Why I Wrote DEAR OPL – Part 2

*Just a heads up to anyone new joining in–this is not my typical blog post. This is part 2 of 3 for a speech I’m preparing and posting here to get valuable feedback from my community. If you’re interested in joining in (and I so hope you are), and you’ve not had a chance to read part 1, you might want to take a minute and get up to speed. I look forward to hearing what all of you have to say. It’s been wonderfully worthy thus far!

 

So let’s talk about the foul new four letter word that’s getting everyone’s knickers in a twist. FOOD.

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  1. Our diets have drastically changed form.

So much of what we used to eat was effortlessly easy to identify by using just one word to define it. For instance: apples, squash, lentils, pecans. Now the western diet needs a box to hold it in and a label to identify it with.

And a chemist to explain it all.

More and more of our food is processed with ingredients that most seventh graders aren’t allowed to handle without plastic gloves, eye goggles, and their science teacher in attendance.

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It happened right beneath our noses. As a kid, I remember the hour and a half of effort I’d spend making brownies—with the flour, the sugar, the butter and eggs, the melting of chocolate and the teaspoons of vanilla and salt and baking powder.

And almost overnight it changed. It’s now a box, an egg, and a splash of water from the faucet. It’s not so much food anymore as it is a magic trick no one really wants to pull back the curtain on and spoil. Not that spoiling is a concern any longer as science has discovered a way to make a fast food hamburger last longer than most marriages.

Reading nutrition labels dredges up memories of your earliest years in grammar school sounding out new words, and also proves to be a test of one’s grasp of the periodic table of elements. Plus, the regulations for what our government is allowing into our food and defining as food live in a murky swamp and are up for interpretation by the manufacturer.

That old line stating That which does not kill us makes us stronger, should be revised to read:

That which does not kill us—because the studies are ongoing and are being run by folks who have a vested interest in their financial outcome—does not kill us …yet.

Our food of today is no longer the food it was fifty years ago. A carrot is no longer a carrot. Chicken is no longer chicken. A hunk of fabulous chocolate cake is still the sugar bomb it was no matter how long ago it was made, but that’s sort of a given and doesn’t serve my argument. And my point is that things have changed in the food growing world.

Our soils are depleted. Our animals are fed unnatural food meant to supersize them toward growth and not health. We’ve introduced pesticides into our diets that have altered our endocrine function. We’ve stripped off minerals and vitamins from processed foods and have replaced them with chemicals meant to give them a shelf life rivaling the length of time it would take you to read off the numerical value of pi.

Some of the ingredients added into our foods today are ones not meant to contribute to our health or the food’s supermarket shelf endurance, but rather the perceived value of the manufacturer’s product.

We’re talking weight.

And just as WEIGHT is the hefty issue we’re struggling with here globally, putting additives into food that give it extra bulk and substance is a widespread technique used across the food industry. Cellulose, an indigestible fiber made from wood pulp, is a common item you’ll find in most processed foods. Supermarket bread, bags of shredded cheese, barbecue sauce and ice cream.

Yep, ice cream too.

Have yourself a Blue Bell country day. (Embrace nature. Hug a tree. Better yet, eat one.)

Carvel Ice Cream. It’s what happy tastes like. (And trees.)

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I could go on snarkily updating ice cream slogans, but the point I’d like to highlight is that cellulose has no nutritional value and our government food regulators have no policies regarding its use in manufacturing. Thus far scientists have determined that eating it in small quantities is what they’ve labeled as GRAS – Generally Regarded As Safe. And even if this remains to be so, it still points to the unhealthy practice of eating food that is deficient of the valuable nutrients we want and need for ourselves and our children.

Not surprisingly, there are plenty of other things food makers are slipping into the ingredient lists of their products these days:

Binders and extenders—nonmeat products used to create bulk and texture.

Coloring agents Blue #1 and #2, Yellow #5 and #6, and Red #40—a rainbow of creativity if your goal is to eat the Nickelodeon television channel.

Azodicarbonamide, or ADA—a funky little compound that keeps your bread spongy and your yoga mat squishy.

And don’t forget growth hormones—feedlot operators’ kitschy little answer to America’s question, “Where’s the beef?”

There is a solid handful of folks who are vocal and persuasive when illuminating the presence of these additives in hundreds of food items today. They draw attention from the press and the population occasionally takes note. Sometimes manufacturers stand up and defend their choices and sometimes they pull the worrisome ingredient from their recipe and replace it with something else. Oftentimes food scientists will jump in, provide a little data and the fire dies down—that is until a few more rats die, enough signatures on a petition are accumulated, or an organization’s lobbying funds dry up.

If you look behind the grand kerfuffle made about alarming ingredients, you’ll see the main message is simply that food manufacturers are putting unnecessary chemicals and compounds into our grub and there are alternatives.

Next let’s talk about the research, the studies, and the dry and brittle data. It’s WHAT WE KNOW.

  1. Architects are growing worried that they are building houses with an expensive and worthless room.

Kitchens are full of cobwebs. For many school-aged children, breakfast is skipped or breakfast and lunch are eaten at school. Dinner is handed over through the driver’s side window. And the new dinner plate is a cardboard box or bucket. Millions of kids are looking at a fork and a knife with the same confused look on their face when handed a pen or a pencil.

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Food education used to come from the home. Our grandmothers painstakingly took the time to write down the recipes that were crafted and perfected by the generations before them. Houses had gardens, produce markets were plentiful and dinner was a scheduled event that you showed up for rain or shine.

We learned how to shuck corn, peel potatoes and pinch a pie crust. You watched the bread rise, carved a chicken and got your hands slapped away if you tried to steal a cookie that was still cooling on a half sheet.

Now I’m not suggesting everyone return to churning butter and dig themselves a root cellar, but I find it unsettling that way too many children do not realize that chickens actually have bones.

Food is the most marvelous thing in the way that it’s often attached to the meaningful events in our lives. Birthdays. Holidays. Dates. Parties.  And we count on it for all the meals that are nothing more than something that satisfies an urge or are simply a scheduled time of day activity. An appreciated break from our busy lives. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Growing up, food was incredibly important to my family for many different reasons. I came from a clan of six and although I can’t recall ever going hungry because we didn’t have enough to eat, there were a few times when funds were quite tight and I chose to go hungry because of what was on offer.

To stretch a dollar and a pound of ground beef, my mom would creatively find all sorts of fillers—tofu was one and soy protein was another. She was quite ahead of her time. Powdered milk was cheap and showed up repeatedly—and I don’t care how you disguise it, it had about as much tastebud appeal as liquid cardboard.

As my family ancestry was Polish, my folks oftentimes introduced us to unusual foods that in my opinion would likely have had the offspring of scavenging beasts raise an eyebrow when encouraged to eat it by their parents. Blood seemed to be an ingredient in way too many things for your average nine-year-old’s comfort. I began thinking I should truthfully detail my family’s heritage as part Polish, part vampiric.

Of course, growing up where I did in the Midwest, many folks were hunters, and one evening a platter of what my folks labeled “tiny chicken” showed up on the kitchen table. It did not take me and my siblings long to figure out why my mom was no longer complaining about the unruly squirrel population taking over her summer garden.

And lastly, my mother’s favorite extender of any meal—cream of mushroom soup. Detesting mushrooms was a hobby of mine, and finding these spores in my food became an obsession. After highlighting my childhood foodscape, it’s not so surprising to see how I began to grow incredibly suspicious of all my food. I wanted to know the answer to a very important question:

What’s in it?

~~~~~~~

*I hope you’ll come back next week for part 3. And I hope you may consider offering your thoughts thus far.

Cheers everyone!

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

89 thoughts on “Why I Wrote DEAR OPL – Part 2

    • It does grow toward obsessive doesn’t it, Lisa? When I think about how ingredients have truly changed over the years it ends up being a bit of a jaw-dropping moment.
      Sometimes it’s just easier (and mostly safer) to pull food out of the ground. If I could just get there before the rest of the wildlife.
      Cheers!

  1. Hi Shelley,

    This next episode is terrific. I particularly loved the paragraph beginning “Kitchens are full of cobwebs.” The images conjured were scarily vivid, not that my kitchen is full of cobwebs or empty take-out packets and my daughters DO know what a fork is 🙂

    I’m really looking forward to reading the final part of your speech.

    Clare

    • I’m so happy to hear that your kids are well acquainted with their dinnerware, Clare. I’ve actually laughed at the number of school lunchrooms that have said they’ve had to remove all silverware from the cafeterias because they’re afraid the kids might use them as weapons. Now isn’t that a sad state of affairs?
      I hope the lemons and limes are making your un-cobwebby kitchen smell unbelievably good! 😛
      Cheers, Clare!

      • Hey Shelley,

        I agree, that is such a sad state of affairs.

        After making lots of juice, I dried some peel yesterday to make ground lemon powder, and oh my, the lingering smells are wonderful. Haven’t tried the soup yet, but it’s on my list.

        Clare

        • Lemon powder? Oh, my, Clare, what a brilliant idea! I’ve never thought of that, but I love it. I’ve got a recipe here on the site for making tomato powder, but my imagination never stretched to include other fruits. Brilliant. 😀 (wish I knew how to make a super sourpuss smile!)

          • Hey Shelley,

            Super sourpuss smile alright. First batch was a sour as any vinegar I’ve every had the pleasure of drinking. Now on to use it in a recipe.

            Clare

  2. It’s terrific reading about your background and your relationship to food growing up. It’s also discouraging to read how far we’ve drifted from a healthy diet. I grew up with family meals, and remember my mom as a good cook. We rarely ate out and what we did eat in was made form scratch. I too learned how to peel potatoes and carrots.

    After my father died (we were 8, 9 and 14) our mom had to work full time and she worried about us cooking on the stove. It was the late sixties, and TV dinners were a good alternative, or so it seemed at the time. I’m the queen of convenience food, and realize, almost too late, how good intentions grew into bad habits.

    Lots to think about here, Shelley. I know others will feel the same way.

    • It’s rather astonishing to me, Alys, how your story mimics that of Opl’s. I’m so excited for you to read it–maybe purely so that I have some hopeful goosebump moments of hearing you say, “Yep, this is me.” As an author, I aim to create a story that will resonate with people, but as an advocate and an apostle of the Church of Good Health, I also want this book’s message to have a meaningful impact that can enact a change–even if it’s a very small one like a pebble in a pond. I’m going for the ripple effect and maybe not the tidal wave.
      Your story, and your kindness in sharing it is what it’s all about to me, Alys. Thank you for that. ❤

  3. Raise the flag and wave it high PP. As the daughter of another set of penny pinching trench milk servers, ingredients are a keen interest of mine, too, although I never made the connection to the reason why. Here’s to chickens with bones. And skin.

    • I laugh at your comment, J.B. because it reminds me of so many dinners at my kitchen table when my kids have brought home friends to eat with us–and they did it with trepidation. I’d try to put enough variety on the table so there were options, but the theme on faces was usually one of quizzical confusion. It was definitely not a place to lecture, but I did feel this urgency to pass on the message of, “Try something new!” It was often met with polite refusal.
      My kids used to hate taking their friends into my pantry as there were not the usual snacks.
      This will be an uphill battle on the grandest of scales.
      Cheers!

  4. My thoughts? I think this speech should be put into the foreword of your book Shelley – it says with much humour and no breast beating all the things that need to be said again and again until they are heard.

    • You know, Pauline, you’ve got me thinking. It’s too late as far as the book goes now, but maybe there’s another way…
      I’m going to have to noodle on this one, but here’s the proof that many brains make for forward movement in this endeavor. Somehow I’ll make the written version of this speech available for parents (or any average Joe) who will pick up the book. Buy it or don’t, the message should cost people nothing. In fact, my hopes are that the message will actually enrich.
      Thanks for the great suggestion!

  5. So true. Our food is changing, and the killer message on the box is ‘New Improved Recipe’.
    These three little words ruined our Saturday treat of a large tin of tomato soup and small loaf of fresh wholemeal bread still warm from the oven. The soup was more orange than red, and both of us had horrendous migraines and upset stomachs within an hour. We thought it was a fluke, but sure enough the same result next tin. Now off the menu.The wholemeal bread was still delicious, but doubled in price because it was now organic. Off the menu.
    That is another thing about food…. the price of it.
    When I was a kid, fruit and veg were seasonal. Now you get it all year, at a cost (and refrigeration so it’s not even fresh).
    Food is Big Business. Eating too much food is Big Business in the Diet Industry.
    Too little money leads to poor food choices, but many cannot afford ‘the good stuff’ and do the best they can with what they have.
    What would be wrong for Domestic Science lessons to include growing your own veg? Biology, Chemistry and Physics to mention the effects of pesticides and insecticides not just on crops, but wildlife? We eat rabbit, pigeon, pheasant, partridge, venison as well as beef, lamb and pork.
    Organic produce invites a bigger price tag because it’s ‘good for you’. That’s old hat now and the experts are saying well, no perhaps it’s not. Again, a bigger argument for more allotments and growing your own, where you are in control of what you put on the food you will eventually eat.

    As an aside, one girl didn’t know what to do with a fresh lemon for the pancakes in our cookery class. She was looking for the ‘twisty bit’ and didn’t realise that to ‘get in’, you simply cut it in half. That was in 1970. Sad.

    • Absolutely, P. Food is Big Business. And this business model is one that is unsustainable.
      It crushes me to realize just how out of hand this has grown. For a long time, I used to look at these businesses and say, “No one can take on these giants. No one can make the necessary changes because this is a massive machine.” But then I remember that this massive machine is simply a group of people with ideas. And ideas can change.
      I’ve had PepsiCo’s Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Global Research and Development in my kitchen. I’ve spoken with this kind and thoughtful and incredibly well-educated man. Surely he has the same worries about his family as I do about mine? Surely we can all come to realize that some business practices are actually killing off the vital blood flow of health to their organizations by actually killing their consumers.
      I think we’re at the far end of the pendulum swing currently. I’m confident we can bring things back into balance, but I do think it will take some muscle.

  6. Excellent, Shelley. What makes this speech so good is that it is infused with great humour which is why it will be have a much greater impact on your audience than the diatribes that so many others write. Go girl! Looking forward to part 3.

    • A million thanks for your enthusiastic support, Sarah. Words I crave and feast upon. And I too agree that inserting the right amount of levity into this speech is the key to giving it the gravity I’m hoping it will embody. A work in progress. I’ll continue to tweak this project until I’ve got that recipe down pat.
      Cheers!

    • 1st knight has hit the nail furthur in, or smashed the head or … but YES: AGREED: your infusion of humor and not-really-snarky (but slightly so) asides are a great lubricant to oil the flow of your words ~~~

  7. Another great instalment Shelley – I agree with and second every word you say! Here on our hillside we’re well on the way with the vegetable garden and though I realise we are very lucky to have the space for this and a small orchard too, I strongly dispute the notion that it costs too much too eat well and nutritiously. It costs way more to buy pre-processed, pre-packaged food than fresh veg, fruit, bread etc. I see those trolleys in the supermarkets laden with sugar drinks, potato chips, cakes , pizzas, they cost fortunes and not a vitamin or mineral in sight. If it comes in a packet, don’t buy it – is my new motto!

    • A couple of things I’ve noticed that I think you’d find really interesting, Jane: firstly, I’ve been following a few researchers – who are actually graduate students at a university – who have been working to make apartment living “home gardens” a reality. Initially, they were a couple of fellows who hated cafeteria food and were growing quite desperate for fresh greens. (I know. Practically unheard of, right?) But they’ve managed to put together a company that is catching the eye of investors. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://blog.dormroomfund.com/2014/06/12/a-salad-a-day-in-your-own-home-with-grove/

      I’m sure there are many more innovative minds out there working in the same vein, and I’m thrilled with the level of interest and enthusiasm for urban or small space gardening. It IS possible.

      Secondly, I’ve seen prototypes of some new grocery carts that have been made in order to help consumers be watchful of what they’re putting into their carts and ultimately buying. They’re sectioned off according to government nutritional guidelines. It’s meant to make the supermarket the new consumer classroom. Here’s the link to that: http://freebeacon.com/issues/usda-suggests-changes-to-grocery-stores-to-nudge-consumers-to-eat-healthy/

      Knowledge is power, right, Jane? And I do believe that knowledge can bring on some powerfully good health.
      😀

      • I shall follow the links and Shelley and thanks for the info, as you can see from my comments it’s something I also feel very strongly about and I know you’re right that knowledge is power and education, in an entertaining form, is surely the key to it all! 🙂

  8. Bad eating starts at birth with stuffing our babies. My grandson is 14 months old and weighs only 19 pounds putting him at the bottom of the charts. But that is because so many babies are way over weight skewing the chart higher and higher in average weight. So fat they can hardly move. He runs around and has a great time developing his mind instead of his fat cells. He seems to enjoy my home-cooked meals way more than the stuff Gerber puts in a jar.
    @msdeniseh553
    Life After Retirement

    • I hear the worry from a lot of pediatricians who are commenting fretfully over the fact that the obesity epidemic is reaching into the category of infants and toddlers. I also know that parents do not want to pass on a lifetime of disease to their children and that one of the missing factors in this situation is an easily rectifiable component of education which can greatly help in reducing the chances of that.

      Whether it’s because of the lack of awareness or the economic situation of countless folks, many feel they’re doing their best to provide nourishment for their children. Cheap, highly processed foods are creating a situation where illness will take hold and settle in for a lifetime of health afflictions.

      A little education can go a long, long way, Denise. My hope is that we, as a community, can make many more tiny tykes like your grandson a reality within our population.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Another great read. Last week when I mentioned that I had a personal interest in this topic it wasn’t just because of my profession. As a child I was; shall we say portly. You can imagine the social life of a fat book worm. And I don’t mean dance card social life I mean interaction with peers, and adults. Through a period of illness,diet and exercise;commencing at 12 by the time I was 14 I became “built”. Still ,my self perspective stayed the same. In my eyes I was still a fat boy. I think you are starting at the right spot. The food. Like you I was raised in the Midwest and our food budget was stretched like a bungee jumpers tether. Yet it was actual food. Not some science project masquerading as nutrition. I think it was Rodale that said ” Saying your bread is enriched is like saying you were mugged of everything,,clothes,wallet,everything and that while standing naked your robber decides to return your pants. So in a matter of speaking your were enriched. The same can be said of the flour used in the bread.” That is a rambling paraphrase,but I hope the meaning comes across. Well I have abused this space and said way too much. Good luck with Opl and I am looking forward to the rest of your posts.

    • Benson, I love your story, and I especially love your description of the food budget. It is an incredibly effective illustration of how countless families are struggling with food issues today. And, I’m hoping you won’t mind if I occasionally use it to illuminate that fact. I can’t think of a more brilliant way to put it. I promise to give you credit.

      And I love the Rodale quote–paraphrased or not, it really hits the mark.

      I think Julia Child was quoted as saying, How can a nation be called great if their bread tastes like Kleenex? Yeah, she had a point.

      I love hearing what you have to say–on most any matter–so please, continue to abuse this space in the manner that I have become accustomed to seeing. It’s meaningful and greatly appreciated, Benson. Cheers!

      • Thanks. I have never been know as a shy person when it comes to things I am passionate about. And I do have several passions’ Food is just one. Use anything you like. Back at you.

  10. Is it Michael Pollan who says “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”? I think you were right to point out that even what we think is good, whole food has been undermined, nutritionally and taste-wise, by big business. Carrots are not carrots, and chicken is not chicken. People are still shocked to learn that grocery store meats are injected with stuff. But they are quite happy to eat “Go-Gurt.”

    • An excellent point, Linnet. I think most often we’re so enamored by the colorful packaging, and the promise of what that packaging insists it will bring us, that we can’t see the wood for the trees. Or maybe the cellulose from the trees! o_O

      Regardless, if we stripped away all the advertisement hoopla, I think those cold hard facts would have a greater impact on how we structure our diet. There’s such an inordinate and unwarranted amount of trust that our society places into the hands of advertisers. That has got to stop. Plus, there should be some accountability on the part of the promoters and manufacturers–I do go into that in part 3. I recently watched an eye-popping documentary about the MRI results of patients who participated in a study about how advertisements affect the brain. This info has got to grow more widespread. I think it would have an incredibly positive impact.

  11. My favourite line in this is, “……way too many children do not realize that chickens actually have bones.” I have often wondered how long it will be before our “nutrition” is served up daily in pill form (i.e. a pill for “breakfast” a pill for “dinner”, etc.) It seems the world is on a quick downward spiral…no time to educate the children about food/nutrition, no time to gather round the table in the evening, no time to make sure they have a good meal before they leave the house in the morning, no time to prepare a healthy lunch for them to take to classes and/or no one there to supplement that “traveling school lunch” with a real lunch once they’re home for the day. Quite sad…not just in the effects all these lacks will have on bodies, but in the psychological lacks these children are growing/will grow up with. I love this series you’re doing…it’s important, but it is so accessible and so non-preachy that I actually think it has a chance of being taken in by people who would redirect things to begin this much-needed change……

    • Oh, I so hope you’re right, Torrie. And it seems like you’ve got the big broad perspective nailed. One of the things I address in the book–hopefully in a subtle, non-preachy way–is the fact that our families have lost their core identity. We’ve removed ourselves, via technology and the business of life, from the very people who are instrumental in helping us achieving fundamental health. We’re allowing corporations to raise our families and this frightening reality has got to shift if we want to reclaim that which is a critical and necessary component of reconnecting with our tribe.

      I know there are countless people out here who care. And I know they’re willing to voice their concerns and be part of the ‘reawakening.’ I’m hoping to have a role in that global voice–the one that’s growing louder each day.

  12. Clap! Clap! Clap! Another great article Shelley.

    “Nutritional Scientists” aren’t real scientists. “Real scientists” don’t decide in advance what they want their outcome to be and fit the data to accommodate their desired end result. Real scientists don’t suppress contradictory evidence and present results that are misleading at best and often harmful. Nutritional Science is an oxymoron and a perversion. Our food chain has become perverted by big corporations with big money and powerful lobbyists.

    That’s my rant.

    • It’s a worthy rant, Joanne. And again brings us back to the conversation of TRUST. As consumers, we put our faith in what we’re being told and what we’re being sold. Undeservedly so. The false claims, the misleading information and the enticing packaging all play a role in this epidemic. Beneath these layers is the growing pot of gold. Money over health. A tragedy where our children pay the price. We need a stronger base of consumer education and protection.
      Accountability must be a word that gets tattooed into this campaign.

    • In our house, it was called czarnina. But I called it ‘yuckola.’
      (okay, in case my folks are reading this, before I knew what was in it, it was pretty delicious. you guys can sure cook the bejeebies out of some dishes.)

  13. Hi Shelley, a great continuation! I especially loved hearing that those fast-food hamburgers are going to last longer than my marriage. Maybe I should be getting together with the beef. 🙂

    I was looking closely at the flow of the speech again, and I think you’ve got a fantastic opportunity here to emphasize certain connections. When you talk about additives to increase bulk and weight, it makes sense to directly link the additives we have now to the additives you lived with in your family, before everything changed. So instead of ending that section with ‘Next let’s talk about the research, the studies, and the dry and brittle data. It’s WHAT WE KNOW’ – which we’re not getting to for a while yet – I’d go directly from additives now to additives in the past to what you wanted to know then to what we know now. Which then becomes a discussion of that data. Just a thought there. The content itself is wonderful, and I think it will be even more powerful with those connections highlighted.

    One other small observation – “And we count on it for all the meals that are nothing more than something that satisfies an urge or are simply a scheduled time of day activity” lost me a bit in the reading of it, and might in the listening of it as well.

    As always, your sense of humour is fabulous and really carries it through. Vampires, indeed! 🙂 Looking forward to reading part 3!

    • It makes total sense, Sue. I love your idea for flow and continuity. I’ll make some adjustments.

      And yes, it’s funny how when I read that second section you’ve highlighted, I trip on it, although the auditory version seems to work. Still, I’ll rework it and smooth that bit out.

      As usual, your editorial hat is affixed in a stylish, jaunty angle, Sue. And I, as usual, am so grateful for all of your constructive words. A thousand thank yous! 😀

  14. Another good dose of humour, Shelley – it’s a massive subject and I’m glad you’re tackling it. A lot of what you said about advertising reminded me of The Merchants’ War by Frederick Pohl so much, there was a bit in there about influencing children by packaging the ‘nice’ parts of their school lunches in their own product colours and the ‘nasty’ bits in their rival’s colour scheme. It really made me think hard about influences when I read it as a teenager.
    Also your descriptions of pre-packaged ready meals made me think of the food in Asimov’s Elijah Bailey books, the character seemed to be almost addicted to the artificial additives. It’s a little depressing that books that were written with a dystopian vision of the future have more or less come to pass. :/
    I really hope you are right and that we have reached the far end of the pendulum swing – I guess the more people who work to reverse the trend the more likely it is to come about – so more power to your elbow. 🙂

    • Two brilliant books, Laura, and highly recommended from this side of the screen to others who haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

      The bit you bring up about becoming addicted to certain ingredients is on the money. Yes, our children are addicted (and many of us are too) to the promise of those slick and savvy ads, but the components of the product itself is what’s surprising researchers the most. I know I’ve mentioned it before in this forum, but scientist are now discovering just how physically addictive sugar truly is, and how ambitious a feat it is for us to wean ourselves off of it. This is where we’re going to need a lot of support.

      I so hope there will be many others who are ready to grease up their elbows. Cheers, Laura!

      • My eldest has just finished a degree in Biology – he’s incredibly scathing about sugar and just how bad it is for people. Not that we ate a lot anyway, but it makes me even more determined that we’l only eat cakes and biscuits we make ourselves. there’s nothing quite like seeing how much butter and sugar has gone in to make you realise they ought to be an occasional treat and not a daily occurrence.

        • I agree, Laura. The sugar amounts in recipes has been a point of exceptional interest to me as of late, and I’ve been working for the last year or so on creating more recipes using healthier sweeteners and fats. It seems the world of dates has opened up in a big way (oh, my goodness how I have come to adore dates – and their varieties!) and I’ve fallen in love with coconut oils and butters. Yum.
          But yes, bringing treats down to the level of an ‘every once in a while’ occurrence makes a big difference too. I do think that’s going to be a difficult message to get across. You should see the statistics I’ve got regarding how much we Americans consume in teaspoons or grams of sugar a day. Shocking. Our poor pancreases!

          • Ooh, dates are fabulous – I treat myself to special fresh dates when they’re in the shops at Christmas. Having cooked from scratch for years I find the taste of many pre-prepared stuff really disappointing and crave fresh fruit etc instead. It’s strawberry season right now 🙂

  15. My mother’s stable was cream of mushroom soup as well! I don’t think I ate a fresh mushroom until I was in my twenties. T’is a somber and scary subject indeed.

    • Now, that, Jan, I could write a library full of books about. How I came to hate fungus!
      I seriously feel like I may be the only person on earth who isn’t enjoying the delectable treats of a mushroom.
      I wish.
      I’ve tried.
      I’ve failed.

      • hmmm. must-a been SUMthing in the intertwinations of our forebears inter-relatednesses: mushroom soup for us too! tho’ B and i rely on and enjoy real mushrooms in and on much of what we eat ~~~

  16. Excellent, Shelley. I think you’ve got the tone just right. The thing I’ve become aware of most recently as regards ‘manufactured’ food is the true implications of products labelled ‘low sugar’ or ‘low fat’. Yuck!

    It’s definitely true that the nearer food is to its natural state the better for nutrition, health and taste – to say nothing of the effects on the planet.

    More power to you.

    • Thank you, thank you, Anne. I truly appreciate hearing what you have to say. Even if it’s contrary to what I’ve written. It’s one of the best parts about this community–so many opportunities to see things through other people’s eyes. The interactive component is remarkable. (and also connecting with other writers is a true treat!)

      And yes, the low-sugar and low-fat hype is always such a sucker punch once the consumer realizes how it actually came to be so. So much easier to not eat science.
      😛

  17. You got me hooked (which isn’t really saying much because I enjoy all of your posts each week), and I look forward to Part III. I grew up in suburban Detroit to first generation Russian and Hungarian parents. One of the adventures they’d take us to occasionally were the little Polish taverns in Hamtramck where I would eat food that, despite their own Eastern European background, my folks never have served us. Blood was the operative word between my sisters and me each time! They loved it, and us kids would all just stare at each other speechless. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t “healthy” per se, but it was at least made from ingredients that we all mostly understood. Have you ever watched the documentary “Super Size Me”? It was the last time I ever ate fast food! – Marty

    • Oh,yes, Supersize Me is a shocker of a film, ain’t it, Marty? I think the book Fast Food Nation was one of the most jaw-dropping stories I’ve come to read on the subject.
      Morgan Spurlock has another film out called, Pom, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and this little documentary will make a lot of folks wake up to the art of advertising. So many interesting people out there revealing information we desperately need to hear.
      Love the story about you and your sibs. Ah, animal entrails and innards. Good times, those family suppers. 😛

  18. One of the reasons it took years for me to enjoy vegetables was because, growing up military and moving a lot, we didn’t have the chance to eat fresh.
    I’d love to hear this speech, not just read it.
    Keep on teachin’ and preachin’!

  19. It really does take vigilance reading our way thru grocery shopping these days! I’m an avid label reader and find myself putting back almost every package that “speaks” to me and invites me to pick it up and check it out. Very sad because I’d love to find something really fun to eat in a quick, easy package, but meets my own personal specifications! I know, about the only thing that works is organic, old fashioned pop corn! I found a box of shortbread cookies the other day, a new product, that wasn’t too bad for about $7-ish and found there were only 9 cookies inside! Bummer! But they were pretty good!

    This goes for pet foods too! Unfortunately, there isn’t a single decent canned or dry pet food on the market! I’ve researched them “ad nauseum”! And once you know what some of the “mysterious” stuff is in the ingredients list, you despair of what to feed your furry treasures without making it yourself and then you’re not even sure because you don’t know what all you need to include!

    The powers that be will just argue that feeding the world requires extreme measures in order to produce enough food for the world population. And I guess this is at least partly true. However, for most of us, we’re left to get back to the basics and choose “real food” to cook and eat ourselves.

    • I so admire you for making your own pet food, Rhea. I would not know where to begin, although I do keep thinking that if someone could just create ‘mouse in a can’ that might cover a good chunk of what is essential in the feline diet. But I could be way off base too.

      And as much as I adore grocery shopping – I sooo love grocery shopping – I do grow weary of the ever increasing time suck of “Guess what’s in this package?” The game grows old.

      So yes, real food gets my vote.

      Maybe I should try mouse in a can? 😛

  20. Hi Shelley, great article that conjured up a whole lot of memories. Just today I was at a family BBQ and we got on the subject of canning tomatoes and freezing corn. The process was laborious and hot in the Illinois basement. You will be happy to hear we had wilted lettuce from the garden today from Mom’s garden. My folks are so old fashioned–why, they eat, freeze, can everything they eat themselves. I love it and admire them so much. She makes her own bread, chickens provide the eggs, and noodles and sauces are homemade. I fondly remember egg roll or ravioli parties where we all ptiched in and made the morsels from scratch. Everyone could take home a dozen and the rest (hundreds) were frozen to be eaten throughout the year.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts–you always inspire.

    • Such beautiful, warm memories, Cindy. Sounds the stuff of quilted storybook lives. Of course, that kind of living is truly hard work, and one needs to put in all those efforts of growing, canning, jamming and freezing, but wow, the results. So worth it in my estimation. That’s a lot of what I grew up with as well. It’s one of the reasons I become quite giddy at farmer’s markets. All the hours of effort from so many kitchens. I’m in pig heaven.
      🙂

      • Yes, my folks claim they are the most boring people in the world; maybe they are, all they do is work, it seems. But it’s a labor of love, a lifestyle. They are my cornerstone.

  21. In my Midwest town, it is fiercely difficult to find food that didn’t come straight off a Sysco truck from a Monsanto field. I am exhausted trying to protect my kids from strangers offering suckers at the bank and cookies at the grocery store. How dare someone with no interest in my children’s oral or physical health suggest they ingest pure chemicals? All in the name of being polite? No, thanks. Co-parenting with an ex who thinks food is sheerly consumed for entertainment and yumminess poses another challenge. Dear Opl will be especially good for my household. I’m eager for its release.

    • I think I remember a quote from Dr. Spock (the pediatrician, not the Star Trek dude) who said, “Getting children to eat is so much more about battles than bottles.” Or something to this effect. Point being, doesn’t it seem that we’re forever arguing about food with everyone? Whether it’s what’s on offer at our kids’ schools, what they’re eating at someone else’s house, what they’re picking up at the convenience store when you’re not around or what they’re refusing to try after you’ve invested so much energy and effort into making it for them. It’s exhausting. We spend years trying to fill them with lovely fresh food meant to nourish their growing bodies and after seeing one Burger King commercial no one wants to look a fresh caught Perch in the eye anymore. 😉

      I do feel your frustration. I remember being there. Humor helps. If not for them – then certainly for you. (And don’t worry–those fellas actually hear what you’re saying. All is not for naught.) ❤

  22. *Standing and delivering a slow clap*
    Brava, Shelley. I didn’t think I could love you more – and then, BOOM, today’s post. What you’re shining the light on here is so freaking important. What’s in it, indeed.

    Carry on, warrior!

  23. Oh! I have recently started reading books that talk a lot about our lifestyle and of course, the obsession that we all have about weightloss. And the author – bless her – talks only about healthy, homestyle living. Your speech reminded me of that 🙂 It is coming along well!

    • I think healthy and home are two words that when put together will start to make a real difference to people–and in particular children. If we can raise our Food IQ just a couple notches, Prajakta, it will have an impressive effect. Cooking with kids and showing them how they can make easy, healthy meals for themselves can impact them positively for the rest of their lives.

      I hope the book you’re reading ends up being one that’s brimming with ideas that resonate with you. And a million thanks for taking the time to read this work in progress. In means an awful lot to have your input.
      Cheers!

  24. Not much to add to all of these great comments about the incredibly readable Part Two. My usual goal is to eat as our grandmothers did. (Ie foods that are recognisable, fruits, veggies, pulses, meat, grains, Acai berries. Well, they wouldn’t have known what they were…but you get the drift.) I think your audience will be drawn in by the way you weave your personal food story into hardcore facts. Good one.

    • It’s one of the reasons I enjoy your site as much as I do, Cheergerm. The warmth and energy that emanates from your kitchen not only clearly seeps into your lovely family, but infuses your audience with a feeling of being well tended to and cared for. The bond you have with your food is singularly inspiring.

  25. Hi Shelley, I cannot agree with you more about how food is grown, processed and presented to us these days. 99% of what we come across in the supermarkets is produced in a manner to maximize profit — and to hell with concepts like “nutrition”, “health” or “goodness”. Our lives are so fast now that we have to make a special effort to enjoy the types of family meals we took for granted as kids. Taking care of what your buy, what you cook, what you put into your body is hard, but it’s worth it. The alternative is . . . ramming icky stuff containing God-knows what down your throat, developing obesity, diabetes, skin disorders, allergies etc. etc as a result.
    Your article (and Part I) was excellent. I wish you all the success in the world with your mission. I’m behind you 100%. I’m all for real food, real drink (!), and everything in moderation. Looking forward to Part III.
    Ultan

    • Wow, Ultan, what a marvelous comment to read. It appears you’re totally up to speed on all that’s breaking down in the troublesome machinery of food, health, and manufacturing. Sometimes when I see those three words together I believe they cannot coexist in harmony. It will take some remarkable movement on the part of Big Food to shift toward an area of production where they’re including thoughts about the welfare of the consumer and not simply the bottom line and their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. Somehow, we need to incentivize them to turn their big ships and move in a different direction. I don’t believe it’s all or nothing for manufacturers. Somehow the idea of killing off your clientele doesn’t seem like smart business to me.
      A million thanks for all your thoughts, Ultan.
      Cheers!

  26. Hi Shelley a comprehensive and insightful post on today’s health and nutritional scenario. Every thing that’s easy to eat is packed with preservatives and chemicals. Its a scary scenario and we need to make a conscious effort to go organic. 🙂
    Thanks and regards.

    • I so appreciate you taking the time to read, Dilip. It does seem that we have a raging battle between health and convenience at the moment. But there are plenty of folks around who are determined to connect the two. I don’t think it’s an impossibility. It’s just going to require a little bit of education and some elbow grease. (organically made elbow grease, of course. 😛 )
      Cheers!

  27. While in India I was admiring how food there is beloved and enjoyed leisurely, how it is made by and for loved ones, and how closely people are tied to their food sources. Meals are simple, though…chocolate cakes or ice creams are not on most plates.

    • I have been lucky enough to eat at the homes of a few Indian friends of mine in the past and I have to say, hands down, I’ve never met people who were more in the presence of their meals–the preparation, the eating and the enjoyment of the food–than they were.
      I’m also addicted to any film that involves Indian cooking. I am always humbled and encouraged.
      Food, glorious food.

  28. Shelley, all that you’ve stated here is so true. I’ve always believed that one of the reasons for me being overweight is the preservatives in so many of the foods. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not at fault for all the extra weight I have. After all, why didn’t I make whatever from scratch instead of reach for the box mix or the frozen concoction? Short answer is I was lazy. Now I have preservatives in me that will probably never leave my system. All I can do is stop being lazy so I don’t get fatter.

    • I do think there are so many folks out here today, Glynis, who feel precisely how you do. But I offer up the perspective that our food manufacturers really need to step up to the “plate” and share some responsibility for what a mess they’ve helped to create. A lot of research and billions of dollars have gone into detecting what will make a food nearly impossible to resist. They’re working with human biology and psychology. Triggering cravings and getting consumers addicted to certain ingredients leads us down a road that ends up with precious little space to make a U-turn. But you have to stay positive, Glynis, and see the possibility. Small changes can make a big difference down the line. So many studies have shown that when you start replacing some of the highly processed foods with those that are nutrient dense, that feeling of “laziness” is replaced with that of energy. Now that alone has got to be a worthy enough reason to begin a small trial with one’s diet, right?
      Thank you so much for all your comments, Glynis. Cheers!

  29. I, too, grew up with 5 siblings and know all-too-well the pleasures of drinking powdered milk. There was just no way to properly reconstitute powdered milk to a drinkable form. When we complained about the lumps making it impossible to drink, my mom simply replied, “Well then chew it!”

    Enjoying it so far! 🙂 On to Part 3!!!

  30. I am very late to this one, but this part is great! The jokes are right on target; I’m sure in speech form, you’ll have the auditorium engaged and eagerly listening. I wish I could be there!

    • Ah well, Alex … although, Japan, Canada, why not shoot for the moon, right? Quoting Seth Godin, “Movements have leaders, but mostly they have to have a place to lead TO.” I’ll pack my bags. 😀

  31. Well said, Shelley. I think you can use cake to support your point, though. Cake that our great grandmothers made would have been wholewheat, using non-GMO wheat, raw sugar or treacle or honey, eggs from chickens in their back yard, milk from their cow etc, etc. So the sugar bomb part was mitigated with other healthy, whole foods, and lastly, it was a TREAT–not a daily or weekly food. All the best to you with your book and the presentation! xx

    • You make a wonderful point, Ardys. I’m thinking perhaps I should insert that bit in there as well. And oh, good heavens, haven’t we veered so far off the path from the idea of TREAT? Another very distinct difference and worthy of mention.
      Cheers!

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