Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Welcome to the Church of the Holy Cabbage - Lettuce pray!” (Part 2)

Life is an onion and one cries while peeling it. ~French Proverb
A glance through any of those magnificent Victorian gardening manuals will remind any interested person of the specimens which have been long lost, leaving only those varieties which fit the needs of the Market – fruit and vegetables which travel and store well and look good on supermarket shelves, never mind that when you get them home they taste terrible.

I remember there used to be a point in time, when I was still at school, and at the height of the UK strawberry season, when greengrocers sold "jam" strawberries. These didn't look as perfect as the more expensive "table" strawberries, but they were often superior in the taste department, abounding with scarlet maturity. The few minutes spent trimming off whopped bits was more than a counterbalanced for the taste, a strong, deep essence of strawberry flavour that we kids would crave and be driven to foray into the pantry where our mum kept her homemade stock, in the end under lock and key.

Today, jam strawberries are a tinged memory, as are local greengrocers, for that matter; and what a shame, but regrettably that’s the capitalist market for you.

Equally nasty things have been happening to animal farming and poultry keeping, which I am sure that from time to time most of us have learnt about when reported in the news, and with absolute horror.

Some 2,500 years ago, Hypocrites, the founder of modern medicine, said clearly: 'Your food is your medicine, your medicine is your food.' However in the meantime, today’s doctors in training dedicate only a small portion of their studies to nutrition. Yet when you look at the newspapers, you can hardly miss the stories about the link between nutrition and health. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure - Western wealth-related illnesses that indisputably have 'something' to do with food.

What happened?

The drive to intensive rearing of birds and animals had increased fat by decreasing animal mobility. The move from candles and rush candles made of animal fats to lamps fuelled by mineral oil increased the surplus. During the 1920’s sausage maker Thomas Walls and Company solved the problem of mounting surplus fat by converting it into ice cream.

A little history is called for here:

Wall’s set up its first ice cream factory in Acton London in 1922. Its product was sold from tricycles, but during the Second World War due to shortages of ingredients and factories taken over for the war effort, production stopped and resumed only after the war when rationing was still in place, with pre-war ingredients banned from being used in ice cream manufacture in-came vegetable fats and milk powder as a substitute. By the time rationing ended in 1953, the great British seaside loving public were hooked and accustomed to the taste of ice cream produced with vegetable fat. And who’s to say, accidently averting a major health issue that science at the time would have been unable to detect?

For years ice cream was what McDonalds is today, and Wall’s along with Lyons Maid were the market leaders, they even set-up research and development departments to study ice cream and its manufacture. One of the scientists who conducted research for Lyons in the 1950’s was a young chemist, Margaret Roberts, who later became better known under her married name of Thatcher.

Unhappy meal

To stay healthy humans need some 50 different minerals, which we ourselves cannot produce. These minerals have to come from somewhere. You'd think they'd come from food, as they always have. But a lot of important minerals have disappeared from our farmland due to years of artificial fertiliser use. Artificial fertiliser, a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, disrupts the balance of the soil. While crops may grow, that growth compromises other important minerals, such as magnesium, chromium and selenium.

After conducting studies in various parts of the world, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concluded that the prevailing method of farming is leading to a 'serious shortage' of minerals. Another recent study showed that since 1985 the vitamin and mineral content in beans has fallen by 60%, by 70% in potatoes and by 80% in apples.

There is a ready-made answer to the question of how to avoid heavy metals and pesticide residue: organic food. Organic farmers do not use pesticides, chemical fertilisers, antibiotics or other artificial additives. As a rule, their products have a higher nutritional value, although there are no guarantees given that the point is not so much what is in organic food as what is not. It is likely that the soil on organic farms is richer in various minerals given that studies indicate that organic food contains substantially less aluminium, cadmium, rubidium and lead.

Oh to eat good wholesome food, oh to live the good long life in and under the sun of humanity; is simply impossible under an economic system that thinks more of profit than people or their heath and wellbeing. Food production and distribution under capitalism has proven that it has no conscience, and if it is able to get away with murder for a time whilst making a profit, then it will do so, and it has done!

Canned, frozen, or dried soups, TV dinners, instant mash, ready hash, custard without eggs, ice cream without cream, lemonade without lemons, fruit jelly without fruit, meat loaf without meat, the list is endless.
Billions of are spent every year on advertising for junk food, sickly sweet soft drinks and presents hidden in happy meals.

Thanks in part to publicity stunts, 800 million people worldwide are struggling with obesity, just as many as go hungry every day. Fast food mainly consists of fat, sugar and salt, ingredients that deliver quick energy. But to digest and absorb these refined products we need minerals and vitamins that their ingredients no longer contain. The result is that our body is forced to tap into its reserves, robbing us of calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, for example. In other words, fast food does not feed our bodies but does just the opposite, zapping our energy.

And likewise, capitalism does not feed us; rather it poisons first the mind and then the body.

‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’

Karl Marx

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