Sunday, July 08, 2007

real food

I had a chuckle at something my friend R. told me yesterday. A young man he knows who is keen to learn how to eat well and cook "real food", told him that he grew up on a farm that actually grew vegetables. But what did they eat? Meat and potatoes.

Not everyone is excited by food. For me, food is one of the most enjoyable sensory experiences there is. I admire good cooks. And I'm always ready to explore new taste sensations. The only exception to that would be the new taste sensations of processed foods.

My parents were nearly fanatical foodies. The best principle I learned at home was that the closer food was to it's natural state when consumed, the better. It doesn't take a genius chemist to make a wonderful meal of the tenderest, fresh string beans, for example. They're fine raw. They're also good just lightly steamed with perhaps a small squirt of olive oil and lemon juice...And most food is like that, best when utterly fresh from the garden/farm and simply prepared.

But it's becoming harder and harder to find fresh, natural, whole foods. Even as organic foods are catching on, the producers of foods are busy concocting heavily processed (they call it value-added) and packaged products for the consumers that they label "natural" "whole" "organic".

The frightening aspect for me is that the additives in processed foods are not only harmful but addictive. For some reason, our kids prefer the taste, no, crave the taste of chicken fingers, frozen pizza, and fries, to carrots pulled out of the ground, fresh peas in the pod, or cherry tomatoes off the vine.

The second thing that makes processed foods attractive to busy young families is that they have a longer shelf life. A bunch of fresh parsley will quickly go black and mushy in the fridge while a tube of parsley paste will seem to last forever.

As for ease of preparation, there's really no truth to that except that habits are hard to break.

I wish the food producers cared more about the actual nutritional quality of food, but their imperative is not to answer consumer demands but to create a consumer demand. Maybe it is high time we turn that paradigm on its head! What do you say??

A simple act is to find your local grocer's comment cards. Tell your grocer that you want organic produce, labels that identify genetically modified ingredients, and labels that clearly tell you where the product came from. If your grocer does have organic products, tell them you appreciate them. And if your grocer's organic produce sometimes has been on the shelf way too long and looks like its spoiling, tell them! If consumers do have a voice, it's at this level, where our dollars enter the marketplace.

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Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

I like this idea, Kati, but I don't know whether the comment cards speak as loudly as you can speak with your wallet. It's hard to ante up the extra for organic food sometimes, but I make myself do it even when times are tight... for example, I will NEVER buy nonorganic milk again.

10:18 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

If we let the grocery store's managers know that we did not buy the wilted organic lettuce, for example, I hope they will eventually pay better attention to the freshness of the organic produce and improve the quality we get for the price! Better yet is to buy at the farm gate!

1:02 p.m.  
Blogger bs said...

i'm glad to see you working your pulpit! consumers do drive markets when they think to. and i've always thought, ironically, fatty foods and sugars appeal to us because when we were wild humans, those nutrients were really important and rare! naturally the best thing to do when you found something fatty and sweet would be to consume mass quantities. now that they're abundant, our taste buds betray us even when there's a mickey d's on every block.

5:38 p.m.  

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