Today at lunch, I happen by the first gas station I've seen since I arrived in Barcelona. Given that it's the first, and that the exterior design is clean and sleek, I decide to have a look inside. Almost immediately, I'm baffled to find a small, well-stocked fresh food market, sitting right there in the exact aisles where I'm conditioned to see Cheetos, Fig Newtons, Slim Jims, Alka Seltzer, Natural Light, motor oil, breath mints and porn rags. Instead, I see fresh produce, raw milk cheeses, olives, steaks, whole chickens, wine and high end spirits. Honestly, it's a shock to my senses. Just to be clear, I'm not interested in spending the next 3 months making gross over generalizations about how Europe rocks and America sucks. I can already tell you I like my ubiquitous air conditioning, my public wifi and my Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits -- three American luxuries I'm already homesick for. Besides, I don't know if this is a Barcelona thing or if perhaps I've just happened upon the one gas station in all of Europe with a gourmet retail buyer.
But it certainly has me thinking: How is it that our American society has accepted the transformation of our food culture (not to mention our culture at large) into this nutritionless, overly processed, homogenized, corporatized “food economy”? Beyond its obvious perils in terms of our nation’s health, I’m simply shocked we’ve allowed so much of our food experience to become so utterly soulless. Good coffee, fresh bread, locally-farmed produce, meats and dairy – these are Europe’s ubiquitous air conditioning. I vow to visit la mercat every day on my way home from work.