All posts filed under: The Story of Food

Bringing Food Back Down to Earth

Are you on a gluten-free diet, a Banting diet or a paleo diet? Do you follow a vegan diet or a vegetarian diet? Do you only ever eat raw food and never heat your meal above 60 degrees centigrade? Are you on a fat free diet or a zero-sugar diet? How about the 5-2 diet? Don’t think I’ve gone bananas if I ask: have you ever gone on the banana diet? It does exist – or it used to. There are literally hundreds of different food fads for us to chose from. Although they all differ and proscribe different eating diktats there is one unifying theme that they all share: a common desire to eat only natural, real food to stay in tip-top condition. This was a problem our ancestors rarely faced. The only food available to them stemmed from nature. Admittedly our ancestors dabbled in cross-breeding but the results of these attempts matured over a considerable period of time – in some cases centuries rather than one or two years. Our modern developed world …

The Classicist’s Tale: Natural Food

Ever since we developed the ability to throw a spear and harvest plants mankind has relied on the wisdom of our ancestors to guide our food choices, assess quality and utilise best practice when growing, rearing and preparing food. Archaeological findings indicate that for millennia our traditional food culture remained largely unchanged. This is not surprising. Understanding the rituals of food (rearing, growing, preparing) was a need not a hobby. For 99% of the population best and safe practice was based on an unwritten, rock-solid, oral code. It was a thread stitched from one generation to the next which over the years formed a vast, patterned cloth. The only way to survive was to learn how to stitch the thread, understand the patterns and pass the know-how on to the next generation. The patterns formed by the uninterrupted thread formed a vast data bank of knowledge based on years of experience, experimentation and intuition that all could master not just the elite, the learned or the very skilled. To this day experts deem traditional practice best practice. Famine, bad harvests, food shortages …

The Gothic Horror: Food of Darkness

The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the highway is sentenced to death but he who distributes a slow poison to the whole community escapes unpunished. Frederick Accum, 1820 We abandon the classical period and enter a new era that can only be described as a gothic horror. The dark shadows that cloud the classical food culture began to gather somewhere in the mid-seventeen hundred when enlightenment thinking and notions of progress “lit-up” the minds of Europe’s greatest thinkers. The gothic horror is a genre that concerns itself primarily with the supernatural, unexplained events and things that go bump in the night.  Quite the antithesis of Cartesian rationalism that sweeps away our fear of the hocus-pocus or the inexplicable force of nature. Yet, the fallacy of rationalism is the belief that the light of reason lights up the full spectrum of our knowledge. The light of reason can be compared to a beam of light shining in the darkness of our knowledge.  We shine the light in one direction and it lights up …

Candid(e) Thinking: Elementary Food

The nefarious tradesman may have successfully managed to chase the hapless Professor Accum out of town yet the memory of Accum’s accusations continued to trouble British society. For the sake of the public good Parliament determined to give the damp, rat-infested corridor a good spring clean – but it lacked the turn-key to unlock the door to the filthy space infested by men of ill-intent. Enter Thomas Wakely, Arthur Hassel and Dr. Henry Letheby quintessential men of their time. Learned, analytical and methodical to the core. Could it be these men were the inspiration behind Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes? Relying on the microscope, the fastidious scientific recordings of their research and the Analytical Sanitary Commission they were able to prove, conclusively, that food was adulterated – better still they could prove who the adulterer was. In the end, it was all so elementary. At the same time but working across the channel in France the brilliant Louis Pasteur was beginning to reveal a whole new, hidden world of creepy-crawly-critters living in food and beverages which …

Whodunit? Killer Food

For more than a century now, medicine has recognised a link between this Western diet and the historically novel set of chronic diseases that now kill most of us in the west: heart disease and stroke, obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Michael Pollan, Cooked a Natural History of Transformation. Something, somewhere has gone wrong. Just as we thought that our food was as good as it was ever going to get a silent, though highly effective, killer began terrorising our food landscape. As is usual in such cases, initially no one noticed. Early victims were laid to rest without anyone believing anything was amiss. Over the years the killer became more confident, more brazen and more assertive claiming ever more victims. To such an extent that those looking out for the public good have come to accept that there is a serial killer on the loose. The killer’s modus operandi is to enter our food and inflict any form of chronic disease – hyper-tension, fatigue, diabetes, obesity, food cancers, tooth decay, supressed immune systems. We feel the …

Sci-Fi Apocalypse: Alien Food.

In his 1951 seminal work “The Day of the Triffids” John Whyndham-Lewis conjures up a fictional world in which bio-engineers devise a new species of alien plants offering mankind new, improved vegetable oil. The alien species escapes out of the test-tube and begins to colonise the soil. Those seeking to curtail the rapid encroachment of the triffid are blinded by a poison directed at the victim’s eyes. There is every indication to conclude that yesterday’s fiction is today’s reality. Like the triffid, the killer in our food is highly effective at blinding all those who try to identify where he can be found. We live in a chilling world where killer alien foods are colonising our landscape and invading every single industrially prepared, convenience food available on the market today – not least those labelled organic, natural, wholesome and/or “free from all artificial colourings and flavourings”. But, what exactly is alien food? How can it be identified, defined and then curtailed? Alien food is invented, novel, patented food. To understand this sweeping assertion once again we must briefly …

Dystopian Futures: Food for a Brave New World

Were he alive today Orwell may want to re-write the script to his seminal work entitling it Innovation, as opposed to, Animal Farm. For, if current food innovators have their way traditional farm animals will be a thing of the past.  Orwell would not even be able to construct a series of animal personalities capable of forming the back-bone to a popular revolt against the oppressive Farmer Jones given that farm animals are currently undergoing an existential crisis. Animal Farm: The year 2008 At the beginning of the twenty-first century the world descended into chaos and instability as the agricultural community divided into two camps. The first camp, supported by Farmer Snowball, felt passionately that farming should be based on traditional best practice and the use of modern technology relied upon in times of necessity only. Farmer Snowball was a fourth generation farmer who owned a medium-sized farm and a herd of dairy cattle. He made a meagre living out of selling raw milk and traditional cheeses at local farmer’s markets. The opposing camp was led by Professor Dr. …