Did Grandma eat plastic food?

Mine certainly didn’t.  She did eat a lot of things that are now frowned upon, in quantities that defy the government approved dietary principles of today.  And yet strangely enough, she was thin as a rake her entire life, and pretty healthy too.  And her diet didn’t kill her; that was the shock of losing her only daughter that made her give up living.  It was her mind that killed her, not her food.

So what did Grandma eat?  I spent nearly all my school holidays with her as a teenager, so I am well-versed in that subject.

Lamb was pretty popular.  She’d cook up chops in a casserole, and that would last several nights in a row.  This is old fashioned lamb too; not the heart smart, lean cuts.  Sausages were also popular – and they weren’t anything fancy either.  She usually had take-away once a week; either fish and chips, or fried chicken, chips, and a pineapple fritter, cooked by her local store…not a chain fast-food restaurant.

She ate mashed potato, nearly every night, made with full-cream milk and butter.  She used a lot of butter in her cooking.  She ate toast with butter and Vegemite for breakfast most mornings.  Lunch varied; sometimes a sandwich, sometimes leftovers.  She never threw food out; always ate it up.

So, what didn’t she eat?

Not a lot of bread…a loaf would easily last her one week.  Never pasta, and rice was something that turned up in a rice pudding, not a risotto.  She didn’t eat plastic food – the kind of food that has a list of ingredients on the label, half of which are created in laboratories.  She didn’t drink soft drink/soda…it was either tea or water.  And the water came out of a rainwater tank, which always had a faint tang of kerosene (which she used to pour on top to kill mosquitoes).  She didn’t eat breakfast cereal, aside from porridge/oats in the winter, and so avoided all the sugars and flavourings used to make modern cereals attractive.

She grew some of her own food; raspberries, and almonds and tomatoes and beans and peas – I will always remember helping her to shell big bowlfuls of peas.  She made some of her own jams too; apricot and plum, and would sometimes make tomato sauce too, if the crop was plentiful.  She never bought commercially made cake.

Her diet wasn’t exciting, or rich with the food of other cultures, or balanced according to a government promoted guideline.  It was plain,and plentiful, and real.  A bit of bread, some meat, potatoes,  a few different vegetables, a bit of fruit.  Full cream milk, full-fat butter, and white cooking fat if she was frying something.  She walked her dog for a couple of miles every morning, and spent a couple of hours per week in her garden.  She was quite healthy for all but the last two years of her life, which considering she didn’t undertake weight-bearing exercise to strengthen her bones, or maintain muscle tissue was fairly remarkable…or it would be today.  Back when I was young, and spending time with her, most of her counterparts were also in reasonably good health.  Heavily overweight people were rare – the morbidly obese we see today were virtually non-existent then.  And yet we consider our diets to be so much better today?

There are lessons to be learned here.

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Our daily bread…

…except mine isn’t.  Back in November I decided that I was going to completely swear off buying bread.  I have been baking specialty breads for a couple of years now, and when motivated, made regular bread for sandwiches.  But I decided that in my quest to improve all the food in my life, bread had to be one of the first things to be revamped.   In this case, this means making it all myself (dealing with the whole commercial flour concerns will be tackled later in the year – one thing at a time). Continue reading

Love your food.

I recently changed my pay-for-tv package, and the new pack included a lifestyle channel.  I was pursuing the different offerings and was blown away by the sheer number of cooking shows.  And I know there are a lot more out there, because these were only British shows.

Now why is it, that in this current day, when more and more people rely on fast food, dining out, and processed and pre-packaged foods when they do eat at home, is there such a following for cooking shows?  I mean, I know people who come home with their takeaway, and then sit in front of the television to watch the latest episode of Jamie Oliver or Master Chef.

My belief is – and I am still working out the fine details – that food is essentially important to human beings.  And I don’t mean in the blatantly obvious don’t-eat-enough-and-we-die way.  I mean in a gratifying, nurturing, and comforting way.  Food features in religious ritual, in festivals and celebrations, and even in courtship.

But the more we devolve into a society that pulls a pre-packaged meal out of the freezer or pantry, maybe add water, and then  heat and eat, the less we experience all of the positive, reassuring emotions that have always been associated with the production, preparation, and consumption of food.

I am going to be exploring these ideas more over the coming months, both in line with my ongoing university studies, and when I find the time, in researching different aspects of my ideas and questions regarding food and the role it plays in our lives.  I hope you are interested in following along to see what I can discover.

…and still it falls.

“Rain, rain go away.  Come again another day…”.   Almost heretical words for an Australian, but there is moderation in all things…or at least there should be.  I live in a part of the country named the Sunshine Coast, for pity’s sake!  I’ve seen precious little sunshine since I moved here ten months ago. Continue reading

The meaning of life?

I have been on something of a journey of discovery over the last year.  I knew my first year at university was going to be challenging, and also that it was going to teach me many new things…but I didn’t realise it was going to take so many threads from my life and actually weave them together in a way that actually makes sense. Continue reading