Hard to Swallow

As you know from many, many posts on here, I am a big fan of ‘real’ food. I love cooking, especially using ingredients I have grown myself or that have come from producers I know. Of course, this isn’t always possible – we’re short of wheat-growers in Ceredigion, for example. However, most of what we eat Chez Snail, I make from scratch and processed foods do not feature much in our diet. This  happened gradually over the years and has been helped by the fact that, for the last 10 years, I have mostly worked from home, so that I can intermingle earning a living, growing food and cooking. I do understand the challenges of living in a city and going out to work every day when it comes to sourcing and eating good food, so I’m really not criticising anyone who can’t do what I do.

IMGP3955My motivations are many, but mainly I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating. My suspicious about the content of processed and packaged foods have, however, been not only confirmed, but greatly surpassed by a book that I read recently: Swallow This by Joanna Blythman. I cannot recommend this book highly enough – it is a real eye-opener, revealing, for example, the fact that anything that can be classified as a “processing aid” does not need to be declared in the ingredients of a product. This means that things like enzymes that can be used to change the flavour or consistency of an ingredient/product but none of which remains in the finished food do not need to be mentioned – not even if that enzyme is derived from animals and the product is for vegetarians.

From ‘clean labelling’ to ‘modified atmosphere packaging’, the food industry abounds with ways to dupe us into thinking that the food we buy is ‘fresh’ or ‘natural’ when it is anything but. For years we have been told that saturated fats are bad for us, so the food industry has gone out of its way to create low fat foods that are, instead, heavy on the carbohydrates to give them desirable ‘creamy’ textures (low fat, Greek-style yoghurt, anyone?). There is an ever-growing body of evidence, however, showing that saturated fats are not the health problem that we have all been led to believe but that there are issues associated with eating loads of carbohydrates and that polyunsaturated fats are not the panacea they have been made out to be…. and as for margarine, let’s just not go there!

If you are looking for motivation to cook more and source more products direct from producers, Swallow This may be just what you need to read… you will certainly never read the ingredients on a flavoured yoghurt or look at a bag of salad leaves the same way again. Whatever your position, though, I highly recommend this book – it is in all our interests to be knowledgeable about the food we eat.

IMGP4047

It’s good to know what’s in your food…

8 Meals 8

… and even better to have grown it yourself

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24 Comments

  1. Annie

     /  September 10, 2017

    Oh My Goodness! In veggie food, how very dare they! I’m glad you get the chance to cook more yourself. I’ve make parsnip soup for tonight, mostly from the garden. Wonder what it will taste like??

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    • I’m sure it will be delicious – I like curried parsnip soup myself.
      Yes, it’s shocking how processed food can be treated.

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      • Annie

         /  September 11, 2017

        It was yummy, if I say so myself. More than I can say for the sweetcorn I tried to roast in the oven. A friend did some the previous week and they were delicious, but mine were, well, rubbery.

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        • Oh dear – I like squash and sweetcorn soup (Delia recipe, I think)- it’s supposed to have toasted sweetcorn kernels on the top, but I never bother as it’s a fiddle and too easy to burn them (never managed rubbery, though).

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  2. I agree 100% with you. I have cured all my health woes simply by eliminating all ‘convenience’ foods, pre-packaged items and sugar from my diet. I don’t grow much of my own food, but do buy organic produce. I went from being unable to walk more than 5 steps without pain to marching around the streets happily.

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  3. I was pretty sure that we were being lied to on every front to sell us something. I’ll have to check out the book but I was pretty sure that if it came in a box, can or package, they were sneaking something in. Learning how to do it all different if you don’t have garden space or have a trusted source of food can be a challenge. Obviously, from Pauline’s example, quite worthwhile. I notice immediately that when I eat even organic breads, my knees start to hurt and I have trouble going up and down the stairs so I’m giving up breads again.

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  4. I’ll put the book on the shopping list! We cut out a lot of processed food a while ago, stopped buying sugar and doubled the amount of vegetables we eat. It has made a serious amount of difference. I haven’t stopped craving chocolate and sugar, but at least I’m now controlling how much of it I eat! Because I read labels whenever I buy things due to the coeliac disease, I’ve become increasingly aware of the rubbish that’s making its way into our food, but it sounds as if I still have a lot to learn…

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  5. Scary stuff. When we first moved to France there seemed to be very few pre-packaged convenience foods available compared to the U.K. but that sort of product is definitely becoming more popular and more available. I’m sure they are making the ingredients lists on products harder to read than ever – I’ll have to start taking my reading glasses out with me although it seems as if that won’t necessarily tell me everything either.

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  6. I wouldn’t want to read it actually. I’m one of those living in a city with no access to proper fresh food, I don’t want to become afraid of what’s in the food I can eat.
    It’s my dream one day to live somewhere with space to grow my own food, but until then I’m stuck with supermarkets and occasional farmers markets

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  7. That book is a bit of a ‘bible’ here… a great read! And thank you so much for your lovely comments over on my blog!

    Margaret

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  8. The book is available at my library (😀) so as soon as it is returned by the current reader I hope to be able to read it. I already mostly eat local organic and homegrown food but it will still be good to know the behind the scenes of manufactured food.

    A friend told me that unsold sliced bread is heated up and repackaged with a new sell-by date on it. No idea if this is true but I am so glad I bake my own….

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  9. Not that you need more motivation for your efforts, but have you read Sugar, Salt, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. It’s a disturbing look into all the manipulation that has gone into packaged foods. We stay as far away from packaged food as possible (except for Mr. Husband’s love of cereal) and either cook mostly from scratch or choose packaged foods that have as few ingredients as possible (as in yogurt that contains only milk and cultures, not coloring and sugar and stabilizers, etc).

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  10. Thanks for sharing the book findings, I ordered it and hope to be able to read it soon.
    Have a lovely weekend

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