Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Eating Rich, Eating Poor

I had a great discussion today at lunch about how we eat in America.  We are one of the richest nations, yet we seem to have one of the poorest diets.   I think the reason may be we have lost the real meaning of "rich food".    For us it is more about the convenience, presentation and celebrity around the food, than how rich the food is in nutrition, minerals and vitamins.  Where did that come from? When did this rich nation start eating so poorly?  I did a little search in history and found a few moments in time to consider.

The museum of history in North Carolina studied the food of the Native Americans.  They lived off of what the land provided them.  They gathered wild plants, ate fish and shellfish from the waters, and hunted deer and turkey.   Their foods varied with the seasons. 

The settlers brought food and their food traditions with them.  Many settlers ate boiled foods, breads and cakes.   Here are some recipes from that time.  Because of the harsh winters, preserving and storing foods was very important.  People would dry or salt their foods, grind their grains, and pickle their summer foods so they can be eaten during the winter. 

I found this great site, Leite's Culinaria, that covered 100 years of American Food.
We started the 1900s eating an amazing amount of sugar and preserved foods.  America has been suffering from a sugar coma for almost 100 years!  Amazing.

Processed foods came in vogue starting in the 1920s.  People were able to store their food for longer periods of time, adding to the convenience of food.  Food was also more available to people who lived in the cities and did not have a place to grow their own food.  The more money you had, the more food you could buy!  (I still think it's odd that you can get "food" at Walgreens and the Dollar Store.)

But, I do not think people realized they were sacrificing the nutrients found in food.  This may be the time when our "rich food" became "poor."

Today when people get hungry, they go to a restaurant or to a grocery store.  About 2% of Americans,  7 million people, have their own gardens.  It is no wonder we have lost touch with the richness of our food.  Instead of eating fresh plants and wild caught animals and fish, we now mostly eat frozen, dried, pickled, preserved and packaged foods.  Easy to get, store and keep for later.

I think it's time we realize that a rich diet is in our grasp and health and vitality are in our reach.  We just need to think of an abundance of fresh food as "rich" and that packaged and preserved food is "poor".

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