Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You Are What You Eat

(Several years ago when Alice and I were serving on the school board, there was a contentious issue about whether the schools could use irradiated foods in the cafeteria that the government was providing from surplus stocks at substantial savings. The local Hippie community showed up at our meeting in vast numbers – about forty people, vast for our community – well half-vast, anyway – to register their uninformed and misguided opposition to irradiated foods, and to praise organic foods. One woman in particular, with a doughy face and frumpy body, who looked two decades older than her age, took the floor to tell us how modern foods were full of horrible things, and organic weren’t. She concluded by saying that we had to be good to our bodies because “we are what we eat.”

After the meeting Alice and I compared our notes, and found that we both thought the same thing at the same time; we wanted to find out what she eats, and make sure we avoid it.)

The featured article in the San Francisco Chronicle recently was a strange missive from a reader in Berkeley (see the copy of it below). Apparently California now requires even “raw” food sold in markets to undergo some level of processing, undoubtedly to kill bacteria in it before it kills its consumers. I’m not shocked by this. Every time there is a problem involving the sale of contaminated food, and death and/or illness accompanies it, there is an outpouring of outrage that our governmental agencies are not doing enough to protect the public health.

I’m also not shocked, since over fifty years ago I remember small dairies in California going out of business because they couldn’t afford to buy all the stainless steel milk processing and storage equipment to meet California’s upgraded standards for Grade A dairies.

So what is Ms. Nowve’s point? One, that when food processors kill bacteria in food, they make the food worthless. Based on my own personal experience, and on what I believe are the experiences of billions more, I think that classifying processed food as worthless is a matter of opinion on the part of Ms. Nowve, not fact.

In fact, I personally have observed that the consumers of processed food outlive consumers of unprocessed food by wide margins. And as the science of food processing and storage has progressed, the average life expectancies have increased remarkably in the developed world. I already note similar advances as we pass our progress on to the developing world.

However, I have also observed that, up to this point in time, all humans seem to be destined one day to die, regardless of diet.

Ms. Nowve’s second point is that what she eats should be her choice.

Bless me, Ms. Nowve, but what you eat is your choice!

No one in Berkeley is force feeding you (I presume). You are free to travel about, and find and purchase the foods you desire, in whatever condition of non-processing you desire, and thence to consume them.

Raw milk? No problem!

Our family lived in Point Arena, on the northern California coast, in the 1950s. We had a cow, a Jersey we named Cinnamon, with big beautiful brown eyes. My brother Ron and I milked her twice a day when she was “fresh,” and her milk was very rich in butterfat. After milking we would pour the milk through a cheesecloth strainer to remove the particles of dirt & etc. (you really don't want to know) that fell into the bucket as we milked Cinnamon. We poured the milk into gallon glass jars, and stored it in the refrigerator to inhibit the growth of the bacteria (which certainly resided therein).

With the passage of a few hours, the cream would rise to the top of the jar, and we would pour most of it off to hand churn butter. The rest we would consume prodigiously, since as readers of this blog know, my brother Ron and I were not only “strong as an ox, and nearly as smart,” we were about as big as an ox too.

Our buddy Bob Seymour wrote he was amazed to watch us eat our morning cereal from mixing bowls.

We also grew a variety of vegetables and fruit in a large garden near our house.

I imagine that, at this point, Ms. Nowve is going to think that the reason brother Ron and I were so big, so strong, and so smart was because of all the raw food we consumed.

Sorry, Ms. Nowve, I hate to burst your bubble, but except for the milk and strawberries from our garden, everything else we ate was cooked. We also ate loaves of white bread, labeled Wonderbread, and Mom bought us Wheaties by the case. A special treat was adding Hershey’s chocolate syrup to make our raw milk into chocolate milk.

Alice reminds me that, as far as she is concerned, I have gotten way off the point in replying to Ms. Nowve. Alice feels, and I’m sure she’s right, that we taxpayers and consumers bear the costs of illnesses and lawsuits brought by individuals who buy contaminated foods from commercial suppliers licensed and regulated by overlapping layers of government.

This being America, the land of the free and the home of the litigious, every citizen has the right to do something stupid, and then expect the courts to handsomely compensate them for the consequences of their stupidity.

Drive with a hot cup of coffee and spill it in your lap? Sue McDonald’s for selling hot coffee to an idiot.

Smoke cigarettes for over forty years, all the while ignoring: “Warning: The Surgeon General says smoking will kill your dumb ass,” and then sue the tobacco companies for selling them to you.

Insist health care is a right, but paying for it is the responsibility of someone else.

But getting back to your point, Ms. Nowve, you may eat what you like. You may have a hard time finding a store that carries what you want to eat, but that’s a force of the marketplace, because there aren’t many nuts out there that want to pay good money for rich servings of e-coli.

Here is Ms. Nowve's letter:

What I eat should be my choice

Editor - Re "Tough new standards for state's raw milk," (Oct. 26): It is quite apparent that California is waging a war on raw health food. First, it outlaws raw juices. Then raw almonds. (Pasteurized almonds are not raw, although they are now being labeled "raw.")

Now this surprise stealth measure banning raw milk. These food fascists love to pretend they are just watching out for our health. But they are actually killing everything live that people might eat, in order to kill bacteria. But in killing the bacteria, they are also killing for (sic) food, and making it worthless.

I eat a raw diet and I believe cooked food is bad for people. I don't force my views on anyone else. People can eat what they like as long as they accord me the same courtesy. But they don't. This all boils down to the question of whether adults can be trusted to make personal decisions for themselves, or if we are all a bunch of backward children who need the government to make our decisions for us. Big Brother: Get your laws off my body!


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