I happened upon an old Oprah show this morning. The topic was about food, specifically being mindful about what we put in our mouth. The entire Oprah staff was offered the opportunity to go vegan for a week as a process of becoming mindful about food. I was thrilled that she had Michael Pollan as one of her guests, plus a food writer who has gone vegan.
I’m not the sort of person who easily worships personalities, but I have a lot of time for Oprah and for Michael Pollan. I read his book “In Defense of Food” a couple of years ago and it is up there on my Top Ten List of Books that have Rocked My World. His concept that in today’s world we don’t so much eat food as eat food-like substances really startled me and started me on a pathway of improving an already well above average mode of eating.
Pollan’s notion that the closer to the ‘original’ form of food that we eat, the healthier we will be is an important one. I’ve always been a cook and have tended to eat food cooked from scratch, but Pollan’s ideas have helped me clean up the hidden corners of over processed food that were still present in my dining life.
So I had to laugh as I watched the vegan expert help one of Oprah’s staff with her shopping. Where did they head? To the parts of the grocery store that were chock-a-block filled with highly processed foods that were vegan. Soybeans processed to within an inch of their lives before being turned into ‘food-like substances’: pretend sausages, chicken breasts, hamburger, etc., etc., etc. I was stunned that nobody seemed to notice the incongruity of promoting these ‘food like substances’ as part of a healthy diet. Sure they provide protein, but at what cost? They have to be filled with artificial colourings and preservatives to make them have any shelf life, to say nothing of the amount of plastic and cardboard packaging they require. I found myself wondering if, beyond ideology, these types of food products really have much to offer us.
I can’t believe that in the long run ‘pretend meats’ are any better for you than a well raised piece of beef or chicken, given how processed they are and the number of chemicals that are undoubtedly present in them.
So it was a good reminder to me to never forget the big picture. Rather than getting lost in the details of whether something is animal, vegetable or mineral, I was reminded how important it is to keep in mind how much has been done to a product before it passes my lips. How ‘real’ is the substance that I’m chowing down on compared to the original format of the ingredients involved?
Now that feels like it will help us all eat the real food that we very ‘real’ people need in order to remain hale & hearty for an entire lifetime.