Thursday, April 03, 2014

Food for Thought

Whether it is the hundreds of books, magazines and TV programmes all dealing with food, it does seem today we have become almost obsessed with what is basically fuel for our bodies.  In the old days we just ate to live, not live to eat as today.  There was a lot more things to get interested in than what we would eat each day.  Perhaps this was because then the food was pretty basic, we always knew what to expect each day of the week.

Now, with the arrival of convenience foods and products imported from practically every country around the globe, it's almost as though Christmas has come every day.  So much choice, so much temptation, and if we don't now have the money to keep feeding ourselves to the standard we had achieved, then we feel very short-changed.

Will this 'eat seven a day' (fruit and veg) do much to alter things?  As Sairy says the government are always trying to persuade us to eat this that or the other, then a sudden U change when they discover they hadn't got it right the first time round.  Whether we choose to follow guidelines is up to the individual, and our gut instinct.   Myself like to believe that all natural foods are good for us as long as they are either eaten raw (when applicable) or cooked properly (in the old days we boiled the life out of most of our veggies).  It's all the over-processing, additives and preservatives that do more harm than good.

Although I tend to eat what I want (not what the nutritionists always say I should), have to say this 'seven a day' has given me food for thought as I'm now trying to follow this.  It's never been too difficult as I eat a salad at least once a day, but even then don't always make it to the 'five'.  Today ended up with 8 veggies in the salad as I'd miscounted (iceberg lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, beetroot, bell pepper, shallot, tomato, and apple - all chopped and mixed together.  Seasticks (also chopped) was the protein content.
The above can be varied:  white cabbage, onion and carrot as coleslaw; celery, walnuts and apple as Waldorf salad. Cauliflower florets, sugarsnap peas, olives, grapes, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, avocado, raisins, banana... not of course all at the same time, but anything that can be eaten raw usually ends up in my salads.  When a salad fanatic (as I am tending to be) it's not that difficult to eat a variety of the necessary.   But it's my choice, not swayed by the nanny state.  It just makes sense because these foods are all natural, mostly fresh, and packed with the vits and mins we really do need.  

Moving away from food for the moment, this dreadful 'smog' lying over half of the country has been caused by pollution blown from Europe, plus our own, with the Sahara sand layer keeping this from escaping.  We have been lucky in the North West, and although just about reached us, the wind has now changed direction and the rain forecast should clear all the filth from the air and the country will be back to normal.

Not unconnected with the above (you'll understand if you read on) is the new packaging suggested for cigarettes - unpleasant enough for youngsters (at least) to find not 'cool' enough to want to have on display.  One good reason not to smoke is that it is such a waste of money.  Literally ££££s going up in smoke!
Also smoking causing cancer.  And it probably does, yet there was a time when just about every adult smoked and I don't remember hearing much about it causing cancer then.  Perhaps the rise in this disease matched the rise in transport.  When I was young very few families owned a car, now it seems that most do, and some families have more than one car (often one each). 
With the warning that  - during the past few days of smog - car drivers should not use the fans/air conditioning in their cars as it would draw the polluted air into the car and cause breathing problems, this pollution would be mainly car fumes anyway, and as these are now always around, isn't it possible that a lot of health problems are caused more by the diesel/petrol fumes than cigarettes?  

Anyway, back to food.  Pleased to hear that Eileen is going to see how much fruit/veg she can buy for £10, with Margie following her example.

It is true Ali (Shropshire) that some veggies do go off quite rapidly, but there are many that have quite a long shelf life when stored in the fridge.  In fact all veggies I purchase - with the exception of baking potatoes and onions - are kept chilled.  The ones that have the shortest shelf life (less than a week) are the ones eaten first, or - when possible - made into pesto or soup that can be frozen to eat later.

Still not happy with the 'foods down in price and staying' promotion mentioned yesterday, I've emailed the store as to their wording as some of the products are reduced for only a set period, and one is at a high price than given in their ads.   I will let you know the outcome when/if they reply.

In the mid-1940s nutrition experts showed Winston Churchill the 'Basal Diet' - this being an estimation that 'in extremis' each citizen could survive on 12oz bread, 1lb of potatoes, 2oz of oatmeal, 1oz fat, 6oz of vegetables, and 3/5ths of a pint of milk a day.  This supplemented (whenever possible) by either more of the same, or tiny amounts of cheese, pulses, meat, fish, sugar, eggs, and dried fruit. Luckily for everyone this plan was never introduced, and wartime rations were slightly more substantial. 
Reading this certainly puts things into perspective, and we are so lucky now to be able to choose from an enormous variety of food whether fresh or canned, frozen or processed, but maybe being spoilt for choice can do us more harm than good. 

Do we really need so many different brands of the same product? Take baked beans as an example.  There must be at least 9 different brands, and within these several different levels of quality that is reflected in the price.  And with aisles full of nothing but biscuits, again do we need all these?  Not sure about all readers, but when I buy biscuits (rarely now as I bake my own), still never bought more than a couple of different ones (usually digestive and custard creams).  

Maybe I'm not a good consumer as tend to stick to buying the same things all the time (but not always at the same time as I wait until each are on offer), and there must be hundreds of products on the supermarket shelves that I've never even noticed, and even if I have, not wished to try them. 

Was watching 'Supermarket Secrets: Spring' this (Thursday) evening, and found it quite interesting, especially how the bakers banged the trays of freshly baked buns before removing them - this prevented them from sinking (something to do with the atmospheric pressure outside the oven  being slightly heavier than that in the hot buns).  Must try that next time I bake bread rolls.
Very interesting too about how they tested the eggs before packing.  The mention that they had a (store) shelf-life of 21 days so needed to be sold before then, shows that they are not all as fresh as we expect.  It's easy enough to test the freshness of an egg by putting into in a jug of water.  If it sinks to the bottom, it is OK, if it tends to lift slightly still OK but should be well cooked (hard-boiled or used in baking), if it floats to the top it has gone 'off' and should be thrown away.

Apparently one store (maybe others) are now packing eggs in plastic cartons instead of the usual compressed paper ones - this to prevent breakages.  So that means more plastic to recycle (if it can be), I've never had a broken egg in a cardboard carton, but have had one in a plastic one, so what's the point?

I'm liking this idea of readers taking up a challenge.  We could keep doing this and share our results.  Next week intend to scoot around Morrison's and see how much I can buy for £10 (not just veg, but all food worth eating).  Then see how many meals can be made from it.  You may like to have a go.

Just about midnight, so that's my Friday blog ready to be published.  Back again in 24 hours.  TTFN.