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So much food, and so many food-related hazards

category international | consumer issues | news report author Wednesday October 26, 2005 20:48author by Kathy Sinnott Report this post to the editors

Have we forgotten what food is for?

The consequences of abandoning the true purpose of food and turning it into a form of entertainment.

On one of her first trips to the USA, Mother Teresa did an interview in a New York television studio. At the break she saw her firt American commercial. It happened to be a food ad showing beautiful people enjoying appealing food. She was told by the ad that the food waqs delicious and fun. The punchline told Mother Teresa that the food had almost no calories and wouldnt make her gain weight.

Mother Teresa was stunned. Every day she prayed and begged for the food to nourish and fatten her thousands of thin, hungry friends. The concept of separating food from nourishment had never occurred to her before.

Food is a funny thing. There was a time in Ireland when the main consideration was having enough to keep body and soul together. An old friend from West Cork worked hard at meat production. She raised broiler chickens, Christmas turkeys, bullocks and always kept a pig for the freezer. I rarely saw her eat meat. When I asked, she said that as a child her family had a bit of bacon or chicken of a Sunday but during the week what little meat they could afford for the table went to her father and her brothers when they were old enough to take on the heavy work. For her food was fuel.

Now that food is much more plentiful our relationship to it is has changed and become much more complex. The emphasis has shifted from quantity to, depending on our priorities, quality, novelty, convenience or getting a hit.

Quality is reliably available in Irish produced food. Meats are traceable and free of hormones and antibiotics. Irish potatoes, fruits and other vegetables, especially organic ones, have a real taste because they are grown in real soil. It wasn't long ago that novelty in food was viewed with suspicion. Pasta and olives were something people tried when they were away and some brought them home from a trip to Rome. In fact there were people who wouldn't travel off the island for fear that they would go hungry. It's only about a decade since avocados and sweet potatoes showed up in a few shops.

Today novely is viewed as a plus. Restaurants compete to garnish with new foods. And once they start using something it isn't long before the food appears on the supermarket shelf for everyone to try. We even have begun to have fashions in food. Convenience is probably the biggest revolution in food. I know young adults who only have a microwave in their bedsit kitchen. Between two minute meals and takeaways they haven't starved yet. For those who rely on convenience shops microwaves are more practical than a saucepand and cooker.

Of course, in the midst of all this plenty and variety there are a growing number of people who find it increasingly difficult to find anything to eat. People who are allergic or on special diets are really challenged by the growing sophistication of food. I try not to eat gluten, the protein in wheat, barley and rye. I have three children who can't eat gluten or casien (protein in milk). Trying to avoid these is an eye-opener. It doesn't take you long to discover that we live and eat in a gluten/casein world.

Try finding something nourishing to eat in the lunch shop by school or the office, in an airport or train station or at the hot counter in the petrol station. Almost everything you can eat on the run has wheat or dairy. I met a doctor last week whose 11-year-old daughter died from an anaphylicatic shock from peanuts. The girl had become so sensitive to peanuts that she would begin to react if a person was eating something containing them across a big room. The doctor is now an expert on food intolerances and allergies. She stressed to me the damage that MSG (mono sodium glutamate) and aspartame do to even healthy children and adults.

Considering that MSG is in many savoury foods and aspartame is in many sweet foods, and that manufacturers using these additives do not have to name them on the label, I have, since speaking to this doctor, one again sworn off junk food.

And what about food as a hit? Most of us have toods and drinks we take to get a quick lift or a kick-start. The ability of a food to lift and if absent to makes us cranky, shaky, weak or even sick is an indicator that we could have an addiction to that food.

Food is an occupational hazard of being a parent. I will spare you more except to say that all the above goes to show that I should never write a column on a very empty stomach.

author by Liam Mullen - Freelance Journalistpublication date Thu Feb 16, 2006 18:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Food is becoming more diversified all of the time. Irish supermarkets, especially Superquinn, are now stocking pre-packaged crocodile, ostrich, and even kangaroo.
In certain stores they now have a whole section devoted to olives - popular in Mediterranean countries, but one wonders at the takeup here.
The choices on the salad bars are also widening - Singapore noodles, Thai etc.
The real question for the future lies in the question of sustainability? If we fish our seas dry, and continue with our exotic diets - what does that hold for the future and for future generations?

author by -publication date Thu Feb 16, 2006 21:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

over an gort.

Agnes Gonxha Skopje, Macedonia, 27/10/1910 - Calcuta, 5/9/1997).
Agnes Gonxha Skopje, Macedonia, 27/10/1910 - Calcuta, 5/9/1997).

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