Wednesday, June 20

Cruise Lessons

The Hubby and I have done a few cruises over the years. The first few times, we gained the requisite 10 pounds apiece – per cruise. The siren call of dawn-to-dawn all-you-can-eat is nearly impossible to refuse – especially to those of us who were raised with the World’s Biggest Lie.

And what lie is that, you ask? (Yes you do. Just play along.)

Clean your plate; children in Haiti are starving. (Actually, for those of us of a certain age, it was Chinese children, then Biafran children, but for Generation Y, starvation guilt has been upgraded to Haiti.)

Now, I’ve lived in China. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s in China. And at Kentucky Fried Chicken. And at an infinite number of greasy noodle stands. Trust me: Ain’t nobody in any accessible part of China who’s at risk of starving.

Doesn’t matter. I was raised to have a bit of a savior complex, so I’m personally responsible for all the starving children on the planet. And I can save them only by licking clean my dinner plate.

I had an epiphany on our most recent cruise – and that epiphany prevented any weight gain at all.

They load those cruise ships with X amount of food before each voyage. And at the end of the voyage, all the leftover food is going to the dump. It’s spoiled. Nobody gives day-old cooked broccoli to the homeless. They can’t hand out leftover roast beef to street urchins. Once the food’s been cooked, it’s not going to Haiti. It’s going into the giant septic tank in the sky — regardless of whether or not it first passes through my gullet. My eating that food doesn’t save the life of any person ever, any place, any time. What I don’t eat can sit on my plate, untouched, and make no difference at all to any living soul.

Moreover, it’s biodegradable. It won’t destroy the landfill if it’s thrown away (to the contrary: my pre-digesting it is a much bigger burden on the environment than simply composting it would be).

Here’s the deal: The grocery story is pretty much exactly like the cruise ship. They order food. I buy it and take it home. What I neglect to eat doesn’t end up in the stomach of a Haitian child. It goes into the compost bin, and gets recycled as fertilizer to make more food.

Throwing away already-cooked food is not an ethical issue; it’s a political one. The Haitians and the North Koreans aren’t starving because I forgot to clean my plate. Tons of food sits rotting all over this planet every day. They’re starving because political corruption in their own countries causes extreme poverty and disrupts distribution channels. That’s the problem that needs to be fixed by do-gooders such as yours truly and [your congressman's name here].

“Food” itself is a renewable resource, and eating it doesn’t “save” it. Once it’s already cooked, or chopped, or blended, or rotting, it’s far less “wasteful” to throw it away than it is to throw it down my overstuffed gutpipe and expel it as bodily waste. (If I still feel guilty, I should use that guilt as a trigger to purchase and prepare less food next meal.)

So go ahead and save the world, I tell myself; just don’t do it by eating — which, frankly, can only make children in Haiti feel worse.