Newcastle — While I was waiting for the eye doctor last week I picked up a December 3, 2012 copy of TIME magazine. I used to subscribe to TIME but gave it up years ago when the content began to resemble People magazine, very unsophisticated; what a snob I can be. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in this issue. Several articles caught my interest, and so I stole this office copy and brought it home to read when the pupil dilation recovered.
The cover story was written by TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz titled “The Anti-food-snob Diet.” (There’s that “snob” word again!) Living in an era when organic and specialty foods are sweeping the country and certainly Maine, I, as a certified contrarian and unabashed Luddite, was intrigued.
Quoting Dr. Oz, “The rise in foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic--all with premium price tags.” Indeed it has, and I take exception to this, since it is implied that the premium fodder is better for you. It isn’t, though it might taste slightly better. I know I prefer a free-range egg to the common variety, but not at twice the price. Nutritionally, as the good Dr. points out, an egg is an egg (and why we should pay more for a brown shell remains a mystery to me). As for the additives the foodies complain about, I am not loath to dine on antibiotic-laced, farm-raised salmon, and I reject the argument that this is bad for me. If we are all eating poisonous food, why do we keep living longer?
I am not supportive of several aspects of mass produced foods, especially the environmental impact and the treatment of animals as we ready them for our gullet. However, the miracles of freezing and canning pretty much denigrate the trumpeted superiority of the snob food. It’s a very good thing that the inexpensive “frosty, slightly slimy, algae-colored slab” emerging from the package of frozen spinach is just as good for you as the admittedly more attractive fresh bouquet costing much more. Note further that with the processed product you stand no chance of ingesting some pesky live beast, say the Diabrotica virgifera Le Conte.
Permit me to stand up for our children. I take exception to the current school luncheon trends. Peanut Butter is the staff of life. The expiring of a few children suffering an allergic reaction is not, in my view, a sufficient reason for depriving all of this delight. One might merely post a note: “This brown paste is peanut butter; it may kill you; be advised.” When cafeteria trash barrels overflow with wholesome yet discarded salads, leaving the children too hungry to learn, I am reminded of Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat chips!”
In Gotham, Hizzonor, who already overstepped his authority when he decreed that no one could smoke anywhere, now tries to limit the size of bottled belly wash. His reasoning is based, obviously, on the condition of our collective waistlines. I will grant the mayor one point. I see no reason why a product should become markedly less expensive, per ounce, when dispensed in larger quantities. Some slight production savings might accrue from the reduced cost and quantity of containers to be strewn along our riverbanks and byways. However, thirty ounces should cost almost exactly three times ten ounces, and this is not the case. As for his “chubby” factor, I would point out that our ancestors lived when foraging involved more than a dash to the fridge, and having a bit of fat stored for the lean times was a good thing. One can easily find “experts” who believe that being somewhat overweight is not at all unhealthy.
One point on which I might quibble with Dr. Oz regards olive oil, surely the food of the gods. He stands by the regular, rather than the first pressed extra- virgin (a term which has always puzzled me), admitting that while the latter may be a bit more savory, it is nearly five times the price. I find, yes, that more-than-virgin does taste better than the already-ravaged, but at a premium of only about twenty percent, and that extra cost is well worth it. However, I would add that processed olive oil is one of the world’s great food scams, and what you buy as extra-virgin may in fact be canola. But that’s another subject.
For all the ongoing hoopla I will say, as I have before, “If it tastes good, eat it; just not too much of it, and don’t overlook the more economical offerings.”