Monday, January 29, 2007

nytimes: on food and "food"-like substances

jan 29th, 2007

i don't know if any of you ever read the (yup, limey magazine) New Scientist, which i used to regularly when i was a student. it had a series of cartoons about a lab developing what was known as 'nufud', a food-like substance that was sometimes indistinguishable from the real thing. looks like it wasn't humor after all... (btw, the magazine also had good writing, esp. from a columnist named ariadne.)

fascinating article in the nytimes. i've begun to dread the words 'high-fructose corn syrup', but it's so hard to avoid that ingredient in anything you buy in the US! fortunately, indian food technologists haven't discovered this ingredient yet. but oh yes, they will. it'll probably be high-fructose sugarcane syrup or something.

i listened to an interview with michael pollen when his book 'omnivore's dilemma' first came out. sounded fascinating. amazing that his answer is simple: eat local food, not stuff transported from far off (partly because it's fresh, partly because you have evolved alongside the food and it's most suited to the local climate and soil and so forth, partly because it costs less in oil to transport it). eat less (or preferably no) meat. eat lots of vegetables and fruit, especially green leafy things. eat less of everything. pretty much what Mom has been saying all along.

this monstrousness is what you get with too much industrialization of food technology. it is a bit of a nightmare. in many ways, it's better to be less efficient in food production, even if that wastes land and effort, to not get to bizarre things like what we are eating. once again, this shows food security is not an option. we have to invest in it. india is abandoning food security in a headlong rush towards industrialization, which we shall regret at leisure.

as a result of eating all this food-like stuff, children are getting so laden with hormones that girls are menstruating at the age of 8 in america.

conversely, and i don't remember what the medical explanation was, there was a story about women ceasing to menstruate at 30 in india.


virat0 said...

Excellent information and bit of criticism and funny too. Worth the time.

Nutrients is not same as food. Nutritionism is not same as nutrition ! So also the article, it kind of stands on its own :)

badmofo said...

Thanks, Rajeev. Rather long article but was well worth it. I cringe when I think of more and more Indians embracing junk /processed food, when our culinary traditions and natural resources offer us such a bounty.

Pollen is absolutelu on target with another point - that feeding the body is not popping pills or supplements, it's more than propelling nutrients designed in labs. I bet the CEOs of big retail groceries eat organic at home.

Shahryar said...


"I bet the CEOs of big retail groceries eat organic at home."

I think Rachel Carson in Silent Spring (1962) related the story about a farmer she visited during the course of her researches who produced chickens for commerce using intensive farming (with all that entails: antibiotics, growth-promoting hormones, etc.) but kept a small number in free-range state for his family's dinner table.

(I do not claim this reference is totally reliable as I haven't seen the book in 30 years!)

"Farmers are the only indispensable people on the face of the earth." - Dr. René Dubos,

Shahryar said...

I think Rajeev forgot to mention that one should ideally buy from the local farmers' market if one is lucky enough to have access to one!