food chinese

Requiem For Accessible Non-Damaging Food Basic food sustenance, along with basic literacy, has mostly been achieved in United States. One can almost say there aren’t starving Americans in a superpower that is building infrastructure abroad for conquered societies. Obviously that isn’t exactly the case, as seen by dramatic numbers of people who fall through the cracks. However, even the homeless can scrape enough to get mass produced rice and bread. Starvation is not a problem as seen by the obesity rates of the poor (and corresponding drains on health infrastructure as well as stagnating life spans). Mission accomplished?

Not exactly. Try going to a gas station in rural areas of United States and finding anything that is healthy. Healthy is a rather vague term but lets work with a definition of a food that at least doesn’t do harm. You might find some milk and low fat cheese or even eggs occasionally. Vast majority of what you’ll find is tightly sealed in plastic and resembles military MRE ration packs. We’re talking about food so full of preservatives, salts, and fats that it can survive indefinitely. When this type of food hits a ravenous stomach, the result is a lot of energy expanded by the body to just break it down and separate the molecules.

We’re all familiar at this point with the side effects of too much corn starch, sodium, sugars, salts, and de facto saturated fats (recent regulatory efforts against blatantly detrimental transfats just touch upon the tip of the iceberg). We’re also familiar with nutrient deprived white bread, pasta, and rice that fills the hunger gaps in a lot of American population. Sure rice and pasta cartons can say they are enriched with vitamins but one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see it’s not the same vitamin level one would get from chickpeas, pricier grains, and fish.

A person determined to find non-detrimental food will run into a brick wall if he goes into a gas station, bus station, or an urban corner store. This brick wall would be humorous and surreal if one wasn’t feeling weakness and bits of pain from hunger. You might argue that those places are designed for snacks and beer rather than food. That disregards the fact that millions of hungry people in need of breakfast, dinner, or lunch will do what it takes to prevent their stomach lining from being eaten further. They get their sustenance from these places out of circumstance, even if just to hold off the hunger until non-detrimental meal can be prepared.

How easy is to prepare a non-damaging meal? Most American supermarkets are larger versions of the gas stations and corner stores. The mega food markets are monuments to the sheer inefficiency of residential living in United States and a reason why more preservatives are put into food than necessary. Getting food (healthy as well as damaging) from the source to a person’s mouth in a 4th largest country in the world ain’t easy. The sheer logistics, of getting it from the mega farms across hundreds or thousands of miles to the supermarkets, necessitate additional preservatives and salts for storage.

It was one thing, in early 20th century, when food production was more decentralized and many people actually grew their own. It became another, when people decided to live in first the urban areas and then suburbia to escape proximity to ethnic minorities in the inner cities. Suburban living and decline of the small farmer greatly increased the need to add life damaging preservatives to all manner of food. Food couldn’t just be shipped by train to the cities but now needed to be also driven from offloading hubs to the suburban supermarkets. Large farms acquired state subsidies, tax breaks, and self sustaining political clout. Many emerging agricultural corporations then drove smaller farmers not qualified for such bailouts out of business and put food source out of proximity for many communities. Many would have done it with mass production and won the hearts of poorer consumers anyway. Now that the population has exploded we are seemingly stuck in this process.

Being stuck in a situation allows those making the rules and providing the food to abuse the system. Many people are not aware of basic tricks used by the industry. An example is adding coloring to beef and salmon to make them appear fresher and redder than they really are. There are many others but even the college educated don’t want to and shouldn’t have to watch out for corporate snake oil salesman. “Buyer beware” as a concept looses meaning when food distribution is approaching Soviet levels in terms of mass central planning, inefficiencies, and corresponding drop in quality.

Some things of course can be done. One is eliminating subsidies for things like corn which allow cement-like cornstarch to be artificially cheaper and used more widely to hurt millions of Americans. Then of course, tax payers can foot the bill for subsidies for new categories of non-damaging foods like quinoa. It’ll artificially make healthier ingredients in diners, restaurants, and supermarkets cheaper through mass production. The underlining logistical problem is not resolved however. Food quality will only improve through educated demand from segments of the population.

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