January 13, 2023

Eat Real Food

By Glenn

One of the best parts of my job as a historian is reading.  Because I work at a small teaching university rather than a large research university, I take a broad approach to my continuing education.  

This morning I read a fascinating genetic study about prehistoric dog domestication.  It showed that there are five major dog families and they probably all descended from a common series of events that converted wild animals to “man’s best friend.”

I like these kinds of studies because my personal interests with my professional life intertwine. Personally, dogs certainly made my life richer.  Professionally, it is interesting to learn how humans started to transform the natural environment to suite their own needs.

 I’m also reading a book about food and the nutrition industry.  For my friends and followers on Facebook, it’s not hard to figure out that I have two hobbies: food and public policy. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto brings together both.

My love of food began at home and expanded through travel.  My mother and both grandmothers cooked for us.  Mom cooked nearly every day, and my Maw Maws cooked family meals on weekends.  My dad and the other men in my family restricted their cooking to BBQs and seafood boils.

When I was in High School my Momma told me that I needed to learn how to cook.  She said, “They don’t make women like that anymore.”  I did learn to cook, but Momma was wrong.  My talented wife Jackie is a wonderful cook, and we’ve spent many hours in the kitchen together.

This practical experience made Pollan’s In Defense of Food easy to understand.  He argues that Western eating habits are making us sicker.  Too many of us eat processed “nutrition” instead of real food.  Americans will pop a vitamin C pill but never eat an orange. 

Additives and preservatives have put local producers out of business. We no longer buy fresh food from a local market or cook what is seasonally available.  No, we digest products made to sit on the shelf and stuffed with high fructose corn syrup. 

The reasons for this shift from food to nutrition are a complex mix of corporate greed, science, politics and home economics.  As industrial foods became cheaper they also lost their nutritional value.  To make up for the loss supplement and healthcare industries developed. 

Pollan recommends eating, and enjoying, more real food. Unfortunately, eating real, nutritious food cost more money than processed food.  Cooking also takes time.  Many parents today don’t have the time to cook at home. 

We could make this situation better.  We could reintroduce Home Economics in High School for boys and girls.   We could raise the minimum wage to make real food more affordable.  We can build communities that don’t require long commute times to work. We just need to prioritize people over profits.  

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