Labeling People And Not Labeling Food

We don’t give them much credit for it, but most of the time, the average pre-schooler knows what he or she is talking about.

Small, demanding people often know what they’re talking about. Bold Innocence — limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; open edition licensed fine art print at Great Big Canvas.

The other day I shared lunch with a random four-year-old and we decided upon deli chicken. My dinner companion informed me, quite definitively, that he wanted the kind of chicken “with the bones sticking out all over it.” This was accompanied by a series of acrobatic contortions that involved wrapping his elbows around his forehead.

“Hmm,” was my response. Obviously, he was being four, and had no idea of what he was talking about.

But he did, and at the deli counter, he repeated his instructions, both verbally and physically, adamant in that he was expressing a valid opinion.

So I stopped being so superciliously adult for a moment and seriously looked at the bin of random baked chicken pieces, piled helter-skelter one atop the other.

And epiphany hit.

“Do you mean a wing?” I asked.

“Yes!” he smiled at me, gratified that I finally understood.

I empathize with how he feels. I undergo similar mental and physical contortions when I am shopping for food, and want to find out – by reading the label – just what is in the product, so that I can ultimately decide whether or not I want to purchase it.

It’s wheat free, allergen free, vegan, certified Kosher, and “natural” — all great information. Now, I just need one more small addendum. Off the Grid, original oil painting by Steve Henderson Fine Art

But while I’m told that it’s gluten-free (most bananas are) or kosher (I’m not Jewish), made with real sweet potatoes (there are fake sweet potatoes?) or on Facebook (who isn’t, these days?), what I really want to know, isn’t there.

Theoretically, what I am concerned about is nothing, and scientists of one camp assure me that the products which have undergone the modifications I’m worried about are safe, and I am foolish for thinking otherwise.

That’s fine. I’m glad they think so.

But these scientists of one camp don’t make dinner at my house, and I like to be the one making the decisions about what I serve, and do not serve, at my table. And in order to make that decision, I look at the package for elucidation.

“All Natural,” doesn’t mean much. Nicotine is natural, and I tend to avoid it in my salad dressing.

“No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives” is nice as well, but inapplicable to placating my concerns.

All I want is the phrase, “GMO-free,” or, “This food contains no Genetically Modified Organisms – apparently, I’m not alone in looking for this confirmation — but it’s really difficult to find.

It’s a complicated dance, these days, being a wise, savvy, determined consumer. She Danced by the Light of the Moon, original painting at Steve Henderson Fine Art; open edition licensed art print at Great Big Canvas


Right now I am staring at the back of a bag of chips that, through symbols and words, assures me that it is All Natural, Certified Gluten Free, Certified Vegan, Cholesterol Free, Trans-fat free – there are a dozen reassurances of what this product is free of. Even as I scan the label I hear media voices scolding me for worrying about nothing.

But I do. And if I am foolish, I am a college educated fool (for what that is worth nowadays), one of minority who knows when to use “him and me” and “he and I,” someone who reads more than four books a year. Most of us in this country are serious when we say what we like and don’t like, and when we ask for a chicken wing, we get irritated when we are treated as if we asked for “the piece with the bones sticking out all over it.”

Consumer choice begins when consumers are given a choice in the first place.

It’s my call, not anybody else’s, to determine what I will ingest, and that determination would be a lot easier to make, if I were given the necessary facts to make it. I do not need to be “educated” as a consumer, but I would appreciate being respected.

All of the artwork in my articles is by Steve Henderson, the Norwegian Artist, and it may be found at the following links: 


10 Responses

  1. Milla

    So,how do you propose we get that respect? Do we let the “dirty smelly hippies” as most people refer to the young people who demonstrate and march against Monsanto and other problems of the world ask for it? Do we rant about it in blogs, on Facebook, over coffee with friends? Seriously, what can we do? The corporations own us. We can’t do anything.

    1. Milla: Knowledge and awareness are a good start. The more people know about the issues, such as GMOs in their food — through “ranting and raving” on blogs, letters to the editors, conversations with friends and colleagues, your “dirty smelly hippies” — the less easily that the people pushing the issues can do so with anonymous impunity.

      Do not underestimate the value and power of the individual — but we must be willing to be individuals, making the decisions that are best for us and our family. It’s a small thing, but if more people would learn to cook for themselves, they would see the value of good, unadulterated food, and they would not give their dollars and dimes to the companies that are selling the opposite.

      In big business, pennies add up, and when a few people here and a few people there opt to not buy that box of stuff/stuff anymore because they don’t like its ingredients, then the company making it starts to ask itself why.

      Nobody owns you. Your mind, your soul, your psyche — they are yours, but you must fight to keep them that way. Your body, your health — the fight for those is going on now, and has been for many years, as people — individuals — just never shut up about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides in our food, the overmedicating of our society, the social engineering going on in our workplace and education.

      We cannot affect the actions of others, and there are a lot of people out there who don’t care, or don’t want to care, because that would be too much trouble. But there is an increasing number of people who are waking up and speaking up. All we can do, individually, is ensure that we are on the right path, and keep walking it.

  2. Thank you for your level-headed attitude towards what is happening in the world today. I think about what you have said in a previous newsletter: that there is plenty of negative in the world; but you choose to concentrate on the beautiful. (Now I am self-conscious of my grammar and punctuation. My husband is a journalist and corrects me.)

    Thanks for your thoughts on the GMO stuff. We do what we can and become informed so we can make good choices. I share what I know with people that are interested. I can be an example that makes people think about alternatives. They can see that there is another way of doing things. So, I milk my goats, shear my sheep, spin my wool,(I don’t knit, though.) Bring in my 150 butternut squash, can my tomatoes, make my kefir and kombucha, plan my permaculture garden, and help out a friend whose blood sugar is unstable. After all that, I paint. I hope to do more of it; but I don’t want to let go of the other things that I do as they are important to me. I guess we must do what we are called to do and trust that we are making a difference.

    1. Brenda — this is a beautiful comment, and as far as I can see, grammatically perfect. This is a good time to put in a plug for my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say he and I or me and him?” which I wrote specifically for people who just don’t want to plunge into the grammar thing, but want or love to write.

      My friend — you are making a difference, right now, and every day. In living your life with honor and integrity, treading gently on the earth and treating with compassion and grace the good gifts we have been given — our land, the animals, the amazing plant world — and sharing your knowledge and the fruit of your labor with others, you are making a deep, significant difference.

      The difference we make does not depend upon the number of people we affect directly. Each person with whom we come in contact learns something from us, and we learn something from them — good or bad. We then take what we learn and pass it on, somehow. When the seeds that we plant are good, then our harvest is a rich one, and it could be a very far away one. We don’t know. We just do our best, every day.

      I am so glad you wrote, and I hope we communicate more in the future. For now, and I hope for quite awhile in the future, this is where I am — thinking, writing, sharing what I learn, learning from the people who write to me. Our goats — Guinevere, Shai, and Sasha — send their greetings to yours. — Carolyn

  3. Short and sweet……….knowledge is power. The more people know that GMOs exist in the world, the more that will want them labeled. I choose to vote with my dollars, but you are right. It is extemely difficult when there is no label to tell me if the food contains GMOs. Why are we not permitted to decide for ourselves?

    1. Christina — short answer: we are not permitted to decide for ourselves because most of us would decide, “No.” Hence, time and effort are spent to “educate” us until we make the “right” decision.

      As you note, knowledge is power, and right now, one of the best things to do is disseminate that knowledge, so that more people will ask that very excellent question of yours: “Why not let us decide for ourselves?”

  4. Lois

    Our chickens and cows, Angus, Hamburger, and Sirloin, send greetings to your goats. 😉 We also garden with heirloom seed. Thank you for being another voice out there. I we all speak up sooner or later they will have to listen.

    1. Lois — love the names of those cows! The goats are excited to be making new friends.

      We, also, garden as much as we can with heirloom seed and encourage people to do what they can with what they have, and where they are. We speak with our voices, our words, and our actions, and whether or not “they” will listen, somebody will, and will change their lives for the better.

  5. I really love your honesty. I read labels, not only on food, but beauty and cleaning products. I find so many chemicals in both that I am sometimes horrified by what is in the grocery stores. GMO is the latest and you are so right, you can’t find it on the labels. I agree the more conversations about it the more people will notice what is going on.

    We have a blog hop and would love to have you share it at our party. It is live now. Here is the link
    Have a great week.
    Debi and Charly
    Adorned From Above

    1. Debi and Charly — thank you for your kind words, and for the invitation to join the blog hop. I would love to!

      Cleaning products — indeed. You know, you can do the vinegar/lemon juice route, but sometimes that just doesn’t work, and yet, the chemical concoctions are irritating on a regular basis. I used to clean a church — — and it was a battle with the people who wanted me to use expensive alternative products that did not work, and yet they wanted everything clean, very very clean. So glad that this is not a part of my life anymore!

      Speaking up, standing up, not letting people cower us into submission — it is our daily challenge. — Carolyn

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