“Just keepin’ it real” is a popular phrase these days. Authenticity is a quality I admire greatly, especially in our culture, which promotes phoniness at every turn. One of the most important arenas for keeping it real is on our plates.
So many health problems are due to eating fake food. Of course, processed foods are tasty (if overly-salted and overly-sweetened foods are what you’re used to), cheap and easy. Our federal government provides generous subsidies to growers of corn, and soy, making high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soy oil available to food manufacturers at rock-bottom prices. Take a stroll through the center aisles of your supermarket, where the bulk of the processed foods are found, and just try to find a processed item that doesn’t contain one of these. And even if they don’t use HFC, food manufacturers put added sugar into the most amazing places: salad dressing, sauces, all sorts of instant dinners and side dishes—dehydrated or frozen—bread, salty crackers, chips…it boggles the mind.
And we’ve all read how food manufacturers manipulate the terrible trio of fat, salt and sugar to make processed foods addicting. Judging by the crap I see in the supermarket carts of my fellow shoppers, especially the folks who are obviously in poor health, I don’t think addiction is too strong a word for processed foods’ hold on us. And it’s not just our weight that suffers when we eat too much of this junk; consumption of processed foods has been linked to cancers, gout, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, allergies, and even Alzheimer’s disease. That shit will literally kill you.
As you can tell, real food and the dangers of fake food is a subject that interests me greatly. I’m a big fan of Michael Pollan’s books, and try to live his advice: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Another phrase of his I love is “edible food-like substances,” which describes most of what you’ll find in the center of the supermarket. A good film documentary can be a powerful educational tool. When I was teaching persuasive and informative writing to my high school students, I’d show them films like Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation, along with TED talks on the topic of unhealthy diet. The discussions that followed were fascinating, and I’m glad to have given my students some food for thought. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Let me also insert a plug for one of my favorite blogs: Snack Girl! Part home cook, part investigative journalist, and an excellent food writer, she provides recipes for healthy alternatives to nasty, phony “treats.”
Hubs and I have been without a kitchen for three weeks now, but we’ve managed to prepare real food most of those days using a borrowed electric skillet (Thanks, Kim!), a slow-cooker, a microwave and our backyard grill. Last night I made a posole-ish stew using some leftover grilled pork tenderloin. Of course, I could’ve done much better if I’d had a stove, but it was still pretty tasty.
Into the slow cooker went:
- Two cups of chicken broth
- A can of diced tomatoes
- A can of mild green chiles, chopped
- A can of yellow hominy (Yes, canned food is processed, but not necessarily fake. I check the labels and choose products without added sugar, salt, and the fewest possible lab-made chemicals)
- Diced cooked pork tenderloin
- Chili powder
When it was done, we topped each bowl with radishes, green onions, cilantro and a bit of cheese. Real food, very tasty–and another entry in The Leftover Project.