Having company over for drinks, and we grabbed a little bag of carrot sticks at the grocery for a healthy complement to the mixed nuts. Fortunately the company said no, no, don't go to that trouble, we'll drink our wine without benefit of snacks.
I say fortunately, because here's what the carrot sticks looked like when I opened the package the next morning. Yuk!
I usually don't buy vegetables that have been processed by somebody else. I've noticed that sometimes the stuff has dried out, like these carrots. It seems intuitive that a carrot will stay fresh and juicy longer if it's in one piece, that lettuce will start to wilt sooner if it's been torn into bite sizes, that broccoli will start to get limp when it's severed from its stalk. And do the vitamins start escaping when the jailhouse door is cut open?
I also am suspicious that the stuff has been sufficiently washed, especially since the bagged spinach scare a couple of years ago. We know that processed meat and eggs create more of a danger of food poisoning than individual eggs or a single steak, because the salmonella or e. coli from one bit of food can get mixed through a big batch and contaminate thousands of servings. By the same token, I wonder whether washing 10,000 carrots in the same vat can simply slosh germ-laden water across lots and lots of little baggies worth of ready to eat.
Yet even with the best of intentions, we sometimes succumb to the lure of the instant salad or snack. I remember buying lots of bagged salads one month when my dad was in the hospital and it was all I could do to get some kind of healthy dinner in front of my mother at the end of the day. I do buy prepared guacamole sometimes instead of making my own from avocados that might not be ripe enough, or be nasty inside when I cut them open. And nobody in my family has yet gotten sick from any of this stuff, so maybe I'm just being paranoid.
I kind of worry about the people who buy these processed vegetables all the time. Perhaps they're more likely to get a food-borne disease. But even if they don't, think of the quality and the money they're trading away for convenience. Will the kids grow up to think all carrots are dried up and white?
As you might have deduced by the presence of a knife in the photo above, I pulled out the most decrepit of the carrots and diced them up to go into the soup. The rest of the bag became my lunch, and it was just fine, if a little less juicy than home-washed carrots. But I will think twice before I buy one of those cute little baggies of cut vegetables again.