This is one of the aspects of living in Italy I’ve been looking forward to. There is such an onslaught of brightly packaged processed food at kids-eye level, (ok, and grown-up eye level) in American supermarkets, that it’s difficult to avoid loading your cart with boxes of convenience food. The array of breakfast cereal is astounding, and hard to resist. Breakfast cereal, to follow this example, is also very expensive, considering the ingredients, and is loaded with sugar and sodium—even the “healthy” varieties.
I was thinking about these things as I walked through the aisles of the GS—the big supermarket near Jack’s school here in Rome. There are a lot of crackers and bread products that are far from “fresh,” but in general, there is a dearth of processed foods in an Italian supermarket, compared to those in the U.S. You certainly won’t find any large jars of pre-made tomato sauce (loaded with high fructose corn syrup and sodium). And breakfast cereal? Instead of a gazillion choices, there were just a few. And if you want to spend 7 Euros, you can get a small bag of honey-coated puffed farro. Farro!? That would only go over in a natural food store of some sort, in the U.S. Also, note the price (don’t forget the exchange rate). My conclusion is that Romans don’t eat much cereal for breakfast.
I was also thinking about these observations when I read this article in today’s Times, about a new green checkmark label that is supposed to lead consumers to healthier food choices. Froot Loops apparently received the checkmark. The idea that consumers are so stupid as to need a green checkmark to tell the difference between a Froot Loop and an apple in the first place, and that they are too stupid to know that Froot Loops actually aren’t a healthy choice, is astonishing, and really depressing.
So, what did we have for breakfast here in Rome? Whole-grain toast with honey (or, ok, I admit, a bit of Nutella), coffee, and milk. Good food.