Kiss, Marry or Kill: 08
The book every health-conscious shopper needs to read, the best six minutes on sexual harassment, how to thrift anything, and something worse than WebMD
This is my weekly series for subscribers only, where I’ll share things that caught my eye this week in a fun and flirty way (kiss), a sustainable way (marry), or a not-so-good way (kill). And yes, this trendy game is technically “f***, marry, or kill” but we run a family-friendly-ish show around here.
Kiss (things I like right now)
The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr. I’ve had this in my to-read pile for a long time (it was published in September 2020), and pulled it out after a less-than-satisfying fiction read left me craving something deeper. I’ll be honest—the first chapter (about the founder of Trader Joe’s and the history of their rise to fame) didn’t grab me, and I had a hard time settling into the author’s voice. But because each chapter is its own little story, I made the decision to skip to Chapter two and try to keep reading.
This chapter explored long-haul trucking and the way food gets to our supermarkets, and it was fascinating. My dad used to drive trucks on the weekends to earn extra money, but the short trips he did were nothing like what happens today to bring those Instagram-worthy avocado from California to the midwest. The story Lorr brings to light so masterfully (and horrifically) in this chapter is that this country would grind to a catastrophic halt without truckers, and that truckers’ description of their jobs as “modern day sharecropping” is not at all hyperbole.
This is the chapter where I settled into the author, who spent years researching this book from the inside, driving the trucking routes, working the seafood counter at Whole Foods, and walking the floor at Expo West (the same event I attend each year). He tells his subjects’ stories beautifully, with so much compassion and respect—which makes his unflinching exposure of the filthy underbelly of modern-day “grocery,” “health,” and “convenience” even more striking.
You’ll read about Expo West and a small CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brand trying to break in; the modern-day slave trade in Thailand that puts those fancy Whole Foods shrimp on your plate; a behind-the-scenes of the fish counter at said Whole Foods Market; and more. (And yes, I went back to the first chapter and found it delightful, even though I’m not a fan of TJs.)
The Secret Life of Groceries should be mandatory reading for the modern-day consumer; the Red Pill you take before you buy your next wild-caught salmon or non-GMO whatever. It wasn’t always fun to read, but I needed that look under the glossy hood of the aguachile quinoa citrus shrimp bowl I’ve been buying from Sprouts.