In defense of (some) processed foods
Mark Bittman takes aim at a particular peeve of mine: people's wildly inconsistent attitudes towards processed food. I've met plenty of folks who'll lament all the "processed crap" people feed to their kids and then pull out some vegetarian bacon or sausage. That stuff, of course, is processed, too. Even tofu is heavily processed. It's a process with a long pedigree (Han Dynasty, if Wikipedia is to be believed), but as anyone who's ever seen a soybean knows, it sure doesn't grow out of the ground looking for feeling like that.
The broader problem, though, is that it's really not a good idea to develop fake critiques in order to justify your dislike of specific foods. One of the really difficult things about getting people to eat better is convincing them that it's not just a way for others to impose class-based lifestyle preferences on one another. But when you're down on processed foods that are sold in Giant but all about the processed stuff you can buy at Whole Foods, that's what comes through.
You see this pretty clearly with frozen foods. Foodies love to freeze (and can and jar and pickle) things, but there's a real condescension and distaste for frozen foods you can buy at the supermarket. But in a world in which people are working longer hours and may not want to learn how to cook, prepackaged meals are going to be a big part of any solution. And that's not a bad thing: Freezing food is good for preserving nutrition, it's good for sticking to controlled portions, etc. If the choice is that or takeout -- and the choice often is that or takeout -- then it's to everyone's benefit if people feel good about choosing frozen meals and have a good selection of them to choose from.
Photo credit: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post.
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