Those of us who live in major urban areas, upscale suburbs and university towns are fortunate to find not only specialty cheese shops, but modern supermarkets filled with large assortments of both domestic and imported specialty cheeses.
The geography of the country, though, is filled with communities that rely on a Dollar General store or something like it as the primary supermarket. Fortunately, stores of this ilk serve their communities well, and nobody need suffer from malnutrition due to lack of food.
Still, it is sad that people don’t get exposed to a full range of fantastic cheeses. Sure, those who know can order most things on the internet. But with delivery charges, it gets pricey. Besides, many wouldn’t know what cheeses to order or try.
I remember when my son was only eight or nine growing up in tony Boca Raton, FL, going up to the cheese counter and asking if they had something reminiscent of a Manchego. He had to know first, though, that he liked the Manchego.
There are many programs out there that are efforts to address food desserts, but almost all of these are focused on meeting the physical needs of people—the dietary requirements.
I am thinking of something else.
The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union used to buy tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and fill the seats with poor immigrant workers, many of whom didn’t speak English. The Union was not content to simply negotiate a wage for the workers; it felt an obligation to uplift the workers, to make them more educated, sophisticated and worldly.
In the King James version of the Bible, the lines from Deuteronomy 8: 2-3 speak to the spiritual needs of human beings:
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
Beyond scripture, it is an exposure to the riches of the world that can inspire one to live a greater life. For those of us fortunate enough to see a gathering of the greatest foods of the world each time we go to market, let us count our blessings.
And for producers and retailers, let us seek ways to not only meet consumer needs, but to enrich souls and build market demand by exposing consumers to a greater vision than they already know.