January 31, 2011

Exploring the Gray Areas

I have ideas for several posts about topics I've seen in the news over and over again in the last few years.  I believe our media does us a great disservice when they feed us biased, panic-inducing stories about the next big killer compound.  We accept what we are told as fact when there is actually a lot of gray in between the two sides.  I think Zero Tolerance is just an excuse to have Zero Common Sense, so I hope to be able to shine just a little bit of light in those gray areas and learn something myself while I'm at it.  Many of the topics are food related and are of particular interest to me after a lifelong love of food and cooking, a college education in Food Science, and as a mother in charge of (most of*) my daughter's diet.  I do not present myself as any kind of expert, only someone interested in looking at both sides of the story, trying to make some sense of it and sharing what I find.

It seems that the more health concious we get, the more horror stories there are about our food.  Over the years, as we changed from farmers to businessmen living packed together in bulging metropolises, the practice of preparing the yearly smoked pig, canning vegetables from the garden and making fruit preserves to get through the winter became obsolete.  Factories popped up to create foods that could live on a shelf long enough for the city folks to eat and food preservation on a mass scale was born.

Food production on this scale is rarely pretty; there are many things I wish I could unlearn from my college classes, but they are burned into my brain for good.  The joke around Schaub Hall was that roommates of food scientists watched carefully what the food science student would eat, if they wouldn't eat something, the roommate avoided it as well and never asked why.  The truth is that the creepy things done to food are done purely to get the most food to the most people at the lowest cost.  That doesn't mean that they are the best things you can choose to do to a poor, innocent potato, it only means that it won't be rotten or make you sick - at least not from food-borne illness.

As we come full circle and move back towards the ways of growing our own vegetables, buying locally, etc., etc., we have work to do as consumers.  Know what is done to your food but, more importantly know why.  When you see a news story about that new killer compound, ask why.  Why is it in my food?  Why is it supposed to be bad for me?  What are the alternatives?  Then you can choose whether you want to avoid it or not, if you are lucky enough to have the money to make those choices.

Remember that it is your choice to eat something or to not eat it, some people are just trying to get by.  Don't judge that lady at the store for buying those pre-made, frozen hamburger patties.  Maybe that's the only way she can afford actual meat protein for herself, husband, 4 children, Grandpa and crazy Aunt Petunia on two meager incomes.  Or, maybe she just likes the way they taste.  In 25 years we'll all be eating dehydrated food pellets anyway.**

*She eats lunch and two snacks at day care five days a week.  I don't like all of the food they serve there, but it's not too bad.
**I really hope not :p - but my husband, who I made read this post first hopes that we do end up eating food pellets, or at least some soylent green.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate you doing this. You've seen from my blog that trying to explore the gray area is what I'm all about. I spent a lot of years panicking at specific things. HFCS. Red food dye. Hydrogenated junk. Not that we eat all wonderful, and there are so many other things to fret over also. I see more and more, however, that often, most of us have to pick and choose our battles. Maybe that's why I have been so militant over certain things... I feel like I'm at least in control of them, and if I can't persevere there, then I have no control.

    Balance, however, is what I'm shooting for. And for others to see life with a little more balance and possibility as well. Your insight, my dear, is always interesting and eye-opening. Realistic, intelligent, and personal. Simultaneously. If only we could find even more of that in the world... but we'll have to push off the media shock stories first. ;)