We all knew it might happen eventually… Team Erickson has become reluctant vegetarians. Food safety has always been a bit of an issue here for us, but lately it has gotten too difficult to ignore. We moved here concerned about the effects of pollution on ourselves and the kids, but that was all hypothetical. I really thought our main food issue would be strange, new, exotic food. Would the kids like it? Would they even taste it? Would I ever get over my street food anxieties? (The answer to that last question is a predictable “no.”) I had not thought about the availability of safe, reasonably healthy, affordable food on a daily basis. There is always some sort of food scare here and we laughed it off initially. People are injecting sugar water into the strawberries? Sure they are. There is some problem with the green bean supply? Yawn. Scammers are making fake eggs using chemicals instead of chickens? Highly implausible. Still, those stories began to weigh on me. I have talked before about my shopping difficulties. That hasn’t changed much. I am still pounding the pavement in search of dinner ingredients. Only now I have found that there are certain items that we were happily eating before that I can no longer convince myself to buy. Like meat.
Team Erickson is a family of meat eaters. Henry’s love of pork is well documented. Mark considers it the “trifecta” when he manages to have bacon at all three meals. Lucas enjoys nothing more than a good hamburger. Ava loves meat a little less, but still counts herself among the carnivores. Me, I can take it or leave it. Some things I love, but I can go without meat, especially here in Shanghai where the things I buy don’t compare in quality to the things I used to purchase in the United States.
So did I force everyone else to give up their beloved pork chops and chicken? Hardly. Did you hear about the 16,000 (!) pigs floating in the river here? The 1,000 ducks? That river eventually becomes the drinking water, by the way. Did you hear about all the chickens they killed once our new round of bird flu surfaced? We can’t do much about the polluted air– holding our breath forever isn’t a realistic option– but we can control what we eat and after a few of those stories we weren’t all that excited about meat.
Are we eating organic vegetables? Who knows? For all we know we are eating veggies grown entirely in toxic soil irrigated with the dirty water from some city roof. Actually, I am pretty sure we are eating at least a few vegetables grown in this less than ideal manner. We try not to drink the porky water with its high level of heavy metals and I don’t cook with it. But the water that comes into my house begins in that river full of carcasses and we all use it to shower. Is our bottled water any better? I have to trust that it comes from where it is supposed to– a big assumption for China– and that drinking it won’t eventually have some detrimental effect. Do I sound crazy? I am sure I do, but let me assure you I am far from the craziest person here when it comes to this issue. You should all be thanking me that I haven’t started forwarding all the alarming emails I get from the school and my neighbors concerning some new health scare. Don’t open your windows! It lets in horrible polluted air! Open your windows! Otherwise the off gassing from your carpets and paint will kill you all! Going home for the summer is not enough time to detox! We are all doomed!
The kids and I like to joke that we are becoming toxic superheroes. After breathing polluted air, bathing in toxic water, and eating vegetables grown in questionable soil we can now resist any sort of environmental hazard. After the next nuclear disaster, they can call Team Erickson to handle the clean up. We won’t need protective suits. We will breathe deeply and appreciate the relative freshness of the air. I should really get to work on our costumes!