This is going to be a cross-over post! It’s about books but the subject is generalised, so I’ve put it here.
I just spent several minutes writing a review of a very disappointing book that I thought was about food and cooking it. You know the kind of book – I think they’re called recipe books. This one was nothing but an exercise in yet more lecturing on what I should be eating – never mind what I want to eat! Here we find a surfeit of information thrust at us, about Organic food and GM food and a bunch of other books that might, I guess, actually contain some recipes (each volume needing to be purchased to supplement this free tome). Okay, so there’s then a fairly in-depth analysis of 81 foodstuffs – oh, sorry, that should be Superfoods! Yes, indeed. In-depth. But hold on a minute! I don’t actually want any such detail. All I want is a reasonable notion of what’s good with what and what’s not. This smacks of sitting with your meal set before you, with each item on your plate carrying a little flag stuck into it with full nutritional information on it! To be blunt: I don’t care! Seriously. I’ve been Veggie for over 40 years. That’s more years than some of these people have lived for.
Now let me address the question of actual Veggie recipe books. They are simply stuffed full of every possible concoction that excludes meat, though hang on a minute! Some are clearly not Veggie because they contain fish, poultry, seafood and various other dead animals. Now, when I became a Veggie, it was to stop eating dead animals. But some of these books are ‘Fad Veggie’ offerings. They aren’t Veggie at all, they’re books that contain recipes which exclude certain foodstuffs. That’s all.
Do you know what I’d really like to see? A Veggie recipe book that’s genuinely Veggie and caters for all tastes. For every recipe containing some ‘sophisticated’ foodstuff, there should be a good, plain recipe with basic staples. Down through the decades, I’ve been told to expand my choices by embracing food items that have become very popular with Veggies and Vegans. To be fair, I’ve tried some of them. After being made to feel absolutely wretched as a result, I’m informed that they are ‘an acquired taste’. So, I should persist with eating something I detest until I get used to the taste? Why? Some have absolutely vile textures, some it’s the taste. Why would I abandon the foodstuffs I like for these? And why can’t I ask for recipes that use good old things like potatoes, cheese, baked beans, canned tomatoes, canned peas, and so on? Why must I accept sweet potatoes and aubergines (apparently the two Veggie staple ingredients) and a host of vegetables and fruits I can’t even pronounce the names of? Why do I have to have exotic meals? And why-oh-why does virtually every other recipe have to include some kind of pasta? Potatoes are a great staple carbohydrate-based food. They’re also very adaptable. Even rice is a great staple. Then there are pies and puddings. If I wanted principally Italian cuisine, surely I’d look for it? (Yes, I know other nations had pasta variants, such as some kinds of Oriental noodles.) I can’t help but feel that writers of recipe books are just interested in repeating the same recipes, maybe adding a customising dash of something. Where’s the tradition, or the invention? What was wrong with that big, steaming pudding crammed with goodness that our forebears enjoyed with great relish?
Here, I deviate just a little. Our food is being constantly adjusted to make it ‘healthy’. Things are taken out, others are added, to stop us poisoning our bodies. This is good, that’s bad. Until tomorrow when that’s reversed. Food like bread and canned items last for far less time, and are less pleasant to eat. Why? Because the very things that acted to keep them good to eat have been removed! For instance, salt is removed at every opportunity – and we wonder when people suffer cramp - so special, expensive drinks are made to help – drinks full of magical ‘electrolytes’, i.e. salts and sugar. And sugar, which is converted by our bodies into glucose, is something that must, at all costs, be avoided – except that’s most powerfully enforced against children, despite the fact that the brain (a rather useful part of the body) needs glucose to stay healthy and effective! So what do we do? Why, we seek a ‘brain food’ and decide on things like fish oils, especially Omega 3. Of course, it makes everything smell and taste of fish, but that’s a small price to pay, surely? Assuming, of course, that it feeds the brain in exactly the same way as glucose does. Given the wealth of information the experts have gathered on food, and the vast number of dangers associated with eating, it’s amazing that the Human Race even exists! It is truly staggering that we didn’t eat ourselves into extinction.
Imagine it, if you will: “We can prove, statistically, that the humble olive was the indisputable cause of the downfall of the ancient Etruscans, who had made it a vital part of their diet. What? Well, yes, others have done the same, but there are doubtless unknown factors involved which negate the toxic properties of the olive. No, we don’t accept the research by XYZ Inc. Their research is definitely suspect, being based on purely chemical tests without any reference to strict statistical analyses. Sample sizes? Oh, yes, well our average sample size is some 1500 sets of Etruscan remains. Pardon? Of course we didn’t survey living Etruscans! There are none. That’s the whole point. Well, yes, we did hear that the Government are backing the olive producers and suggesting that our research is questionable. However, a strict statistical analysis of members of the Government reveals that they have a vested interest in the olive industry, with numerous relatives working directly or indirectly for that industry……” [18 months later…] “The recent acquisition of FStatView by XYZ Inc has opened previously sealed files to public scrutiny. It is now known that the ‘Olive Issue’ report, which has seen olive production reduced to just a few dozen plantations worldwide, was fatally flawed and that certain funding grants from General RapeSeed Pty reveal a bias against the olive, especially the oil produced from it. It is the view of analysts within XYZ Inc that it will require enormous investment in land and planting to begin to put right what XYZ asserted from the beginning – that the olive is both desirable as a food item and actually necessary for the health of all citizens. Many thousands of ancient plantations were lost in the aftermath of governmental decrees against the growing of olives. Now, we would like to call your attention to our most recent research findings, demonstrating that rice is one of the greatest threats to public health ever known…”