Thursday, September 11, 2008

WWGE? (What Would Granny Eat?)

"Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize."

This is one of Michael Pollan's primary tenets in The Omnivore's Dilemma that help cut through all the confusion about which foods to eat and which to avoid.

Traditionally this has been sound advice. If you ate something in my maternal grandmother's kitchen, she'd made it. In my paternal grandmother's kitchen, about the only food you'd find that she hadn't made was ice cream, so this advice holds pretty well for me.

But how about people who were kids in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s? Problem is, we've had enough years of fast food and junk food that these days grandmother and great-grandmother most likely recognize all sorts of unhealthy pseudo food options and possibly feed them to their grand kids. Life's busy, and fast food's convenient. It fills the hollow spot, but at what cost? How many things do we spend time on that are actually more important than taking good care of ourselves and our families?

Now that granny knows her Ho Hos, her Ring Dings and her Yoo-hoos, it's becoming ever more crucial that we follow the advice of nutritionist and molecular biologist Marion Nestle in her book What to Eat, and shop only around the periphery of the grocery, where the fresh produce, meat, dairy products and eggs are. These are all things that even a modern, multitasking granny would recognize. Well, I'm from rural Tennessee, so maybe not the starfruit or the ostrich steaks. But you get the idea.

I admit it, I love Cheetos, but a small bag every now and then is not the same as supplementing a meal with them on a regular basis. Who decided that a sandwich had to have chips next to it to make a meal? Whatever happened to carrot sticks? or even a pickle?

If you have to ease into wiser food choices, that's better than not doing it at all. So if you're stuck on your machine-extruded faux cheese slices wrapped in cellophane (which no cow would ever own to having helped produce), at least snuggle them into a couple of pieces of whole wheat bread with some lettuce and tomato. That's not so very difficult. Next time you might even get adventurous and find yourself some real cheese. And guess what? It will taste worlds better than that stuff you used to eat.

Real food for real people. How about it?


Jackie said...

You make a good point about periphery shopping and staying away from processed, fake foods. I think you said it best that it's okay to eat certain items you really crave (for me it's the occassional Campbell's condensed tomato soup with saltine crackers), but to try to make small changes.

Hungry Passport said...

Hi Jackie, Isn't it amazing how you can be a professional chef and still crave something like this specific canned soup? And it doesn't matter how haute the cuisine of your training, it's still the stuff from home that satisfies most. In my case, being a Southern gal, it's pork barbecue, fried catfish and country ham. Sure, I can make a soufflé, pâté en croûte and beef wellington, but a glass of buttermilk with cornbread crumbled into it trumps them all for me. Cheers! Carol