Reverse the brainwashing over what we eat

Homemade food products are healthier, cheaper, less wasteful, and easy to make

In 2007, Statistics Canada reported 29 per cent of adolescents were headed for heart disease, diabetes, and a shortened life.

The problem – obesity from a diet of salts, fats and sugars – is getting worse.

By 2040, 70 per cent of Canadian adults will suffer illnesses brought on by lifetimes of fast food restaurants and processed foods.

Wendy Weatherford Rairdan, a Texas-raised resident of Maple Ridge, doesn’t want her seven- and 11-year-old children to be among them, and she has an educational plan to make sure they aren’t.

Rairdan, who’s married to a Canadian metalurgical engineer, says it was formed after listening to people at the CEED Centre discuss food security.

Kim Lauzon, the founder of the newly formed Golden Ears Food Co-op, regularly addresses the important role of local farmers. Rairdan says topics like that inspired changes in the way she shops and prepares food.

Nutritional food chef, Jamie Oliver was another incentive. Rairdan watched a Youtube video of Oliver showing how kids are drawn to processed meals, which they quickly become addicted to. His guests, six elementary aged students, watched Oliver  blend the cheap parts of a chicken – fat, backs, connective tissue, bones, and the extra skin Homer Simpson craves – with flavouring and stabilizers. The kids were quick to label this grey goop “horrible.” But, when Oliver shaped it into nuggets and fried it, they were hooked. Oliver – shaking his head at his “failed” experiment – had concocted something all were keen to devour.

Rairdan wasn’t surprised. “Kids will eat anything in the shape of a dinosaur,” she says. “They’ve so disconnected from their food. Many haven’t eaten a tomato, and don’t know what vegetables are. A young clerk once asked me what kale was. Kids have been brainwashed.”

In an effort to reverse brainwashing of her kids, Rairdan – with the help of the internet – often shows them how real food is made. “I’m learning to cook differently from watching Youtube,” she says. “I’ve learned to make yogurt, butter, pizza dough, sour cream, pickles, jams, jellies and chutney. My son didn’t realize that sour cream was a milk product. Now he knows how to take a cup of milk, add a tablespoon of buttermilk, and cover the container. After 24 hours, he’s excited to learn he’s made sour cream.”

Wendy notes that home products are healthier, cheaper, less wasteful, and easy to make. “I have tools that my grandmother didn’t that takes the labour out of the process of making pizza dough. I can dump everything into a Kitchen-aid mixer, walk away for five minutes. When I come back the dough is kneaded and ready to rise.”

The food re-education plan has been successful in other areas. The Rairdans have learned more about the costs associated with transporting food. After one grocery trip to Costco, the family listed everything they bought, and – with Google maps – calculated the distance items travelled.

“The total was 7,000 miles,” says Rairdan.

That surprising figure gave rise to debates over the pros and cons of moving food across countries by diesel trucks. Rairdan still thinks trucking is efficient considering the volume of goods moved and the number of people fed, but she appreciates hidden costs like additional carbon dioxide emissions created in the packaging process.

“Because of that, I buy quick cook oats in bulk, now,” says Rairdan, “rather than buy the expensive, individually packaged oatmeal with all the garbage included.”

Another concern about moving food long distances involves food security. Food supply could be disrupted by labour strikes, crop failures like that of corn in the U.S. this year, or rises in fuel prices.

“With our standard fare having travelled 7,000 miles, we are at risk,” admits Rairdan. “So, I’ve started focusing on local sources. We need to support local farmers as much as possible so that there will always be enough food.”

This realization “started us talking a lot about eating fruits and vegetables that are in season,” says Rairdans. “For example, I’m buying blueberries now during blueberry season, instead of grapes, and perishables every two days at the market down the street.

There’s less food waste if you buy as you need it,” she says. “But I still have a lot more to learn.”

• Bits and bites: Alexandra Morton, in Nova Scotia, purportedly bought a farmed salmon in Sobey’s, a Maritimes supermarket chain, then dissected it to expose 28 sea lice. Her Youtube video prompted Sobeys to remove the fish from all their stores the next day.

• Internet blogger Suresh Fernando reports 70 B.C. rallies – 7,112 individuals – against tar sands pipelines and tankers on Oct. 24 displayed “an unbroken wall of opposition.” Locally, 70 folk stood outside MLA Marc Dalton’s closed office. The “no” wave is not a tsunami yet, but it’s gaining momentum.

• Russia has suspended imports of GM corn from the U.S. following a study linking it to breast cancer, liver and kidney damage. In B.C., fruit growers campaign to fight GM apples that won’t turn brown when sliced. Recently, an Okanagan lab was created specifically to produce these Franken-apples for supermarkets. Will this stupidity never end?

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

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