Would your great-grandmothers be horrified by what you eat?

I’ve just read a quote from a book called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, in a blog post by Chris Peterson, a legend in the field of Positive Psychology. The blog is about his reaction to the book (all good) and what food means to us today (not all good). The quote is this:

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognize as food” (p. 148)

This is such good advice on so many levels.

We may not know exactly what our great-grandmothers cooked for their families, but we can easily recognise food that they would have been horrified by:

  • breakfast cereal in a box
  • mashed potato in a box – just add water!
  • individually-wrapped cheese slices
  • fish and chips
  • many other examples I’m sure you can name

OK, I admit that our great-grandmothers would have been horrified by the food from other countries as well. None of mine would ever have seen pasta, or pizza, or stir-fries, or baba ganoush,or any of the very many foods we now take for granted. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

Over-processed food is what I was thinking when I read this. Our great-grandmothers didn’t have supermarkets, and probably bought very little from the store, as little as possible. Many grew their own food. Mine milked cows, made butter, jam, and the bread it went on. They probably killed and plucked chickens and a great many other tasks that I would find distasteful. But they knew exactly what they were feeding their families.

It probably never occured to them that there might be anything that masqueraded as food that was actually bad for them.

If you are very lucky you have recipes passed down from your grandmothers and great grandmothers. I don’t, but I still remember Gran’s apple pies. My Mum never could make pies like Gran. The point is that they made them from fresh ingredients, they didn’t buy them from Woolworths.