Broccoli is good for one, so I am told. So like medicine I take it sometimes cos it's good for one.
That's probably why the elderly pensioner I met at the vegetable counter in our local supermarket was looking to buy some, but grimacing at the price. She had a broccoli head in her hand, and was wringing away at the long thick stalk, trying to break an inch or two off, her face still a grimace of frustration. I would have offered to help, because I thought myself the stalks were too long, and the purplish green floret head too small. Half the weight was in the part you throw away. What's more, I thought, if broccoli is shipped from Spain should it not be mainly the edible part that's transported and thus responsible for the carbon footprint? In any case, as my senior friend was discovering, the stalk was bendy and lacking in that crispness that is a sign of fresh harvesting - and would have made it easier to break!
Made me think about globalisation and growing older. A conversation with another senior citizen (I like that term, especially if it preserves a non-patronising respect for age, and acknowledges affectionately the value of cumulative wisdom and years of human experience) - this other senior citizen was pointing out that her favourite butter spread, Lurpak, has rocketed in price, (30%) as has milk and bread because, as she informed me, there is a global grain shortage. Indeed there is - and for many older people, and others on fixed or low incomes, such price fluctuations compel hard choices. In a society where disposable income is high amongst the haves, maybe globalisation is a blessing all but unmixed.
But disposable income, that income buffer-zone that absorbs price variations with minimal disruption to quality of life, is all but extinct amongst the have-nots. So limited and fixed income can make a significant difference to quality of life, erode morale and a sense of independence and personal hopefulness, and undermine the confidence that ordinary things are still affordable. I've little patience for those retail emotional health bulletins that agonise over consumer confidence. They are not ususally referring to the pensioner who can't now afford Lurpak, or who wants to break the neck of the nearest broccoli head.
So I have great sympathy with my elderly shopping colleague, and her covert assault on a bendy broccoli stem with a too heavy carbon footprint. Would it have been an act of prophetic protest and solidarity with the poor to snap off the unwanted chunk of broccoli stalk for her? Or should I have waited at the check-out and paid for an extra one and given it to her, making sure the manager knew what was going on and why?
I did neither, and I regret that.