Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food for thought

Last week I did something tremendously exciting.  It began with a bus ride, and then a short walk, and I found myself at the help desk of the Waverley Library.  The very helpful lady set me up with the form, and once I had filled it in, I was issued my very own library card.  This may not sound tremendously exciting to you, but I was over the moon.  Thousands of books, available for my perusing pleasure, for free.  Seven days a week.  How much better does it get?  A trip to the shops was also on my agenda that afternoon, so I restrained myself to picking out just one book, and decided to go with something I have been meaning to read for a while.
He describes at length the evolution of eating habits, from different angles, and marvels at the fact that food is something in need of defense at all.  What it boils down to is simple.  Most of what is available in the supermarket isn't really technically food, just a food-like product comprised of chemicals/sugar/other questionable substances, and we eat a lot of it.  Pollan looks at the ballooning waistlines in America, but elsewhere in the world as well, and notes that the inexact science of nutrition has been leading eaters away from common sense and cultural diets and also the pleasure of eating.  Looking at packets of processed "foods" can be quite alarming, to the degree that reading the label of a packet of pumpkin soup the other day actually made me feel a bit nauseous.  There were about 10 unpronounceable ingredients listed, including something that sounded like corn syrup and another that sounded like coffee whitener, before the pumpkin came along.  When I make pumpkin soup, there are about 5 ingredients involved, the first one being, surprise!  Pumpkin.  There was nothing that came as a huge revelation to me in this book, but it made me firmer in my resolve to avoid things in packets with un-identifiable components.  When I do go to the shops these days, I notice I am buying very little.  Quinoa, brown rice, oats, tofu, beans, olive or sesame oil, nuts, dried fruit, and not much else.  At the farmers market however, it is a different story.  Luckily there are two markets that I can go to during the week, so accessing fresh, local fruits and vegetables is no challenge at all.  Another notable comment that he made is that the quality of the food we eat is a reflection of the quality of the soil.  The higher up you go in the food chain, the more factors are involved.  If you eat a steak (moo!) and the cow had been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and fed a diet of grains, and that grain was sprayed with pesticides and the soil was dumped full of chemicals, how much of that is being passed on the the person putting a bloody piece of flesh in their mouth?  If the soil is nurtured (hello compost!), you grow healthy plants without the need for chemicals.  If healthy plants are fed to people, or animals, they will be healthy too.  It isn't rocket science.  The whole obesity and nutrition issue is spinning out of control in many parts of the world, but the solution is so much simpler than any diet program or exercise regime.  Michael Pollan has it pegged.  Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants. 

Now off to the library for some more books, maybe I will live on the edge and take out two or three this week. 

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