Thursday, October 6, 2011

I ate that on purpose

Repost, from October 10, 2010

Unprocessed. Real Food. Slow food. Locavore.

Every time you turn around these days, there's a new term about getting away from the American industrialized, depersonalized, outsourced food culture. Now on my third food challenge, I think that Michael Pollan actually said it best (that's why they pay him the big bucks).

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The main thing I take away from these efforts--all of them personally and culturally challenging, mostly well meaning, in varying degrees sensible--is that what you need to do is think about what you are eating.

When I was growing up in the middle of the last century, you didn't have to think about it. The food you bought, even in suburban supermarkets, was what it said it was. It had a shelf life and a source, which was mostly nearby. Importing food was something that starving Indians (as in subcontinent) did. Even as a child I knew which fruits were in season, not because I looked up a chart, but because if it wasn't in season, you couldn't buy it. No one ever got salmonella poisoning, and E. Coli was something you learned about in high school biology. Meat was meat colored, not that bizarre bright red (how do they do that, and why?). Chickens came with innards. Fruits did not have individual labels, and the butcher packed your meat in paper, even at the supermarket (yes, Virginia, there were butchers at the supermarket). You could buy only the amount you needed, and exactly the amount you needed, because they cut it on the premises. I got to Junior year in college before I knew that you could buy French fries frozen in a bag.

Because of this, I am able to "think" about food. I have clear memories of what it looks like, when it's naturally available, and how it tastes. My mother had to cook, because the prepared food industry was just getting started ("Prince spaghetti day", anyone?).

Younger generations don't have this advantage. You are rediscovering what I grew up understanding, perhaps the last generation to do so. I'm not saying there were no processed foods; we had spam and cake mixes and tv dinners and every day there was a new "convenience" product. But families eating meals cooked from whole ingredients was the norm, not the outlier.

For the way I live and eat, I think the "slow" approach works best-- seasonal, local, organic, whole. It gives you flexibility--can't find or afford organic? Buy it from the local mom-and-pop, instead of the super store (on the "3 outta 4 ain't bad" theory). What works about it, and all the other monikers, is that they make you think about what you're putting into your and your family's bodies.

Unprocessed. Real Food. Slow food. Locavore.

Call it deliberate eating.

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