Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Soul of A Carrot

When did we stop eating 'properly'. When did we begin to pile food in meaty towers on huge white plates or substitute a simple bowl of porridge for a breakfast bar dipped in fake yoghurt? When did we begin to believe the manufacturers who told us taking an omega-3 supplement was as good as eating a slice of grilled fish or that beta-carotene in a capsule will cure cancer when all we had to do was eat a carrot?

My mother used to take a banana to work every day "There's a meal in every banana . . " was her mantra. We were packed healthy lunches and forbidden 'snack foods' except at perhaps the odd birthday party and the sharing of a family block of Cadbury's dairy milk on Sunday nights.

On the 7:30 Report tonight I watched a gentle American called Michael Pollan who has just written a book called "In Defense of Food" about food - good food, how to find it, how to eat it and pretty much exposing the marketing Leviathan that tells us "Up and Go" is breakfast, a muesli bar is healthy and that Cocoa Pops are good for our hearts because they contain no fat. We're obsessed with anti-oxidants yet they are present in all vegetables and fruits.

Pollan made the point that the way to make money in the food industry is to take something simple and process the poo out of it. We've forgotten the 'soul of a carrot'. We take out the beta carotene because it was considered the 'cancer preventing' element within a carrot. Turn it into a capsule and sell it in the 'Nutrition' aisle of the supermarket and we'll all live forever. Then it's religiously devoured and the realisation that in combination with alcohol it actually causes cancer. Why, because scientists are not 'sure' that it's beta-carotene in isolation that has the health benefits. Perhaps its beta-carotene working in league with chlorophyll? Perhaps its that element working symbiotically with a number of other chemicals and nutrients that makes the carrot a healthy food. Why not just eat a carrot?

Clearly there's something wrong with the way we're eating. The western diet is literally killing us with frightening levels of obesity, increasing diabetes and heart disease and then there's the environmental problem of over-consuming, grain-eating beef, pork, chicken . . . That grain could be used to feed people! I'm not advocating vegetarianism although I've long held a wish to be one, I am a sucker for a rare fillet steak - with pepper sauce - or red wine jus . . .sorry . . had an omelette for dinner and it didn't quite satisfy. Being a vegetarian is your call if you want to go that way but a healthy diet does not include eating 150kilos of meat a year! And that slab of muscle pushes plants out of our diet and to our detriment.

We are also confused by the proliferation of health claims, the Heart Foundation tick, the wholegrain invasion, the low fat campaign . . how can all this coincide with an obesity epidemic? In our obsession with low fat food, we give a free pass to carbs and sugars and for that reason, we need be careful of food industry commissioned research.

Pollan also gives us a few simpler rules: Use smaller plates, (anyone who's ever been to Weight Watchers knows that one!) make meat a flavouring not the staple of a meal. Use fresh, lightly cooked vegetables, eat wholegrain bread, avoid the pre-packaged convenience foods. Take 'time' to eat - a difficult concept for Aussies who are often seen dashing along busy city streets during the work day with food in hand . . I've never met a country that delights so in eating on the run.

If your Grandma can't recognise it . . you probably shouldn't eat it. Don't eat food that won't ever rot, eat slowly and give your stomach time to alert your brain. My Gran used to administer a teaspoon of cod liver oil a day and a teaspoon of molasses to make it palatable - she died peacefully at 87. Personally, I would have rather had a nice medium Atlantic salmon cutlet but . . that's just me.

I'm overweight and yes, I eat way too much meat and loves me chardy, I can't stand the gym and I have a largely sedentary job . . .excuses . .oh yeah . . but my fridge is full largely of perishables. There's no margarine or cheese in a tube. My freezer contains ice and peas and the odd cold pack for DrummerBoy's weary bones. I know not to boil veg until it turns to moosh or looks an unhealthy sage green. In a country where most fruit and veg from Pineapples to Avocados are available all year round, there's really no excuse to indulging in pre-packaged, over processed food and a window-sill full of supplements! Bottom line, as we've increased quantity in the food growing nations, we've reduced quality.

Clearly, cheese in a tube is weird . . fruit in a 'Roll up' isn't fruit . . .breakfast in a long life tetra pack isn't breakfast and Fruit Loops well . . enough said. Eat food, not too much and mostly plants! And as the Japanese would say "eat until you're four fifths full!"

Now . . all I have to do is take my own advice and whizz past KFC and MacDonalds when I go to feed the horses tomorrow lunchtime . . I wonder what rolled barley in molasses tastes like? Meets with Laurie's seal of approval! Then again . . .I think I'll just have a banana!


Grannymar said...

Years ago we were told that Milk was a perfect food - the reason babies lived on it alone. Next was a Banana. Nowadays with all the processes milk goes through I imagine a banana is in top place. The perfect fast food with packaging that goes back to nature!

Kath Lockett said...

I was watching Pollan tonight as well and remember going to a 'complementary medicine' conference several years ago (in my previous guise as Manager of the Medical unit in WorkCover SA) and hearing a guy speak (it might even have been Pollan come to think of it), who urged all there - even though half of them were peddlers of the vitamin supplements - to chuck them all away and make sure we eat at least one carrot per day and spent at least 20 minutes out in the sunshine.

Our fridge sounds like yours but I too have love handles I can tie in a double knot behind my back due to my intense and long-term relationship with CHOCOLATE that I'm not prepared to give up.

We tend to go vego for meals at least 50% of the time (which means a rare steak - in both sense of the word, is much more appreciated)and don't have any 'instant' anything in our fridge.

I knew it was all impacting on Sapphire when she was four and I hugged her, saying "I love you because you're full of twinkles and sparkles," and she immediately shot back with, "And I love you because you're full of vitamins and minerals." !!

Thriftcriminal said...

Spot on. You just can't beat a carrot you pull out of your own garden, it has a peppery taste and beautiful crunch. I like to grow fruit too (as you know), and plan on trying out lot's of different veg to see what works best in my back garden (spuds doing well, jury still out on the butternut squash, plan to try lovely cougettes next year). Although brassicas are hard to grow in my expeience, and I don't much like em anyway. Meat meat meat all the time is not necessary and is due to fucking supermarkets, and there is a load of waste, try a heart instead of a steak next time you stew, it's unusual, but nice.

Quickroute said...

I went thru a health fad after reading a nutrition book en years ago and gave up red meat, soda, sugar, white bread and so much more but gradually fell back to my old ways. I think there is a lot wrong with how bad food is marketed especially to kids and its very difficult to change in later life

Nick said...

As you know, I'm a veggie and my diet staples are brown bread, peanut butter, crunchy cereal, fruit and veg, fruit juice and whatever J or I cook in the evening. Very rarely do we eat any processed food - the occasional quiche or cheese and onion pie. Oh and biscuits!

Actually I think the healthiest diet is entirely raw food but that's a big step we haven't been able to take yet.

Jack said...

You Humans drink all kinds of nectar but I lick it straight from the flower! Anonybird says bananas are HAPPY HAPPY FOOD *bobbing up and down* Bananas give me the squirts. BWARK!

GayƩ said...

Great post Bainz but you know what, the photo of the carrot made me laugh out loud and then when it subsided into giggles it went on for a while. Nice one chicka!

steph said...

Even our animals (pets) are being fed gourmet meals these days.

I reckon wild animals are the only ones who have their diet right. Horses do very well on a raw diet so why can't we? My carrot supply is always 'missing' when I go to make up a salad.

Your carrot pic is very funny, Baino. Fancy a nibble?

Baino said...

Gm: All I know is that milk tastes different in the bottle to the way it does in the vat!

Kath:Chocolate is a food group so don't feel guilty. I used to ply Clare with vitamins because she tends to be a bit allergic and run down on occasion but when she's eating well she thrives. Proof enough to me that unless you have a serious defficiency, good food and exercise will do the tric. I have trouble with five serves of veg and 3 serves of fruit a day though . . .must crank out the juicer!

Thrifty: The 'flavour' of home grown vegies is so different. They're not gassed or chilled, just straight from the garden. Can't wait to taste your raspberries!
Hearts? they're awful. I'd rather be a vegetarian.

Quicky: I guess as long as they're treated like 'comfort' food. I have to say there's nothing nicer than soft white bread, butter and vegemite! Hardly a health food but I don't eat it often!

Nick: That's the beauty of Australia, 9 months of the year are warm and so salads are often on the menu and summer fruits are amazing from about November to March although you can get things like strawberries, paw paw, Kiwifruit etc. all year round. It's such a temperate climate that the only truly seasonal stuff is mangoes.

Jack: you have the best diet of all you fruitcake! Probably why you're so frisky and not fat!

Gaye: Gotta love the carrot, you should check out the weird vegie site, had me laughing too!

Steph: True, my pampered pooch has a balanced 'lite' diet of Benefuls to keep her healthy, mind her teeth and weight. Wish someone would feed me one balanced meal a day and lock the fridge!

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

Oh yes, yes, yes - I support you all the way on this. Since becoming ill and being able to eat three fifths of half of bugger all, I've learned to shop in only two aisles of the supermarket - fresh fruit and veg and meat/chicken/fish. The rest I happily walk right past.
My view was it if needs colourants, flavourants, preservatives - then it's not real and I don't want it. End of story.

Melissa said...

"If your grandma can't recognize it, you probably shouldn't eat it ..." I love that! :) We both have "good food" posts this month -- hurrah! I saw a nutritionist a while ago and we figured out a good balanced meal plan for me and she said there really was no need for extra vitamins if I ate that plan. The latest thing around here are cereal straws ... for heaven's sake. Straws ... made out of cereal ... so you can suck your milk out of a bowl and then eat the straw ... What the hell?? We're teaching our kids that breakfast is a gimmick that should entertain us and be over with swiftly. Long live fruits and veggies and "slow food"! :)

Baino said...

Hey Melissa. Yeh I read your blog, great bloggers think alike! Everyone knows you suck milk through a Tim Tam ! I'll post instructions one of these days!