About 40% of the items sold in American and British supermarkets would not really be classified as food. Food is any nutritious substance that humans need in order to maintain life and growth, and nutritious means that it enables a good standard of living to be achieved. Using this terminology to describe a lot of the food we eat today would be far from telling the truth.
100 years ago, everyone was a locavore which meant that everyone ate locally sourced food. Each household had a cook, usually a mum, who would regularly buy and prepare fresh food. There was no such thing as a snack, or frozen food until Clarence Birdseye came along in the 1920s. Margarine hadn’t yet been invented, and even when it did come into existence, many states in America had passed laws declaring that it be dyed pink so that everyone would know it was a fake. There were no restaurants chains and eating ethnic food was unheard of, unless you were ethnic! Fats, carbs, proteins – no one cared about them, they weren’t good or bad, they were food.
However, from the 1930s, infrastructure became more developed so trucks replaced railways and fresh food started to travel. Eventually, California produced more food than they could ship fresh so it became critical to market canned and frozen food. This gave rise to convenience which facilitated feminist housewives who wanted to cut down on housework. But it cut down on the variety of food we ate as well. Cattle were already being raised unnaturally. Rather than spending their days eating grass, which their stomachs were designed to do, they were force fed soy and corn. Cows had trouble digesting these grains, but it wasn’t a problem for producers. Moreover, corn, wheat and soy became really easy to trade, ship and process so governments started to provide subsidies for mono-cropping which is where rows and rows of a single crop are cultivated and harvested mechanically in a huge field. Home cooking was still around, but its quality had diminished considerably. Breads, desserts and soups didn’t need to be cooked from scratch anymore, it was easier to buy them from the nearest shop. By the 70s, a few people began to realise the value of local ingredients, so having gardens and eating organic food became an interest, but only an interest. Despite the fact that the number of vegetarians was increasing, slightly, the majority of the population was more interested by industrial food production. Sadly, it was at this time that the home cooked family dinner saw its end.
People’s eating habits were in a such a bad state that the high fat and spice content of foods like McNuggets made this stuff more appealing that the more unflavoured but nutritious food being served at home. Simultaneously, masses of women were entering the workforce, and cooking wasn’t important enough for men to share the burden. Leading the way was meat, junk food and cheese – all of which aren’t very complimentary to our health. Have you ever thought about the fact that a McDonalds burger never rots? Well, it’s because they’re full of chemicals! This can’t be good for our bodies; we don’t need meat or junk food for good health. We’re not born craving Skittles or a BigMac. We have to take matters into our own hands, not just by advocating cleaner diets for others, which is the hard part, but by improving our own food intake, which happens to be quite easy. It’s a simple formula: eat food, eat real food. Not only will we cut down on the calories by doing so, but we will reduce our carbon footprint. We can make food more important, not less, and save ourselves at the same time. We must choose this path.
Note: My previous blog post was about poverty/homelessness and how we could go about solving this problem, if indeed you see it as a problem. I recently remembered a Kendrick Lamar song called ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ from his album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ and I think that it gives a unique perspective on poverty – basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you enjoyed my poverty blog post, I think that you should listen to this song.
As usual, there was a podcast episode from Freakonomics that inspired this post, it’s linked here.
In addition, if you are interested in changing your diet or learning more about the importance of food, check out the Netflix series called ‘Cooked’, you can find it here.
The book behind the Netflix series mentioned above is also called ‘Cooked‘ – my dad has read it (and I will be reading it shortly too) and he highly recommends it!
The visual at the top of the page was from Marta Montenegro.