Ode Editors | June/July 2009 issue
There’s an old Dutch expression that says, “Act normal; that’s crazy enough!” I’m not a big fan of this proverb, so characteristic of the modern mentality in my homeland, where anything different, creative or fun tends to be disparaged. But when it comes to eating, I’m all for it. In the past century, processing food has turned into an industry. Cooking has become much less laborious. It used to take all day to make supper; now you can have it on the table in the blink of an eye. That’s the good news.
Slowly but surely, however, the corporate food giants started to add and subtract all kinds of things. This led to confusion at the supermarket. Sugar was considered bad, so sugar-free products were invented (even as fluoride was added to toothpaste to protect our teeth). Alcohol and caffeine were undesirable components of beer and coffee, so we came up with alternatives. Carbohydrates were cast as too much of a good thing; thus, we were presented with low-carb products. Fat was no good either because it led to high cholesterol, which was tied to coronary artery disease, hence the proliferation of low-fat items. These “smart” products were hugely profitable but haven’t made us healthier. Obesity is rampant, the incidence of diabetes is exploding and these trends go hand-in-hand with our changing eating habits.
It’s better not to manipulate food. It’s healthier to eat it as it is, without additions or subtractions, without artificial ingredients, colors or other craziness. Tomatoes are healthier than ketchup; sugar—in moderation—is better than the substitute aspartame, which has been linked to cancer. Flour, too, is better the less it’s refined; it’s more nutritious with vitamins and minerals intact. Even fat isn’t as bad as we’ve been told, which our cover story makes clear. We need fat, the good old-fashioned stuff we’ve been eating for centuries, not the manipulated variety. Ordinary fat (again, in moderation) is healthy.
The simple message is: Stick as closely as possible to the original food. That means no chemicals, such as fertilizers or pesticides. It doesn’t mean there’s no place for convenience. You can make a pizza without odd ingredients; check out your natural foods store. The trick is to eat “normally”- which is crazy enough.