Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Joy of Food

It is the rare book that has a profound effect on me. I wonder how many books I’ve read in my life, I suppose I could average at 2/3 books per week, there have been sometimes more, sometimes less. Perhaps I’ve read 7,500 in my life to date. Maybe 10% were memorable, most are now forgotten best sellers and some are re-read classics - for instance I never tire of Jane Austen.

In the last few weeks I’ve had far too many books on the go, five at last count but two, by the same author, are still with me.

The first was the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. This opened up my eyes to the way we have let Agri-business baffle and confound us with food. It has removed our choices, often lied to us and taken away the simple joy of eating. All with the complicity of government who don’t protect its citizens as it should with correct labelling and proper oversight. A compelling read and I will never forget the chapter on mushrooms.

The second was also by Michael Pollan and called “In Defense of Food” where he encourages us to step back and refuse all the packaged food on offer today and get back to simple meals, the simple preparation of same and the old fashioned protocols of table society. Shared meals, mainly plants, and conversation.

If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise this food, don’t buy it, he advises. It is mainly corn and derivatives anyway and the long term effects are still unknown.

I was struck the other day by a photo of a woman stretching her meagre food dollars at Walmart, she could only afford to shop on her paydays. There was not one visible vegetable or fruit in her cart, it was stacked to the top with boxes and packages. This is how much we are all removed from real food. A captive audience for these behemoth frankenfood industries to tell us what to eat as they keep adding and subtracting suspicious additives to packages (now with Omega 3!) to keep grabbing our attention, (think of the years of trans-fats being pumped into foods with the nod from government).And of course the huge diabetes and heart medical industry is completely inter-reliant with said agri-business.

As Michael Pollan advises, just shop the outside wall of the supermarket, never venture into the middle, it is a dangerous place with killers lurking everywhere. One can’t go too far wrong on the outside wall and it sure speeds up the shopping process!


  1. www, I think it's quite possible to go to supermarkets and pick out the real food rather than the processed, concocted mush they try to flog to us. Fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta, pulses, there's plenty of nourishing stuff if you resist all the pretty packages. Though you can probably get even better food from your local grocer or greengrocer or farmers' market of course. I don't understand the people at the checkouts with their trolleys full of overpriced, unhealthy gunk.

    But the ones I really feel sorry for are not the gormless customers but the underpaid, overworked, exploited checkout staff.

  2. I do all the cooking in our house (my wife works long hours) and bake all our own bread with a bread machine - wonderful device! Wholemeal, of course. Twice a week we have home-made carrot soup with organic carrots (made in the pressure cooker) and lots of bread. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, and green vegetables make up the rest of our main diet. Every Saturday we have the luxury of fish and chips (real potato slices, coated with organic olive oil and baked in the oven) followed by homemade apple tart.
    Hopefully, we're reasonably healthy, and it's very, very cheap eating.

  3. 2008 might be known as the year of global food enlightenment eh? Our globe is making itself known through our food chain and we all will have to wake up or starve.

    Thus my planting of my onion/garlic patch yesterday :)

    Here is another a good read on the issue too (also published yesterday):
    "Modern Supermarkets: Palaces of Poisons"

    I especially like the advice given by the 93 year old exercise guru "If man made it, don't eat it"!


  4. "....shared meals, mainly plants, and conversation.

    If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise this food, don’t buy it"

    That's as good advice as I've ever seen WWW! Not sure my great grandma would have recognised yoghurt, but with that exception I think we stay within those guidelines - oh - ice cream might be outside them too, because fridges weren't invented. It depends how old one is and how long ago one's great-grandmother lived!

    My great-grandmother was the cook at a big farm where she was in charge of feeding the farm-workers daily. She taught my grandmother well - she was the best cook with the least amount of conveniences to help her that I've ever known. Simple has to be best, every time. None of that effete "nouveau cuisine"!

  5. Nick:
    And I just love the farmer's markets too, where you can see/smell/touch the food and talk to the growers. Sommthing so intimate about knowing the grower!
    I would be showing up at your doorstep on a regular basis if you lived nearer!
    I will read this once finished with comments. Thanks.
    Like everything else, caveat emptor and never more than in the case of food!


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