Food is too often a difficult topic of conversation these days because a lot of times we all inevitably end up at the “what can we even do?” stage. As the amount of information continues to pour out about the rapid decline of our food system it seems almost impossible to do the right thing. We all want good food and many of us enjoy food for entertainment as much as we do for sustenance, but as it seems, the more involved we get, the more bad news we get. We all want good food, but we’d also like good food that doesn’t sicken or kill us. Is this too much to ask for?
It’s hard to blame people for wanting to turn a blind eye and dawn the inevitable **** all mentality, it really is. Part of what I’ve always wanted to try and do with this blog and all of the other work that I do, is to make food approachable for people at home so they don’t have to worry about experimenting in their kitchens. Food is food. Fear it not for it can bring you many unending pleasures.
One of the most important things that people should try to keep in mind, is that many of the foods that we’ve grown accustomed to ingesting on a daily basis are foods that are supposed to be “sometimes” foods. They’re foods that are meant for special occasions or as once in a while treats, not as a sustainable source of nourishment. As I write this, I know that many who read it will respond with a very likely “duh” response, but by and large, we all do this. Of course “all” is probably a vast over-generalization, but it’s also very likely true at least in regard to the lifestyles we live here in the U.S.
Bacon is a sometimes food. Potato chips are a sometimes food. Deep fried foods are sometimes foods. Sugar is a sometimes food. The funny thing about sometimes foods is that they can be tricky to deal with and it’s easy to overlook the trap that can be fallen into especially when you factor in things like soda, fancy coffee drinks or energy drinks. Those are also sometimes foods. Again, I’m sure many of you read that and thought to yourselves, “I don’t eat those foods everyday – well, except for maybe the coffees,” but if you eat bacon one day, potato chips the next, followed by deep fried food the following day, and then a really high dose of sugar the next and so on down the line all the while washing it down with a caramel-mocha-choco-frappe, you’re not eating those foods sometimes. You’re eating them all the time, you’re just mixing up which ones you’re eating on which days. It’s incredibly easy to do and to justify, but it does add up and don’t worry, I’m as guilty as charged. It’s not easy to get out of this rut, but it does take a certain level of acceptance. You have to come to terms that you’re likely in this trap and then it might be easier to help navigate your way out.
One thing I like to try and urge people to do to get out of this rut, is to grab a random piece of produce from the store that maybe they’ve not tried before and just take it out for a test drive. Don’t mess around with looking it up online, don’t mess around with trying to find a recipe. Bring it home, cut off a small raw hunk and give it a taste. From there, decide how else it might taste good. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from this little in-home experiment. I know the typical excuse often comes down to time, but trust me, that doesn’t take much time and you’ll probably find a lot of new things that you like. Don’t you like things that you like?
This, however, brings us to another one of today’s big food concerns. “What about organic foods? Do I always have to buy organic foods?,” you might ask and the answer is irrevocably no. You don’t always have to do anything, but maybe give it a try. Will you notice a difference in taste? Not likely. Will the health benefits be immediately noticeable? Probably not. Well then why should you do it? You should do it because you want to try and do the right thing. Whereas modern science might disagree on what the long term health effects of pesticide treated foods really are, we do know that it has certain ecological effects and the less we use the better. So again, you don’t have to do anything, but maybe start small. There’s also the concern over price. Organic foods tend to be slightly more expensive and that’s just a fact. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to eat well, but maybe switch out one thing that you normally buy for the organic version. Starting small is still starting.
Now that we’ve got organic vs. non-organic out of the way, we’ve got the problem of genetically modified food vs. traditionally grown. What exactly can you do here? Well, for one it’s really hard to know what food has been genetically modified or not, hence the constant fight for labeling. There’s a lot of science coming out that suggests that GMO or chemically altered foods, like high fructose corn syrup, are not processed by our bodies in the same way that the traditional varieties are. Simply speaking, our bodies don’t recognize the foods we’re ingesting as the foods that they’re supposed to be and they don’t know how to break down and digest them properly. As more and more research comes out, it’s suspected that this misidentification of food in the body is the underlying cause of a lot of serious medical conditions, of which I’m not going to list here because you know them and I’m not here to try and scare you into a reclusive lifestyle in the woods where you are solely responsible for growing your own food. Really the best thing you can do here is to buy more whole, unprocessed foods. The more processed the food, the more likely it contains genetically modified or chemically altered ingredients because they’re cheaper to use en masse. This isn’t to say that some of the whole food that you buy isn’t going to be genetically altered because companies are doing this at the seed level, but again, buying less processed food is a good first step for a variety of reasons. Hopefully we’ll start to get a better handle on the GMO thing as a society in the very near future.
This would of course bring us up to buying protein; what do you do about free-range, grass fed, antibiotic or non-antibotic treated, hormone added, etc. Again, this is tough, but the best thing you can do is to buy whole, unprocessed meats from an actual meat counter and not out of a freezer. That’s a start. The other thing you can do is to find a butcher that doesn’t exist inside your local mega-grocery store. It may seem like an old school idea, but finding a small, local butcher is the best way to know where your meat is coming from and what’s in it. Again, go with whichever route you feel comfortable with and that your budget allows for, but try substituting out your typical factory beef for smaller farm, grass fed varieties. At least every once in a while. Maybe instead of buying those cheap packages of bacon, you could buy bacon less often and splurge on the really nice, thick-cut, organic stuff. Really, we can all stand to eat less meat than we do, so scaling back is another great way to start getting a better handle on things. I’m not suggesting that everybody all of a sudden go vegetarian or militantly vegan, just try smaller portions or maybe only eat meat a few times a week. It’s your call, but less is likely better.
So hopefully now, with everything I’ve just ranted about here, the next time you ask yourself “what can you do?” you’ll hopefully have at least a place to think about starting. To be frank, I don’t know exactly what you should do. I don’t have those answers for you or for myself, but in the soon to be eternal words of one James Tiberius Kirk, “I don’t know what I should do, I only know what I can do,” and what I can do is to try and start small and within my means. It really is that simple.