Welcome to the kitchen revolution

10 June 2010
Back in the day, before the invention of supermarkets, most of our food was unpackaged and much of it was fresh.  I remember a time when there were little grocery shops on suburban corners which sold a wide variety of food.  We'd go there, the shop owner knew us by our first name, and we would buy just a small amount of food that we would eat that day.  Many of the people who shopped at these little stores also had a vegetable patch at home so tomatoes, potatoes, salads and green leaves were grown and eaten fresh from the backyard garden.

When we bought meat, it wasn't an unidentifiable slice of flesh on a polystyrene tray covered with plastic wrap that was plucked from a refrigerated open case.  We walked into butcher shops onto a floor that was covered with saw dust that contained a few drops of blood fallen from the carcasses hanging in plain view in the shop.  We recognised the animal our meat came from, we knew how the animal was cut up and we knew our pork, beef, lamb and chicken cuts.  I still buy meat from a butcher who buys local meat carcasses that hang in the store in full view.  I wouldn't buy anything from a butcher who buys meat in boxes and vacuum packs - that food has been processed in an unseen location.  Choice has been taken away from me.

Take back control of what you eat.  YOU be the person who chooses every part of your meal - stop buying fast food or convenience.  These foods take away that choice - if someone else is cooking your food then someone else is making important decisions that you should be making.

I really love the advice given by Michael Pollin and I heartily agree with it:
  • Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognise as food.
  • Shop are the farmers' or growers' market - it's all fresh food straight from the grower.
  • Stay out of the middle of the supermarket - meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables are all on the outside aisle of every supermarket.  The processed stuff is in the centre.

It's quite a complicated process to unwind yourself from supermarket shopping.  Buying all your processed and pre-made favourites makes shopping a breeze - you know what you want, you don't have to think about ingredients, you buy and off you go.  But as you're unwinding yourself from the quagmire of supermarket food you should be reading labels, cutting out anything that has preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings and buying food that is as unprocessed  and fresh as possible.  For instance, you'd think that buying oats for your porridge would be easy and straight forward.  Nope!  Rolled oats or oatmeal have been processed - or rolled and steamed to make them easier to cook.  That is acceptable to me, but quick oats aren't.  They've been further processed and if you apply the great grandma rule, you'd steer clear of quick oats but keep eating rolled oats.

Of course, all this depends on time and inclination.  If you're working outside the home, you might not be able to make your own bread every day, but if you bought a bread machine and set it to have the bread ready when you wake up, you're fine.  If you're someone who works in your home you might be prepared to make tomato sauce but are you going to make tomato paste?  It's all a question of time and whether you want to do it.  The reason you pay so much for processed food is that you're paying for someone else's time and energy to prepare the ingredients or an entire meal for you.

I tend to go with what I know.  I make similar meals to those I had when I was a child.  I change things around at times, I substitute ingredients that I don't have on hand, but basically it's similar food.  We eat butter not margarine, full cream  not low fat, sugar or honey not sweeteners.  If you're still buying lots of snack foods or prepared foods, stop buying them and replace them with home baking.  If you can afford organic ingredients for your baking, that's great. If you can't, it's still much better than the supermarket versions of that food.

If you're not a cook now, I want to encourage you to learn how to cook good, simple food. And when I say 'cook' I mean a wide variety of uncooked food as well, like salads and good dressings. If you are cooking, I encourage you to go back to basics, get rid of processed food and regain the choice of what you eat.  Part of the process of cooking should be learning how to select good food and for some, to start growing it as well.  Nothing will teach you more about fruit and vegetables than growing them yourself.

I am happy to share more recipes and to write about the process of cooking.  If you need help, ask.  We might be able to get a few  more people cooking at home.  This is part of the revolution was was writing about here.  This is important and empowering. Welcome to the revolution!