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What’s gone wrong with the way we eat?

I love to cook (most of the time), I like to try new recipes and taste different things, and while we have had a bit of a lull in the garden this year, we like to grow some of our own food (I’m already drawing up lists of seeds ). I don’t think we are food snobs in this house, and while we don’t have to buy the cheapest (and often worst produced) food on the market, we are cost conscious and try not to eat too much heavily processed food. I freely admit that sometimes we get takeaway and sometimes I bring our daughter to McDonalds (bite me), but overall we try to be aware of what we are eating.

I’ve just started reading Joanna Blythman’s book Swallow This and to say its been an eye opener would be the understatement of the century. If you haven’t read it yet and you care about what you eat, then I’d highly recommend it. It may well put you off some of the food products you might buy on a regular basis, but for all the right reasons. It is most definitely making me reevaluate what I buy and how and where I shop.

food eating cooking

Swallow This

This will be a long process I think but one that is well worth it. Along with this, I’ve also been catching up on episodes of Philip Boucher-Hayes’ series What Are You Eating? that was originally broadcast in spring 2016 and has been rerun on RTÉ One lately. I watched one this morning and all I will say is I will NEVER eat a ‘chicken fillet’ roll again. Watch it and you’ll see why. Between Boucher-Hayes’ series and Blythman’s book, I was thinking about food and the huge industrialisation of food production for a large chunk of the morning. In particular I was wondering how the shift from largely consuming home-cooked meals to substantial reliance on quite heavily processed food came about. Then I popped into a supermarket to pick up a few things and while idly browsing in the chilled section I saw this.

Would you eat this?

Would you eat this?

Now I’ve eaten some things in my time (especially during the broke student years) the mere thought of which makes me queasy now. But this just looks appalling to me. To be quite blunt I have changed nappies that looked like that. How have we gotten to a situation where this is unremarkable? How have we become so divorced from the basics of cooking (and eating) and food production that our shops are increasingly stocked with this kind of thing? And please before anyone gets on their high horse to complain about me not understanding food poverty and not understanding how hard it can be to put food on the table and being a food snob, just ask yourself two things: 1. Would I feed this to a child? 2. What else could I buy for €5 to make a meal from? I didn’t buy this – maybe I should have done to try it out – but I did have a good look at it and I found it hard to see much chicken in there. I would also wonder as how to filling it is, it looks to have a LOT of sauce which won’t go far to fill an empty tummy at the of the day. And don’t get me started on the marketing tagline “Handmade especially for you”. Handmade? REALLY? If I’d been working in a kitchen and handmade this to serve to someone I’d be ashamed of it.

Experiments and discoveries

I love food.  I love eating it, reading about it, shopping for it…. you get the general idea 🙂  I like to think of myself as a foodie although I would be the first to admit I am not hugely knowledgeable about the subject.  I read cookbooks for the sheer pleasure of imagining myself in a beautiful big kitchen with all the utensils and equipment I could want and lots of space to prepare the food described in them.  And a big pantry where I could store all the preserves, pickles, jams, chutneys, dried beans etc etc etc from my own garden …… well that’s the fantasy anyway.

Well a couple of years ago I joined a Food Club on one of my favourite websites (www.magicmum.com).  The idea was that different posters would post a recipe each week and the rest of the club would try it out, and report back (with pictures of the result if they wanted to).  I liked the idea of trying new dishes so I signed up.  The food club is now in its 3rd year and I can truthfully say I have cooked  – and eaten – dishes I would never have tried if I had seen them in a cookbook.  Not all of them have been a huge success, some we just didn’t like, others tasted good but my presentation left a lot to be desired.  Favourites that stand out for us and that I have made over and again: crab cakes, Jambalaya (heavenly!!), sausage and rasher pasta (sounds odd but is divine), beetroot and feta salad (and that was only a starter), pork loin in fig sauce….. getting hungry now??

It has enabled – or cajoled! – me to attempt things I always thought were beyond my capabilities – gnocchi stands out here, also cannelloni, guacamole (I thought I hated avocado), and it has introduced me to food from various parts of the world that I hadn’t considered previously.  I fell seriouly behind for a few months so I’m playing catch up.  Among the recipes I have still to make are Ecuadorian Pork Leg, Caribbean Platter, and a 4th of July feast 🙂

So a huge thanks to everyone who has taken part in the MMFC – my palate is vastly enriched because of you.

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