– Healthy eating (2)

this is an extract from A HOUSE BY THE SHORE by Alison Johnson, which was first published in 1986.  I reproduce it to reinforce the message of the previous blog and show how soon we forget the past and adapt to everything new as if it were normal.


The farm fresh, country eggs pictured lying a bed of clean straw, is one of the ugliest lies of marketing.  And marketing is a business composed of lies.  The stretching of language to empty it of all usually accepted sense whilst retaining a certain literality is not truth.  Take the legend on the white sugar packet: “a pure natural food”.  Pure in the sense that any laboratory chemical is pure, and natural in the sense that the substance from which this chemical was extracted occurs in nature.  If this is what pure and natural means, uranium oxide has at least as good a claim to these emotive adjectives as white sugar.

It is never wise to believe what you read on the packet.  If the description is glowing, it is because the contents need promoting: if they need promoting, they would not sell, they would not sell on their intrinsic merits; if they would not sell, they probably taste unpleasant and have no value as nourishment.  Nor can one depend on the truthfulness of the seller.  Contrary to the advice given by so many ingenuous cookery writers, it is no use, for example, asking your butcher if his meat contains growth-promoters.  He is not going to say yes, if he knows you would not buy it.  Would he say yes if you asked if the meat was tough, or fatty, or tasteless?  Most likely he will take care to know the answers to such questions.  I do not mean to vilify butchers particularly: every salesman is in the same position, he has a living to make, and the more fool you if you come back for another hormone-plump gigot or another dozen salmonella eggs next week.  You can trust no-one’s judgements on food but your own, and most people’s sense of taste is quite adequate, with practice, to separate wholesome from unwholesome.

Unfortunately, many people develop a liking for the unwholesome.  It is easy to get used to the preservatives, anti-oxidants, emulsifiers and flavour-enhancers of modern processed foods, and to suffer withdrawal symptoms to the extent of finding unadulterated foodstuffs tasteless.  But the taste of bad food (by which I mean food that does not fulfil its primary function of nourishing the body) is not a purely modern phenomenon.  Even in past centuries, the wealthier, at least, ruined their teeth with sugary titbits, so that they became incapable of biting and chewing the foods worth eating – hence the prevalence of refined flour, long boiled vegetables, and peeled fruit amongst those who could afford to choose.

she concludes with:

Over the years we have come more and more to a liking for fresh, clean, simple food – the sort of food that doesn’t convert your liver to foie gras.

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