Too Much?


For years I commuted back and forth between the farm in Virginia and my law office in Tampa.  That was a crazy way to live.

During the week I stayed in a condo near the office.  After many years of married life, with the domestic duties being handled by my wife, suddenly I had to manage those kind of things on my own again.

I recall running out of shampoo and going to the nearby CVS to get some. How difficult could that be?

But when I found the shampoo I was astounded to see dozens, maybe even a hundred, options to choose from.  And not just different brands, but a bewildering variety of choices from every company offering the stuff.  I was paralyzed.  I just wanted some shampoo and being confronted with row after row of choices left me with no idea what to buy.  I had to call Cherie from the store for her advice.

I think it’s good to have choices, but do we really need a couple hundred varieties of shampoo?

All of which brings me to something I read in Michael Moss’ new book Salt Sugar Fat. On average there are 38,718 items available in a grocery store.  Of course there aren’t nearly that many types of whole food available.  Rather, the overwhelming majority of the choices are packaged processed foods, occupying the choice center aisles of the store.

I don’t know what the optimum number of food choices should be.  But it seems to me that 38,718 is a number that just doesn’t make sense.