There is a grand experiment underway and we are the rats.
Today I attended a food show put on by my areas largest restaurant supply company, who shall remain nameless, to protect the (not so) innocent. I was in search of disposable containers for my business and all the major manufacturers have booths there. I’ve been to this particulal show many times in the past, but this year was different for me.
This company sells good things: meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, dairy. Most years I’ve run around the show, trying to negotiate deals on these staples for whatever restaurant I was cheffing for at the time. This year, with no shopping list and only a few booths that I needed to visit, I paid more attention to EVERYTHING that was available for sale, and it scared me. Every other vendor was frying something. There must have been, literally, 20 different purveyors of breaded chicken; premade everything, from innocuous healthy sounding things like vegetable soup to the truly bizarre like “deep fried cheese shooters”?!?!? Unfortunately that vegetable soup had 37 ingredients… and only eight were vegetables. Look at the can of soup in you cupboard to see some of the other 29.
Think about the 10 restaurants nearest to your house, how many are chains? How many things on their menus do you think they prepare in the building from scratch? Guess again. Chains survive by consistency; consistency is not achieved by well-trained prep cooks faithfully following recipes. It is achieved by automation and centralized production. To make their products consistent, shippable and shelf stable they use the same ingredients that are in the frozen dinners you have in your freezer. Ingredients you can’t buy on any aisle in the grocery store.
Ingredients that your great-grand parents NEVER ate, your grandparents ate only towards the end of their lives, your parents ate only after they had you, that you ate rarely as a kid but often now, and that your kids have eaten since they started on solid food. (I belong to GenX so adjust that timeline accordingly) As humans, we have been eating meat and vegetables for thousands and thousands of years. How long have we been eating disodium guanylate?
What do the long term studies tell us about the safety of “food additives”? Hard to say, because there aren’t any. Prepackaged, preservative filled food is a modern invention, as is the consistent consumption of restaurant food. Our children will be the first generation whose primary diet is prepared outside of their homes, by strangers, using ingredients they can’t spell.
Preliminary results are not promising… epidemic child obesity, diabetes, food allergies. It’s not looking good for us.
Perhaps it isn’t the food, maybe its video games. Who knows, but personally I choose to eat a traditional diet. For many of you this would be a difficult choice. In today’s world there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything right; but is food, the fuel that you put into your body every day, the right place to cut corners and save time? My solution: less time on the hamster wheel more time in the kitchen.
This weekend try this 13 ingredient Vegetable soup recipe by Alton Brown (8 of them are vegatbles)