Food in the news 9th – 13th March 09

March 13, 2009 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

Since this week’s veg box, once again, arrived just as I was finishing lunch, my own meal was a little short on vegetables. Still, spaghetti with chilli, garlic, chorizo and olive oil was perfectly adequate and I read a couple of interesting things on my break.

Firstly, there was this article about the Michelle Obama championing local food, soup kitchens and community gardens. Whether it translates into actual progress in these areas remains to be seen, but I did love this quote:

“It’s like: How do we keep the calories down but keep the flavors up?” said Mrs. Obama, who also praised a healthy broccoli soup prepared by White House chefs.

“That’s one of the things that we’re talking a lot about,” she said. “When you grow something yourself and it’s close and it’s local, oftentimes it tastes really good.

“And when you’re dealing with kids, for example, you want to get them to try that carrot. Well, if it tastes like a real carrot and it’s really sweet, they’re going to think that it’s a piece of candy. So my kids are more inclined to try different vegetables if they’re fresh and local and delicious.”

(My bold.)

Call me old-fashioned, but I love to hear people talking about food – normal, everyday food, that is, not just fancy-schmancy restaurant/telly chef food – and mentioning words like ‘taste’ and ‘sweet’ and ‘flavour’.

Unlike this story, which made me want to bang my head against a wall repeatedly. Taxing chocolate? Why just chocolate? Why not fizzy drinks, Chorleywood-process bread, crisps? I could go on… I don’t deny that, along with other incentives and public health measures, increasing tax on tobacco played a vital role in tackling smoking, nor that policies to change the fact that our cultural, economic and physical landscape does not encourage healthy eating, or indeed a healthy lifestyle, are desperately needed (and thus far woefully inadequate), but singling out one particular product seems rather… well, bizarre, is the best word I can come up with. And yet more punitive taxes for the general public which ignore the larger forces at work. Have our policy-makers no imagination? You can’t solve the obesity epidemic without hurting companies like Tate and Lyle (biggest receiver of farm subsidies in the UK), Nestlé, Coca Cola, Tesco et al. It just isn’t going to happen, because their business model relies on acquiring cheap raw materials, padding them with water, air, salt and nasty chemical additives and selling them at a huge mark-up, because we humans are hard-wired to crave sugar and fats and the fruit, bread, cheese etc on sale in supermarkets taste like paper. You choose: ready-prepared spaghetti bolognese that is so loaded with sugar and salt it, y’know, actually tastes of something and takes three minutes in the microwave, or simmering tough, tasteless mince for ages and chopping pale pink water-bomb tomatoes for the sauce, a meal that feels vaguely virtuous but doesn’t taste of much and having to wash up afterwards?

Dear god, someone help me write 300 words on why a MA in the Anthropology of Food will help me develop my career to persuade this nice trust fund to give me some money so I can STOP THIS MADNESS. (Or at least, y’know, help.)

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Entry filed under: food. Tags: .

Allotment update An ancient Jamie Oliver-inspired musing on food and urbanisation

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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."

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