Fake Food?

A popular grocery store chain near me decided to add robots to its staff. I have yet to meet any of the isle-patrolling characters, because I avoid shopping there now. I’m told the roving devices are being used to detect spills; some suggest they are watching for shoplifters; I fear they are collecting data about me as a customer. Whatever the reason, I’m dodging the intruders for as long as possible.

I expect that my grocery-shopping ancestors once resisted another groundbreaking invention: the TV dinner. Swanson created the prepackaged “leftover” in response to an oversupply of turkey after Thanksgiving. This turned into a novel option for those who didn’t have the time or know-how to cook. “It’s all cooked, frozen, and read to eat in its own individual serving tray–without thawing,” the ads exclaimed. Plus, a diner could easily carry his or her meal to a seat in front of the brand new television set. Thus the name. I can picture disapproving moms avoiding the concoction for a number of reasons … until the mainstream forced her to concede … in the same way I will one day shop with a robot.


Swanson advertisement

Swanson advertisement; Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/2/1956.

Then, the microwave arrived. Again resistance. Soon enough, instead of aluminum foil, we were peeling back the plastic.

I thought it was great fun to be served my own TV dinner, complete with the slightly metallic tasting fried chicken, peas and carrots combination, mashed potatoes, and that wonderful little pie in the top center of the tray. As an adult, I too have grown accustomed to rich flavors and convenient preparation. Even when I have time, quite often I don’t FEEL like cooking. Further, I still chew with my mind on the television instead of the food. (See this Mindful Eating as Food for Thought).

A Body Needs Real Food

Resistance to change often comes from a fondness for the way things are. We are told we must embrace the new [insert invention], because it is supposed to make life better. Yet, when it comes to the food we eat, our bodies are not so open minded. The bounty that existed way back on the day humans were designed was perfect, just the way it was.

Still, our complex systems CAN accept change, but only if the alteration evolves in accordance with natural laws. An example is cross pollination, in which new plant varieties are born. It includes the techniques for hunting and gathering, in which the predator increases efficiency to improve vitality. And it includes the process of preparation, in which the food is made more palatable and thus more easily consumed.

Under natural law, however, unhealthy combinations and unhealthy individuals die off to protect the others. Hunters and gatherers adjust techniques at the first sign of over consumption, otherwise the supply disappears. The eater must be careful not to destroy the nutritional properties of food during cooking, otherwise eating becomes a waste of time.

The trouble is, corporate executives have positioned their companies between the eater and the food like gatekeepers. To increase profits, they force yields from enslaved plants and animals, introduce hollow ingredients for manufacturing efficiency, and invent fake flavors to keep us hooked.

This has made it impossible for the eater to know where the ingredients came from, or worse, what the ingredients ARE. I recognize that processed foods have been around longer than America’s been called the “United States.” According to food historian, Lynn Olver, we’ve been eating hot dogs since the 15th century. However, with each passing year, chemists (not farmers) develop more tools to process food faster, cheaper, and with more addictive properties. In 1967, they gave us high fructose corn syrup. Look up its definition and you’ll find designations between HFCS-42, HFCS-55, and HFCS-90. That’s not food!

Even among the wholesome items, we’ve lost the connection. We buy a fillet without ever knowing what a live flounder actually looks like. We dump peas in a pot of water without ever realizing they were once flowers on a plant or a sprout in the dirt.

Flower Pea Plant

Image by Crepessuzette from Pixabay

Meanwhile, a young family still needs dinner on the nights when mom and dad both must work. Artificial ingredients are better than starvation. But when the manufactured and manipulated meal becomes the regular nourishment, the body is doomed to fail, no matter what kind of factory it came from. For instance, Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University writes, “About twice as many Americans are estimated to die each year from eating hot dogs and other processed meats (~58,000 deaths/year) than from car accidents (~35,000 deaths/year).”*

In 1955, Campbell Soup Company acquired the privilege of selling us the experience of eating a Swanson brand, frozen, precooked meal alone in front of the television for the tune of around $25,000,000. Today, pre-cut, pre-mixed, pre-cooked, pre-flavored, heat-and-eat foods have solidly overtaken the number of single-ingredient items on the grocery store shelves as well as the restaurant industry’s stockroom. Moreover, our food supply is being overtaken with an intent to dominate. Consider the merger between Monsanto and Bayer. Apparently even the US Government couldn’t stop that one. But thankfully in 2019, the eaters are resisting.

Seeds of Resistance

People are demanding real food and real labels. They are skipping the frozen french fries and slicing potatoes. They are shunning the Hamburger Helper(TM) and growing the herbs or buying the spices. They are skipping the soda and drinking the water. With each calorie obtained from a “real” source, their resistance to “fake” grows stronger.

You too can eat like a human instead of a robot. And you can start by eating what nature is yielding at the time. Check out these links for help:

Seasonal Food Guide and Why Eat Seasonally

*Mozaffarian quote originally published in “Want to fix America’s health care? First, focus on food,” The Conversation, 12 Sept. 2017, by Dariush Mozaffarian.

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