We in the wealthier countries have a love affair with the convenience of packaged foods. They are quick and easy to prepare as long as we can follow instructions, not messy, provide quite a huge variety, and can even taste OK. This penchant for packaged foods has also made us lazy.
We simply add water, open a can, thaw out and heat our prepared meal. World cuisine is effortless.
There are several choices for eating whipped cream: the basic carton of cream from the dairy section, a frozen alternative, and something that comes in a throwaway metal cannister. Popcorn comes in a handy throwaway metal popper with a handle, and cheese is even sliced for us and individually wrapped. What’s wrong with this picture?
Kids go to school with snacks in a wrapper and juice or milk cartons with straws. So they are growing up seeing that a lot of what we eat comes wrapped up and what is not eaten is thrown away with the wrapper. Often a sandwich is put in a plastic bag which is thrown away because a new one is used every day.
We also use a lot of plastic when we purchase our veggies and fruit – even bananas which come with their own package. In other parts of the world, it has been the custom forever to carry a basket or bag when shopping for food, and fortunately, some folks in North America are re-training themselves to bring a shopping bag and to re-use some of this plastic.
However, the most packaging comes from convenience processed foods. Since 70% of all processed food in North America is made with genetically crops, especially the big 3 – soy, corn and canola – and since GE foods are not natural, our society is experimenting with the effects of such foods on our bodies.
And besides gambling with our health, many are now realizing that by consuming prepared packaged food, we use up resources – plastics which are fossil fuel based, and metal, which is mined. Recently I saw the newest quickie little travel pack: a small tin of tuna, flavoured, to be opened by pulling the lid off, to eat on crackers, wrapped in their own shiny package, and all of this in a plastic package, which comes in a 4-pack.
Somehow this seems almost criminal…that while millions of people are starving, North American food companies are pandering to the desires of spoiled people who want and readily accept the convenience of packaged food. Our society has been led to believe that because this is normal, that it is OK.
To quote from one of my favourite Canadian musicians, Bruce Cockburn: "the trouble with normal is it always gets worse". Perhaps higher food prices will lead to the demise of packaged convenience foods. Do we need to wait until that happens to get back to food preparation 101, which is healthier for our bodies and for the planet?
Tsiporah is a Gabriolan of 34 years and keen observer of our times and our evolutionary potential as compassionate human beings. She is now focusing on food.