Thursday, January 04, 2007

Do you do #2?

I just returned from a week long trip in Puerto Rico. It was not a touristy vacation—I lived in my friend's cousin's house in San Juan and then for the second part of the week with my friend's family in a quaint apartment overlooking the ocean in Luquillo. I can talk about the welcoming people, the historic sites I saw, the beauty of the land and clear waters of Puerto Rico—but my version won't be any more scintillating than Frommers, so I'll spare you 'my-virgin-impression-story,' and instead write what I believe you'll really appreciate.

They don't eat fruits and vegetables. For breakfast, we eat sandwiches: Two pale pink pieces of salty ham lay flat atop a white, perfectly square, shiny piece of cheese. Lettuce slices line the refined bread like shredded paper confetti, able to stick to the dough via a thick paste of mayonnaise. The remainder of the sandwich includes a few sliced Goya black olives, speckled amongst a couple of skinny soft tomato pieces. My friend's cousin opens the refrigerator and I get a glimpse of a carton of eggs. I wonder if there are actually hens in Puerto Rico. Like a criminal eyeing her prey, I wait until the family isn't looking and I peek at the label on top of the carton. Gainesville, Georgia, 30503. Hens in Puerto Rico, Bah! What was I thinking… I scan the refrigerator door and my eyes discern a familiar logo. There he is in all his glory, with the friendly smile and black confederate cap. Hola, Señor Quaker-man. "Avena," reads the box, which means oatmeal. That is the only grain I see, processed nonetheless, and I want him so badly that I can feel the saliva ducts begin to water in my mouth. But alas, I know it to be impossible. Señor Quaker-man and I wouldn't be meeting each other's acquaintance during this trip.

It's almost comical thinking about this past week in Puerto Rico, as 'lackhealthster' Joe. Because I was on vacation with my friend's family, I was on their time, at all times. I did not exercise. I ate close to no vegetables. The extent of my veggie-eating entailed strands of overcooked peppers drenched in too much butter, which lay over a bed of white or yellow rice. Granted, I had a couple of home-cooked meals by TiTi Myrna, a chicken, rice and bean delicacy; but still, the cruciferous crew was not in attendance. I ate fried food—everyday. Fried plantains, fried empanadas, fried fish... I drank every night. I drank beer, hard alcohol and sugary frozen drinks. I drank often on an empty stomach. I drank because people tend to have a "mid afternoon drink" versus actual food, and though I could have declined, opted to "fit in."

I drank no water. When I was offered a cup of water, it was as though I'd seen a small pond in the desert. I must have had at most, two cups of water per day. That's probably not so good considering that my skin was baking in the sun, exposing its dryness to more cancer-causing UV rays! I went to bed every night at 3 AM on a bumpy mattress and pillow that raised my head at an obtuse angle from my shoulders. I slept for a total of five hours per night. I ate pork loin, chorizo (sausage), egg yolks in butter, refined white breads, trans-fatty crackers, non-homemade pastries, nothing whole grain. I let more than five or six hours pass in between meals and I ate the bulk of my calories at night. I ate, slept, drank and functioned according to those around me. My independence was stripped away for one week and already I was able to feel the extreme difference that my healthy machine of a body went though. People really live like this. People live their whole lives eating starches, meats, processed foods, zero vegetables and fruits, all while sitting on their asses and drinking beer.

It dawned on me that the commercialization of Puerto Rico is to blame, and NOT the people's lack of desire to eat well. The food is cheap at Wal-greens. Burger King tastes good and is very local: there is one on almost every block in San Juan. I wondered if anyone else's body craved fiber as much as mine. My protruded bloated belly scoffed at me: what da HELL are u doing right now to me, Marissa?? Somebody has taken over your mind and I don't like it, not one bit!! The subject of this post is the question I constantly wanted to ask all of the people I met on this vacation.

I now REALLY understand why people have all of these horrible health problems. When breakfast, lunch and dinner consists of packaged-up foods and when the only "natural" foods happen to be meat from an animal or beans from a can, Houston, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

Although Puerto Rico is a U.S. dependent territory, I still couldn't believe how Americanized it really was. I know that my seven days in Puerto Rico is only just the beginning of my commericialized cognizance. In our era, choosing foods from our mega-food industry is the mainstream way to eat.

I am back in NYC, and have since had a day of vegetables and fruits billowing out of my ears. I'll stick to that for now...

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