If you are like me, your eating pattern is somewhat repetitive. Your grocery shopping involves focusing on the usual suspects while consciously or subconsciously dismissing most of the foods in the store due to cost, lack of knowledge about how to prepare them, ethical reasons, bad experiences last time you had them, or a variety of other reasons that can eliminate them from consideration for purchase.
Once upon a time, my shopping trips were so consistent from one to the next that my visits to Whole Foods were showcases of machine-like precision and efficiency. Within 10 minutes of turning off my car’s ignition in the parking lot, I was buckling my seat belt with a trunk full of groceries in the back.
While routine has its upsides, at some point along the line I realized that I was doing myself a disservice by always eating the same foods. From a health standpoint, I was missing out on nutrients that were deficient in my regimen. In terms of enjoyment, I often felt bored with what I was eating. Food can and should be fun, and as Joanne pointed out, we tend to absorb more nutrients if we enjoy what we are eating. The grocery store is full of foods that I might have really liked if only I was adventurous enough to give them a chance.
Once I realized that, I decided that each time I went to the store I would purchase one food that was either brand new to me or that I had not had in a very long time. I tried all sorts of things, some of which probably sound mundane to you, but they were departures from the norm for me: exotic melons, crab cakes, pies, tabouli, strange-looking vegetables I had no idea how to prepare, dairy-free “ice creams,” pumpkin pasta sauce, teff, vegan hot dogs, etc. Each week I came home with something new. No, I did not like everything I tried and many of them I never bought again, but there was still value in the experimentation. I expanded my palette, rediscovered foods I had forgotten, and realized that some foods I used to dislike now hit the spot.
Although I maintained this tradition for years and got a lot out of it, recently I found myself sliding back. Once again, I gravitated towards particular shelves while ignoring the vast majority of the inventory. As soon as I caught myself doing this, I reminded myself how much I enjoyed my years of experimentation. At that moment, I was standing in the produce section in front of a package of edible flowers. My hesitation reminded me, “I am not someone who eats flowers.” As I reached for the package and put it in my cart, I thought to myself, “I am now.”