Had a meal in a cafe the other day in a big city not a million miles away. Very poor, almost inedible. These days I’m pleased when I find a good meal. Often the meals seem prepared with little care or attention, using frozen or preserved ingredients, precooked and then reheated in microwave, and so on.
So I prefer eating at home usually, but this is no longer the certainty it once was. Nothing to do with the cooking of course, he adds hastily, avoiding repercussions, but more to do with ingredients.
Don’t know if you have seen a television program called “Jimmy’s Food Factory”. The chap tries to recreate the processes by which food is converted from what occurs naturally on the farm to what you find packaged for sale in shops and supermarkets.
It is one of those programs that tell you far more than you wanted to know for your own peace of mind. He minces things up, steams them, reduces to grey sludge, adds chemicals for colour and taste, reconstitutes in new form, dries, freezes, fires out of cannon, packages, adds a misleading name (a “custard” biscuit for example having no custard of any kind), finished.
The result bears little resemblance to the original but is in a convenient shape and form that can be shipped readily, and will last for a thousand years on a shelf. There are “foods” that you can never look at the same way again after seeing this program – I was floored by a lot of it. If you haven’t seen it I’m afraid it’s not a case of what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
On top of that is the way that there is increasing misleading labelling, of the origin of foods from, say, China or South America, shipped to New Zealand and relabelled, or with labels here that confuse with misdirections involved in various permutations of “Australian made”. Before you know where you are, like watching a magician with hat and rabbit, you have little idea about where the food came from, how old it is, what additives it may have, and so on.
What can we do about it? Not much, probably, we are locked in to factory farming, factory food processing, mass transport over long distances, factory selling in the supermarkets. The people along the chain, after the stuff leaves the farm gate, all make more money the cheaper the food can be processed and the longer it can be sold for. We gain in the convenience of marching into a supermarket, at any time of day, any time of year, and reaching for a packet of something or other which is invariably there.
But having your stomach process factory food probably isn’t the best for you. Increasingly we try to grow some of our own foods, shop at farmer’s markets. Maybe if enough of us do that the stuff we eat won’t turn our stomachs quite so much.
Worth a try.