Lisa pull over the car when I spot a loaded bush so I can get out and pick. Er, I mean I make her pull over our hand-made recycled tandem fixie bike, we always bike around PDX, we'd never drive...

So where does Foodiness come into all of this berry rhapsody? What, did you think I'd write an entire post and not mention Foodiness? It's what this blog and my radio show, Let's Get Real, are all about, after all.

Well, the how about the red-dyed berryslop that's dumped over the red-velvet-cake-flavored pancakes at a chain pancake house? Is that Foodiness? Are they really trying to convince anyone that eating that pile of crap will provide you with the vitamins and enzymes and pigments and nutrients of fresh berries or any other fruit or actual food? I dunno, probably. I'm sure plenty of people eat that pile of cake and then think, "well ok then! I just got my RDA of fruit for the day, now let's hit the drive through"! I hope not. I'm sure the chains have government endorsed and approved nutrition info tailored just right to make their fruitytastic toppings seem like actual food. And if you choose to eat there, well, good luck with life and stuff.

So is it Foodiness? I guess so. But what's more insidiously true Foodiness, is the "berrying" lately of the frozen foods aisle. Not burying, as in what will happen to your bloated diabetic corpse after a few too many jelly-doughnut-pancake brunches, no, the berrying of foods. Because now we know how good berries are for us, superfoods! Antioxidants! Dr Oz! Blueberries! Everybody eat more berries! That's the message we hear. Berries are everywhere, in fast-food frozen smoothies, trail mix/candy/granola bars, cereals, drinks...but are they real berries, with all their inherent power, or Foodiness?

Well, after all the hot sun of hiking/gorging/berry collecting we needed to go to the store to buy some beer. Beer follows berries, and hiking, and luckily, our local supermarket actually has a special local beer section now, because there are several local breweries in the lower Hudson Valley these days. So we went to buy our locally brewed IPA, and while there I said to my hub, "I think we deserve a frozen frosty dessert treat, don't you?" We did just climb the highest peak in the lower Hudson Valley!

So all I wanted were frozen Greek yogurt pops. I don't actually like or eat much ice cream, I used to, but now it's too rich and too sweet for me. I like a good frozen Greek yogurt pop. So I grabbed some chocolate ones, and I read the label, it was pretty clean, no corn syrup, no dyes or gums, just milk, culture, sugar, chocolate, etc. then I saw that they were 2 boxes for like 5.99. and you know..thrift?, so I grabbed another box, these were blueberry-pomegranate flavor. I figured if the same brand's chocolate flavor was clean labeled, so would the berry, right? Uh, no. After I got home I read the box, corn syrup, red dye, artificial berry flavor, WTF? The old bait and switch, huh? No, just more Foodiness berryness. Greek yogurt, berries, health halo, the same old sh*t. Even I fell for it, and I'm supposed to be out there, protecting you from it! But I was hot and tired from all the hiking and berrying, and just wanted my IPA and my yogurt pop, so you know what? I ate the Foodiness. Yeah, I did.

Because I'm human too, we're all fallible, and it's ok. You can't only eat the organic buckwheat pancakes and forage for feral berries and pluck wild dandelions. Sometimes, you have to eat the Greek yogurt pop and a little corn syrup with it. Then get back out there and fight with the raccoons for those last few mulberries.

So remember, if you don't want to eat sh*t... keep on reading these posts, and listen to "Let's Get Real", the cooking show about finding, preparing and eating FOOD" on Heritage Radio Network.