Monday, 25 April 2016

On processed foods

I've been waiting for someone to write a post like this about 'processed' food and the Angry Chef has stepped up to the plate in style. Read it. Read it all.

On convenience foods and pasta sauces in particular...

I am not going to defend every aspect of food manufacturing and I fully admit that there are many manufactured products that are nutritionally poor, but I will staunchly defend jars of tomato based pasta sauce. They are cooked in pretty much the same way a decent cook would make a tomato sauce at home, with pretty much the same ingredients. They are simple, convenient, have loads of tomatoes in them and are a really useful in helping a lot of people make a decent, cheap and balanced meal for their family. They are packed full of nutrients. They have no need for preservatives, no need for artificial colours, no need for artificial flavourings. The tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil and herbs have plenty of flavour already and the heat processing preserves them perfectly. That ‘processing’ is simply the addition of heat. This is a process, but if you did it at home, you would call it cooking. You do not say ‘I’m just processing this chicken for dinner', you say that you are cooking it.

I would challenge anyone who advocates with the demonization of processed foods to argue with me over this. There is nothing wrong with manufactured pasta sauce. There is also nothing wrong with a tin of soup. It is made, filled into a can and heated. Homemade soup may be nicer, but tinned soups are not bad for you because they are processed. The process they undergo is heating, or to use another term, cooking. Just because something comes out of a factory does not make it bad. And just because something is homemade does not sprinkle it with some magic fairy dust that makes it good for you.

On food snobs...

People need convenience food. People need shortcuts that can get a satisfying meal on the table when they are so tired and stressed they can’t think. We do not all live in middle class Nigella-land where the most you have to worry about is putting together a vegetarian gluten free spread when friends drop round unannounced. Real people worry about not having enough for rent, electric and food this month. Tell them that they will save money if they buy real ingredients from their local farmers’ market and they will rightly tell you to fuck off because it isn’t true. Telling people that if they cook with real ingredients they will save enough to buy organic if absurd, unrealistic and stupid. People need cheap simple stuff they know the kids will eat. They buy brands because they know that they will not be wasting money and they do not have the time or energy to experiment. Real people do not want to be lectured about your fucking food philosophy. They do not give two shits about farm to fork. They do not need to be brought in touch with the land to develop a good relationship with produce. They do not want to be publically shamed into rejecting the convenience products they love. They do not care how quinoa is pronounced because they are never going to buy it.

Obesity happens because people make poor food choices. If you took away convenience foods, they would still make poor food choices. People would make chips from scratch or buy them from the chippy and that would be a lot less healthy than the oven chips they use today. They would also be pissed off, because you would have taken away the time they saved using the convenient option and even more pissed off because they would have to think about cooking tonight when they are tired and the kids want some attention.

Bravo. Do read the whole thing.

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