Eva Bradley: A whole industry is cooking up baloney

By Eva Bradley

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There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Tom Cruise as legend sports agent Jerry Maguire told his weepy co-star "you complete me".

And since time immemorial, anyone with even half a penchant for prose has waxed lyrical about how another person has made the whole.

I can endure a fair amount of this sort of thing when it comes to love songs and poetry. I just can't understand why food has to get in on the act.

Exactly when the phrase "whole foods" entered the modern vernacular we may never know, but what I do know is that eating (and I mean the sort of unabridged, guilt-free, don't-look-at-the-nutritional-information sort of eating) has never been the same again.

It is hard enough resisting the sorts of foods we know are blatantly bad for us without now having to reject just about everything else because it's not "whole".

If Eve couldn't say no to an apple, what hope is there for her descendants living in a modern world packed to the rafters of supermarkets with chocolate, fast food and peanut butter?

The concept of whole foods is a relatively new one simply because a few decades ago everything we ate essentially came that way anyway. Mothers sent us to school with lunchboxes filled with home-made Anzac biscuits and sandwiches made with bread that hadn't required the assistance of several billion additives to coax the loaf out of the tin.

Such is the pace with which processed and refined foods have infiltrated our diets that now you virtually need a nutrition degree to identify foods that haven't been messed with, and then be a Michelin-rated chef to transform them into anything even remotely edible. Or am I the only one who doesn't find the prospect of lentil soup with a side of gluten-free toast the least bit appealing?

It seems a cruel joke and a distinct design flaw that most things that are good for us taste bad, and most things that are bad for us taste good. Or is it simply that - like the bad boys our mothers always warned us about - we always want what we shouldn't?

And just like today's bad boys, foods (whole or otherwise) are so desperate to stand out from the crowd that they've given themselves marketing makeovers so elaborate they leave Justin Bieber looking in need of a little extra length.

Last night on the way home, I popped into the supermarket to grab some milk and one brand had nine different interpretations on one theme. As well as Trim, Blue and the old favourite Silver Top, came a Calci, a Lite, a Mega, an Organic, a Zero Lacto and, curiously, a Super Blue.

Deciding to get some bread, I was equally bamboozled by products that didn't just offer the expected confusing selection of grain combinations but came also with and without so many different ingredients that settling on any one loaf was virtually impossible.

One particular brand was "free" of so many things (dairy, gluten, soy and wheat) that it was little wonder the price tag of over $10 was the polar opposite.

I know there is a growing crowd of whole food devotees who would convincingly preach to me about the unquestionable health benefits of diverting my life savings to such a loaf, but if I'm honest, I just don't care.

Life is short and with today's diet potentially shorter still, but a whole food life is one with a gaping hole in it that for me, can only truly be filled with lashings of modified starch, refined sugar and things that go from packet to mouth in a one tasty (cholesterol-fuelled) heartbeat.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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