26 Jul

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

The politics of food.

We eat well in my house.  Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade breads, delicious artisanal  cheeses, organic chicken, sustainable fish, herbs from outside our back door. And cold clean water in the fridge.  We eat well, we are well.  But it’s expensive to eat this way.  I am priviledged to be able to afford the bounty that is on our table every day, three times a day.  Sadly, many people cannot eat what I eat, people in my town, people all over my province, people all over the world.  A two litre bottle of pop is cheaper than a two litre container of milk.

Not too long ago, in the early 1900’s. it was considered a sign of wealth if you could afford white flour and refined sugar.  A big belly indicated a “rich man.”  Later in the 1950’s thanks in part to technology developed during the Second World War, convenience products like instant coffee, Tang, Reddi-Whip and Cheez Whiz became status products for a family, the women of which were liberated from the drudgery of the kitchen.

Pierre Berton in the Centennial Food Guide, written in 1966, identifies four major food trends that occurred in Canada after World War one;

  1.   A trend toward informality, where formal sit down dinners have been replaced by buffet style dinners for twenty, and the “cook-out”
  2. A trend towards expediency, “Since world war two, dining has been dominated by the lineal descendants of the k-ration.”  He goes on to say, “We squirt fake whipped cream on our frozen strawberries and douse our instant pancakes with ersatz maple syrup.”
  3. A trend towards gimmickry, “People who wouldn’t consider a decent breakfast gobble vitamins by the handful in the belief that they constitute a square meal…the frozen food people have gimmicked up the dining table with dishes that are more like kids’ toys than meals.” (Pizza-pops anyone?)
  4. A trend towards the exotic, Berton sarcastically sees this as a positive thing declaring that “espresso coffee may have saved the nation, gastronomically speaking.”  Yet he rightly observes that “gourmet dinner is perhaps the most overworked cliché in the restaurateur’s lexicon.”  (Gourmet frozen microwave dinners?)

He goes on to conclude his essay on “The Big Change,”

“…It isn’t that Canadians aren’t eating better than they did in the old days; it isn’t that good food isn’t available to everyone in quantities and varieties hitherto unobtainable; it’s just that most people aren’t eating nearly as well or nearly as sensibly as they ought to.”  This was written forty five years ago.  I would argue that the situation in Canada while becoming better has also become worse.

Why?

Good clean real food (I call it happy food), food that actual humans have touched at some point is expensive at the front end, the retail front end, but in terms of flavour, satisfaction and health benefits (not being processed/full of preservatives, chemicals and artificial colour) the price I pay seems minimal for the benefits we receive.

The agri-food industry is devoted to selling the consumer calorie dense, highly processed, and nutritionally lacking easy to serve food.  It’s their business, and they depend on public apathy, ignorance and laziness to make large profits.  The front end price appears to be cheap/inexpensive; again two litres of pop are cheaper than two litres of milk.  But the long term cost in terms of health issues such as obesity and diabetes is high.

As a society we have forgotten how to cook.  This is a paradox;  as we have food tv, food celebrities, food as porn, we are obsessed with food, cookbooks, magazines, gadgets and trends, yet how many people actually know how to roast a chicken, bake a pie, make bread from scratch or even real oatmeal in the morning?  Recently as in last night, I saw a commercial on tv where a stressed out Mom, was so relieved to find all of her family’s’ favorite meals in the frozen food section of her local Wal-Mart, cut to the grocery cart full of frozen instant meals, cue to happy family standing behind happy smiling Mom.  “Wal-Mart, making your life easier,” was the tag.  Really?  As a society we have more leisure time than at any time in history.  Why are we so afraid of a little work in the kitchen?  Why is it so important that we have dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes?  Why do we eat standing up, on the run, in the car?  Why do we think that something that comes from a factory in a bag or a box, and is then heated in a microwave in its own convenient container deserves to be called dinner or even FOOD?

We have been lulled into a confederacy of ignorance.  We let others (food companies and large food retailers) decide what we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it.  Incidentally, we don’t need to eat strawberries in January that have been picked under ripe, by underpaid workers than trucked up North contributing to the environmental strain that don’t actually resemble in taste or appearance any strawberry that I buy in June during strawberry season where I live.

Ok, I’m getting off topic, but here’s the thing. A bag of real fresh carrots is cheaper than a bag of frozen carrots, 5lbs. of potatoes is actually less expensive than a bag of microwave mashed potatoes and a whole roasting chicken is better value than a box of chicken fingers, since when did chickens have fingers?  Everyone can eat well, but as a society we believe that convenience foods are a sign of status and are less expensive than food that has to be washed, cut and cooked.  It doesn’t have to be organic, but it should be local and in season.  This insistence has an added benefit of helping our local farmers.  If bumpers stickers urge us not to buy “foreign” cars why do we buy foreign food?

Don’t.  Buy local, get your hands dirty, peel a carrot, wash your lettuce, and make a loaf of bread.  Pay a bit more up front to save a lot down the road, and be the one who decides what you eat, when you eat it.  The agri-food corporations aren’t in business to be our friends; they’re in business to make money.

 

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