Wandering through a Beijing supermarket a few days ago, I realized how much I rely on packaged, labelled food to tell me what something is and how to prepare it. And I'm not sure this is a good thing.

Fresh fish, meats, noodles, breads, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits arranged in attractive displays, their limited signage in Chinese characters. Food at its most elemental -- do you want to eat this, or not? No names, no marketing images, no smiling Mikey's who "like it." Just poultry or peppers as a commodity, no labeling to tell you this is the best one or the one with anti-oxidants or the low-fat one.

My grandmothers had to slaughter, pluck and prepare chickens for Sunday dinner and the closest I've gotten to that is having to pull the little bag of organs out of a Butterball turkey at Thanksgiving. I have no idea how to get bones out of a fish. I never remember how much water to use in rice or how long to cook it. I am convinced brown eggs will taste funny, not that I've ever tried one. No wonder I'm completely lost in a market that doesn't stock Rice-a-Roni and Lean Cuisine frozen meals.

Maybe I'll expand my grocery shopping list beyond chicken breast filets, salad in a bag and frozen green beans this week, just as an experiment. It's undoubtedly healthier to prepare fresh food, and probably more satisfying as well.