The Evolution of Food in My Lifetime Part II

10/19 “Taste It” Blog by Bob Zimorino.

Part Two: Parts of the Process.

Mom was a great cook in almost every sense but one. She bought canned vegetables and cooked the life out of them. The problem was that they already had the life cooked out of them in the canning process and so by the time they hit our table they were limp, colorless, and flavorless. Even worse, as a part of my Dad’s depression era mentality, you ate what got put on the plate with no ifs, ands, or buts.

I could tolerate the corn, carrots, and peas, but the beans were beyond me. Not black, kidney, or navy, but green and yellow. I remember having to sit at the table an hour after the rest were done, choking and gagging on those last couple of beans that I was being force fed. I never enjoyed a bean until I started eating fresh ones when I was in mytwenties.

A couple other things that I recall from that era of eating are white food and sugar. Processing foods in the modern sense started early in the last century. People have been processing and preserving foods since early civilizations using natural preservatives like salt and seasonings.

A good example of this in the last five-hundred years is The Maroons, as they were called. They were slaves freed from Spanish control when the British conquered Jamaica in the 1600s. They fled to the mountains and jungle, to avoid being enslaved by the British, intermarried with the local Indians, farmed, and raided plantations for sustenance. They hunted wild boar and, because refrigeration was not an option, dried them with jerk spice for preservation.

Somewhere along the way, the decision was made that people should eat white food, which was basically raw foods with all of the nutritional value stripped out of them. White bread, pastas from refined flour, rice, and more gained in prominence. In the early 1900s, the discovery was made that if you mill flour with rollers at different speeds, the slower roller would hold the grain while the faster one stripped it of the wheat germ and bran.

What they didn’t realize was the nutritional value was stripped right along with it. In the late 1930s or early 40s, the process of enriching foods with the lost nutrients came into being, and by the time I was born in 1953, we were a white food nation.

The other thing I remember from that time, is how overloaded we became with sugar, which was also refined and also incredibly white. We had a drawer in our house that was filled with Oreos, Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, and Scooter Pies. Our cereals were called Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Sugar Frosted Flakes and Super Sugar Crisps because regular Sugar Crisps just didn’t cut it. We were only allowed soda pop on special occasions though because my folks were convinced that it had no nutritional value.

What we didn’t realize was how much sugar showed up in other foods that were processed. No one related high-fructose corn syrup to sugar in processed foods. Until 1965, foods didn’t have to even have ingredient labels, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s that nutritional values were required on the food labels. In essence, we became a society hell-bent on diabetes.

We were sweetened, getting fatter, and making dentists wealthy, all in the name of prosperity. The lessons that I learned along the way included that meat meant affluence, that vegetables were flavorless, and that white food was the benchmark of a civilized society.

Next, Part Three: The Emergence of Fast Food

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. What better place to start his weekly “Taste It” blog than his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime?

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