Sunday 14 November 2010

Back to Basics

Greengrocers in Southwold, Suffolk in 1949
Once upon a time, not so long ago, eating was a simple affair.  We bought food from small independent shops like butchers, bakers, fishmongers and greengrocers and made meals from scratch using basic ingredients.  We learned the principles of eating - how much, what and when - from our elders. Those early experiences usually stayed with us for the rest of our lives. 

However, food is no longer that simple, is it?  In the past fifty years or so, supermarkets have transformed the way we buy and prepare food and they now probably influence our eating more than our mothers ever did!  The choice of what's available is bewildering and whilst raw ingredients still have their place, it's the growth of food products that has changed everything.

You only have to look at the allocation of space to know what supermarkets sell most of.  Crisps, snacks, biscuits, confectionary, cakes, meat products, dairy, frozen meals, carbonated drinks, desserts, sauces, etc. fill the aisles.  An ever-increasing choice of food products, carefully arranged to tempt the shopper with easy options for family or single meals and any number of "bogof" offers to make us buy more.

When commercial TV was launched in 1955, advertising slogans and jingles soon had us trained and buying well-known brands. Eating was no longer just about food, it was about selling and the big supermarkets became experts at understanding consumer needs.  A century ago, who could have predicted that much of the world's food supply would end up in the hands of a few all-powerful global corporations?

Meanwhile, health problems related to eating have increased so dramatically that products claiming to offer health benefits are big business too.  When it comes to knowing what to eat to stay well, we're bombarded from all sides with nutritional values, wonder foods and the latest diet guaranteed to lose those excess pounds!

Maybe it's because I got interested in health a long time ago, giving up meat and dairy way back in the early 1980's, but much of what's happened in the past 30 years seems to have passed me by.  I buy few processed foods from the supermarket, I grow fruit and vegetables on my organic plot and I get great pleasure from creating meals from scratch using low cost, natural ingredients.  

To me, choosing what to eat has everything to do with the impact it has on my physical health.  Staying well is more than just a priority; it's a way of life that doesn't require any effort or discipline.  It's just a simple decision to eat food that does my body, mind and soul good.

It seems to me that food isn't just about food any more, it's about the array of food products that now take the spotlight.  Call me old-fashioned but I prefer to stick to the basics. That way I know what I'm eating,  the real thing! 

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