Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This is a fabulous article, as interesting and thought provoking as the book written by the same person. Of course I think it is fabulous because it confirms what I already thought: that eating is fun, and worrying about what the latest studies say about what and what not to eat is a waste of time. Eat food! he says, and he is right.

But of course there is a catch, because by 'food' he does not mean 'nutritionally enhanced food-like products.' He means, you know, actual vegetables and things. This is made easy for me because I have a hard time deciphering the instructions on prepackaged food here, so stick to fresh food that doesn't need instructions. (In other words, I am forced into eating healthily because I am too lazy to learn to read properly.) Also, we don't have a microwave.

We think that we have a lot more choices in our food than our great-grandparents did, but chew on this:

The astounding variety of foods on offer in the modern supermarket obscures the fact that the actual number of species in the modern diet is shrinking. For reasons of economics, the food industry prefers to tease its myriad processed offerings from a tiny group of plant species, corn and soybeans chief among them. Today, a mere four crops account for two-thirds of the calories humans eat. When you consider that humankind has historically consumed some 80,000 edible species, and that 3,000 of these have been in widespread use, this represents a radical simplification of the food web.

I know that when I first came to Japan I was astonished by the different kinds of leafy greens available. We didn't have that many in New Zealand. (I think there are more, now.) Of course there are some other foods that it is difficult to find in Japan, but really I can get almost anything these days.

There is even a Costco now, which imports American foods. This is good for those who really miss 'home' style food, I suppose, although it didn't work for me, probably because I'm not American. The Man and I went there once. We paid the joining fee and spent some time wandering around the aisles. After a while we realized that there was nothing we actually wanted to buy except for some printer ink cartridge refill packs. There was a lot of prepackaged American food that the Americans I know rave about and miss terribly when they're here, but very little we would normally eat. Besides, the amounts were too big. We tend to eat fresh food, and don't want huge amounts of anything. I realized that the people who had told me about the great deals available and how much they liked having familiar food available at good prices were all American, and they miss different things from me. I do not crave frozen pizza, or breakfast cereals, or 'home-made' cookies. When I get cravings for 'home' food I crave rhubarb and tamarillos and passionfruit and Granny Smith apples and vegemite. The fresh foods section sold nothing we could not get more conveniently at a local supermarket. We buy veges almost every day, so a special trip in a taxi (Costco is not located conveniently for those without cars) is not worth it for us. We eat cheese so seldom that we don't really mind paying luxury prices for it at the department stores, so although I love cheese it was not worth joining for that, either.

So we unjoined, were refunded our money, and have never been back.

Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, the writer suggests, and when I look at my daily diet I realize that although my great-great-grandmother probably wouldn't have recognized kikuna or komatsuna or mizuna or kombu, SOMEBODY'S great-great-grandmother probably did.

And that makes it all right, doesn't it?

I hadn't thought about the food I miss for ages, and I was doing all right before I started thinking about tamarillos. (With a little sugar sprinkled over them, and a blob of fresh whipped cream.) I am now convinced that this cold was caused by a tamarillo deficiency.

(Although I'm feeling much better now, thank you.)


StyleyGeek said...

I miss tamarillos too, and feijoas. You can sometimes buy one or the other here, but they tend to be a couple of dollars EACH, which is just ridiculous. If you can't get them from your own garden, you should at least be able to buy gigantic bags for a couple of dollars. Anything else is just WRONG.

(I miss rhubarb a little less, because preparing it just seems like far too much effort.)

Miz UV said...

I finally joined Costco a year ago because "everybody" said how much money I would save. I've gone there once to shop. Could barely find anything that made sense to buy. As you say, stuff is packaged in way too large of quantities, even for a family of four--my cabinets are only so large! The best thing I found was a tub of blueberries that were cheap and delicious (I adore blueberries). But that's not worth rejoining for and I'm letting my membership lapse.

Keera Ann Fox said...

There is a pumpkin pie baking in my oven right now, which is one those typically American things I was happy to finally be able to find the ingredients for in Norway.

Since I spent so much of my childhood in Norway, back when there were far fewer imported and pre-packaged foods, there aren't many American foods I miss (or even recognize) since I didn't grow up with them. My family usually cooked from scratch, anyway.

I was inside Costco on my vacation to the US and I'm amazed at all the, well, crap. Family-sized crap. *shudder*

(Glad you're better.)

Badaunt said...

styleygeek: Feijoas! Did I mention feijoasl? Yes, feijoas, too. Are you saying they're expensive even in Australia? I've seen both feijoas and tamarillos in Japan, but only once, and the price was ridiculous. They were individually wrapped. But I thought they'd have them in Australia!

When I was a kid you couldn't even buy feijoas in the shops. It seemed that everybody had a tree, and you couldn't give them away. I was a bit surprised when I got older and they started turning up in the supermarket. I wondered who would actually pay for them, but I suppose people didn't have the trees anymore.

Miz UV: Things like the blueberries are what my colleagues mention when they talk about Costco, but I'm sure that can't be all they're buying. There weren't any the time we visited, and I'm sure that can't be all they're buying. I suspect they're actually stocking up on junk food.

Keera: It had to be the food people miss that is the draw, which is why it doesn't work for me, either. I can imagine that if you're a bit homesick you might find yourself craving food you wouldn't normally eat so much of, just because it's familiar.