I could tell that Camp was in a tizzy about something. He was fidgeting with his new smart phone that apparently didn’t do what he wanted it to. Campbell or Camp as the denizens of the Coast know him, has finally broken down and signed up for a basic phone plan. “I told them I would only sign up if it’s under $ 50, which means my brilliant phone has no roaming ability, is dependent on wi-fi and has only 100 free min per month. Entering wi-fi passwords I usually delegate to somebody at least half my age. Vicky did it for me here at the pub.” Camp was busily checking something very important since he was mumbling curses to himself. It could only be three things. Affairs of the heart, the stomach or politics. Either Muriel, our Quebecois alderwomen had stood him up or he ate something that didn’t agree with him or Trump scored another own goal.
“Imagine, Trump wants to team up with the Russians on cyber security. Isn’t that like sticking your hand through the bars of the lion’s cage with a steak or jumping head first into an empty swimming pool?”
“I think he has now retracted that brilliant idea,” I said, shaking my head. “Is that what you’re doing with your new smart phone, checking the news?”
“No, I’m trying to change the ring tone to something soothing, like Tibetean cymbals.”
“Isn’t that rather loud and grating?” I said.
“Only to the uninitiated.” Camp retorted.
“Anyway, have you seen the size of the strawberries at the store?” I asked, not really expecting a answer. “There the size of a small potato. It’s not natural. Next, they’ll breed oranges the size of melons and raspberries like tea cosies or tuques or hundred pound cabbages Where is the gene manipulating and designer food going to stop? “
“Whenever people are not buying it,” Camp said, “like the green Ketchup. Remember Findhorn, the town on the Scottish coast where they grew gigantic vegetables even forty years ago.”
“Clare always buys from the organic section but we’ve had disagreements about that. If the whole world would only eats organic crops, we would be running out of arable land. Half the work, half the yield but twice the land. Isn’t that the basic formula? But since we’re living in the privileged corner of the world we have the choice to buy organic. It’s because we can. The only item I usually look for is meat without antibiotics. That I think is a good idea.”
“It’s all a marketing ploy,” Camp said. “Just last week I came across an article citing organic wine growers in Mendocino County whose organic crops were actually cheaper to produce than conventional. The savings in pesticides and herbicides and the infrastructure to deliver (spray) them outweighed the loss in quantity. But instead of passing the savings on to the consumer, they upped the price because people are willing to pay more for the organic label.”
“That’s just it,” I said. “The marketing is as much manipulated as the genes in our food. Did you know that the corn the Mayan’s ate was about the size of a pickle, nothing like today’s cream and peaches ears of corn. It’s not even the same plant anymore.”
“And what about those dozens of Germans who died last year after eating organic bean sprouts which harboured toxic e-coli bacteria passed on via animal manure added to the crop. This use of manure vs. synthetic fertilisers is celebrated by organic proponents. Natural doesn’t automatically equal more safe, definitely not in this case,” Camp said.
“The worst are the name brands. Companies with names like ‘Organic Fruit’ or ‘Bio-Foods’ don’t necessarily sell what their name suggests. It’s just a name, much like ‘Lite Beer’ or ‘Natural’.
“How about our locally brewed beverage ?” Camp asked.
“They grow their own hops and have a ‘farm-to-barrel’ approach. Not sure if it’s all organic ingredients but it definitely makes more sense to drink locally rather then the imports from Holland or Ireland. I for one support locally produced food and drink, not because it’s better or cheaper, it just makes more sense to support local growers. “
“By the way how are you and Muriel getting along lately ?” I changed the subject, hoping for some enticing news.
“Muriel has a daughter in Montreal,” Camp said and took a healthy swallow of his drink.
“Oh, that’s eh… ok, isn’t it. From a previous marriage ?”
“She never said anything about that, just that her daughter studies at McGill and is coming to visit for the summer. “
“At least she is sharing personal info with you Camp, that is a good sign,”
I said with a mischievous grin.
“A good sign for what ? Oh, I see what you’re getting at. You are completely out of the ball park. We’re merely colleagues.”
“And sure enough, speaking of the devil, here she is,” I said.
Muriel was making straight for our table and Camp hastily pulled up an extra chair for her. She gave Camp a friendly peck on the cheek which made him turn red like one of those super strawberries and then she politely extended her hand, “I’m Muriel Bisset,” she said in that adorable French accent, “Campbell’s friend.”
“I know,” I blurted out, “I’ve heard a lot about you. Can I order you a beer?”
“Merci, but I prefer a glass of white wine.”
Camp ordered a glass of Bonterra Chardonnay for his ‘colleague’ from Vicky, the waitress, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“It’s organic,” he said, with a wink in my direction.
“Santé !” Muriel toasted us, raising her glass.
Just at that moment Camp’s phone sounded with the first bars of AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’. He scrambled to shut it down but couldn’t find the right button. Muriel gallantly took the phone from him and silenced the heavy rock intro.
“Sorry, I guess I chose the wrong bells,” Camp lamely stuttered.
Muriel looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Tibetan bells,” I said lamely, quickly lifting the beer to my lips to avoid any further explanation.