Archive for May 12, 2008

A pretentious musing on carrots and what is wrong with society

A few weeks ago, on the way home from attending an event for work (in which I had basically had to facilitate the process of a large multi-national sacking people and was therefore seeking solace in food) I was munching on an extremely disappointing packet of M&S crisps, which do not taste half as good since they removed all the saturated fats and slashed the salt content, and gazing up at an enormous advert at Feltham station for some chips which said ‘Eat your greens’ in big letters and tried to convince me that chips were as healthy as some stir-fried spring greens and carrots or a salad, and I was struck by a thought.

Why are these people trying to convince us that crisps and chips are healthy?

Our media (and, partly by consequence, a lot of us) have an utterly schizophrenic attitude to food. Adverts all through December tell us to indulge and treat ourselves, have one more glass of wine, one more fatty hors d’oeuvre, one more chocolatey pudding because, after all, it’s Christmas – and the second we hit New Year it’s all diet, diet, diet; exercise, exercise, exercise; avoid, deny, refuse. Or: love yourself; hate yourself. Or: mmm, treat yourself, you’re worth it; you’re fat and ugly and unworthy, you need to change yourself.

Now, the pretentious, francophile, overeducated part of me is tempted to say something along the lines of: it’s the old idea of fast days and feast days that has underpinned our culture for generations (spending Ramadan in Morocco was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life), this balance between excess and restraint that in essence is healthy, but which, since consumerism has superceded consumption and networking superceded community, has got a bit out of kilter in the Anglophone world.

However, this is just a way of rationalising the fact that it’s MADNESS. Sheer madness. And (to bang on about tomatoes again) it’s because our healthy food does not taste of anything. I’m sure that the lack of pesticides and fertilisers and general absence of petroleum derivatives in organic food is excellent for our health, but personally, the way that eating organic or locally-produced, sustainable food has most improved my diet is because the apples from the farmer’s market taste of apples, so I eat them instead of biscuits; because the carrots and cucumbers in the veg box taste so good I eat them instead of crisps. In fact, I never even used to like: raw carrots, swede, cauliflower, beetroot, cabbage, cucumber and probably many other things until I started shopping and eating real food.

In my first couple of years at uni, I would buy apples or salad at T*sco and feel obliged to eat them, suffer my way through the underwhelming taste and texture, get a virtuous glow and feel like I’d ‘earned’ a chocolate biscuit or something. I made a peculiar mental division between food that is good for me and tastes horrid and food that is bad for me and tastes good.

I’ve since read more about food, politics and nutrition than is good for someone whose primary occupation does not require any of this knowledge and whose free time would be better spent actually getting outside and growing the stuff or at the very least washing up after eating the stuff, and I’m now pretty damn convinced that taste and nutrition are inextricably linked and that if it doesn’t taste good, it’s probably not doing you any good either.

Which makes me think that the solution to the problem people eat unhealthy food which tastes good and won’t eat vegetables is not make crisps more healthy (and carrots less healthy) but to make carrots healthy and make them tasty and then people might eat carrots instead of crisps that now taste of nothing because they have no salt in.

Of course, there is less money in encouraging people to grow and cook their own or shop in little local shops than there is in selling them highly packaged rubbish at the supermarket and a car to get there and then a gym membership to burn of the guilty calories and make up for them driving everywhere instead of walking.

And we’d have to fight the set of cultural ideas that mean that blogging (appeals to my vanity, uses shiny gadget) is more appealing than doing step three of the sourdough (healthy, creative) or preparing the ideas for the eco-day I want FOE to run (community).

But, hey, it’s a nice idea.


May 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm 5 comments

The best I can with what I’ve got…

Aka gratuitous garden photos.

Here are a few snaps of how the container garden is progressing.

May 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm 2 comments

Most recent ramblings

May 2008
« Apr   Jun »
The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."