I just finished reading yet another article about foods to stay away from. The parade of information or misinformation is practically a daily event. At this point in time it’s clear to me that I should be dead, and those that came before me, i.e., my mother, grandmother, grandfather, and great grandmother should have died long before their time. They ate cheese daily, drank lots of wine, had sausage at least once a week and or meatballs, and heavy doses of spaghetti. Their diet also included lots of veggies and fruits, which might have helped cancel out the aforementioned foods, many of which are considered to be unfit for human consumption. They all lived into their nineties or beyond despite their dietary choices. We could use the excuse that the food they ate was less contaminated, but I recall going with my grandmother to buy a chicken from a woman who raised them and I was scared out of my mind. I felt as if I had entered “hell for hens”! I did not see one sanitary measure in place. In fact I doubt that the owner bathed but once a year, if that. She resembled one of the witches in Macbeth with her long scraggly hair and missing teeth. I doubt if any government official had ever seen the inside of her establishment. If they had they would have put her and her chickens on a list for the ten most wanted food terrorists. In fact I would have to say that almost every store we went into lacked any regulatory process. In spite of it all most individuals I grew up with thrived. I don’t remember any discussions during dinner about how we shouldn’t be eating certain foods, nor did I hear whether they were going to extend life, repair cells, improve hearing or give us laser vision. I do remember having a lot of fun talking about crazy relatives or neighbors, who stopped by often, and feeling incredibly blessed to be eating my grandmothers cooking. You see in “those days” families lived together whether you liked it or not. I think it’s great to have progressed to a place where we are able to have more information about what we eat and how it effects us. However, what we all need more of is taking the time to eat and to enjoy what we’re eating. It’s also much more fun and a lot healthier to share our food with those we care about. It might just be that sausage, meatballs and cheese are not what’s killing us, but the fact that we text and e-mail while we’re eating them.
One of the most confusing elements of modern-day living is the many messages that come at us daily about food. I often think back to my days growing up in Brooklyn, New York, spending hours with my Italian grandmother whose greatest passion was cooking. Meals were considered to be a special part of the day where we gathered as a family to enjoy conversation and the delights of my grandmothers’ cooking. I never heard anyone discuss how the marinara sauce was found to reduce prostate cancer, that the olives were good for your skin, or that white potatoes would elevate your glycemic level. There were looks of dismay if you put too much on your plate, talked with your mouth full, clinked your silverware, or interrupted when someone else was talking. I hardly ever saw an obese person. Being grossly overweight was just not part of the culture. Perhaps it was because snacking was frowned upon. You ate three meals a day and that was it and they never included donuts, French fries, soda, or anything that was smothered in some suspicious looking sauce. Today, you are surrounded by fast food, and barraged by ads for junk food. Other ads tout weight-loss programs, some of which promise you that you can eat anything you want as long as you drink their special elixir and exercise five minutes a day. I love the ones that say you will lose ten to fifteen pounds in the first week. It might happen if you have your head cut off, but otherwise this is nothing more than a scam! Scientists and food activists at Yale University call this a toxic food environment. The sad fact is that certain people are making a lot of money selling foods that are unhealthy. Many of the individuals who were brought up in this culture have become hooked on fatty foods, excessive sugar and lots of salt. Once they are on the path to having illnesses related to their diets, they are put on drugs to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels. The sad fact is that many of these health problems could be solved by paying attention to better dietary habits. Unfortunately health insurance payments don’t go down if you’re at a healthy weight, exercising or monitoring your stress levels. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to recognize that food can be a cure or a curse, and to understand that the old axiom “you are what you eat” is really where it’s at!