Emily Rosenbaum over at the Ms. Magazine blog had something interesting to say about food this week. In this week's post, she writes about how the convenience food industry has managed to convince the American public that cooking from scratch is a monumental task. She indicates that it took them a whole generation to do this, but that they have done it nonetheless. How did they manage that? She discusses the creation of an artificial market for pre-packaged meals that is based on the myth that you cannot get dinner together in 30 minutes or less and that "processed food freed women from the kitchen, allowing them to join the workforce." Ms. Rosenbaum dissects this in more detail in her blog, and I encourage you to follow the link above and read for yourself.
The end result of people eating less real, home made food is exactly what we have been seeing over the last decade - increases in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and the acceptance of snacking as a way of life. Convenience foods lack the basic nutrition of the raw ingredients that are used to actually make a meal yourself. Because these foods are not nutritionally sound, they do not satisfy, and soon we must eat again. And again. And again.
The other big problem with convenience foods is how they are flavored. Because any raw ingredients used in these pre-packaged meals has been cooked beyond recognition, additional flavoring has to be added. Over the last few decades, this flavoring has evolved from simply trying to make the food taste the way it should to the creation "hyper flavors". In his book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, former Commissioner of the FDA Dr. David Kessler discusses how these hyper flavors change and condition our palates. Various flavors are layered to touch specific senses in a particular way to induce a craving for those flavors even if they do not actually taste like food. My mother discusses this layering concept in her commentary on Dr. Kessler's book here.
As we become convinced that we do not have time or energy to cook for ourselves and increase our reliance on pre-packaged convenience foods and take-out, are we raising a generation that is not only over-weight and under-nourished, but also doesn't know what actual food tastes like? In addition to the increased risk of disease and lower life expectancy, what does our long-term survival look like if we have forgotten how to fend for ourselves?