The food world is fkuked and its all so sad.

We are part of Asia, irrefutable fact. Our food influences now, often confused. Our need for speed is evident. We have no time.

As makers and sellers of food, based on best principles, we are obligated to ensure the survival of tradition, the best food to consume and an acceptance of what is todays world.

It is far from easy, often confrontational, frequently at odds with established ways. We see food, its making and consumption in a fluid state, at once changeable and often threatening. We are challenged to make something decent of the food we eat in a rapidly expanding international consumerist driven market.

Control of food has slipped from the hands of quality driven consumers into the hands of wealth driven consortiums, made to be an entertainment and lost to home and hearth. It is interesting to hear comments from leading food importers who defend their position and say that we have no right to complain should Australian industry be effected by cheap imports.

Wresting back this most basic, elemental need of mankind, from the hands of those who clearly do not share thinking peoples concerns for sustainability, organic, natural and delicious food is hugely difficult. Farmers markets, sustainability movements and a growing populace demanding accountability and honesty whilst encouraging and necessary, are slow moving.

Hard to see any time soon that television producers will give up the awful foodtainment money machine, or that multi national corporations will stop the array of practices designed to make food conform to the financial paradigm.

In order to argue this better, it is necessary to face some realities. Big business is never going to loosen its hold on food as a money making device, winding back the clock is not an option. Food as entertainment is here to stay. The only way is to move forward, hopefully with a more balanced view.

I have found it personally confronting to think that the foods, preparation, buying, growing and consuming have, over the years, been challenged, pushed aside and generally made to feel diminished. Meat is a great example. My own family were in the business of meat, my father, his father and my uncles all were engaged in buying, slaughtering and selling meat. They chose the animals destined for the table with care, only the best, they were treated with honour, slaughtered with dignity (by my father) and much enjoyed by those lucky enough to get the meat.

The situation in the meat world today is vastly different, the whole business has been impacted by (occasionally over zealous) meat and health inspectors, imposing regimes designed in other countries. With the inclusion of meat into what we knew as ‘grocers’ and which became ‘supermarkets’, things changed at a very rapid pace. The buying power of these huge companies was such that they could and did dictate to the food growers. Red meat with yellow fat became pink meat with white fat in order to fulfil a perceived market (but actually imposed) need, aided and abetted by feed lot owners who wanted to feed their animals with grain.

The world wide migration of people displaced by war, natural phenomena and the shifting tide of human desire began, every country on earth experienced population changes, Australia began by hosting huge numbers of Mediterranean people, people from UK had long since travelled to this land. Australia began to see people coming to live from all over Europe, each bringing with them their own take on food. Australia was never to be the same again. The USA was such a mixture that no one food style ever dominated, hence the amazing diversity of foods now found there.

While most people welcomed the changes… garlic, pasta, rice, French food, Greek food, Italian food, as a great change from the stodge of UK food, the down side was confusion. In the past we knew where we were going when we went into the kitchen, it was to cook some meat and three veg, now we stood at the doorway and pondered menu. We became vulnerable.

Communication played its part, Australia was a long way from Europe, news took weeks to arrive. Making a phone call to the UK was a very expensive affair. We watched on the movietone news the comings and goings on the other side of the world. We looked in amazement at the complex and beautiful Asian lands. The Government had in place the ‘White Australia’ policy to keep us free of coloured people. Never worked of course. Television arrived, fast transport, instant communication. We were no longer a quiet backwater, we were at the coalface, with no way of getting the coal.

This country seemed to be suffering a crisis of identity, Out with the old and in with the new.

Stability had been a part of the nation for years, now it was no longer there. After the war, Asian countries began to flood world markets with cheaper goods, quality was a thing of the past, now it was all about possession.

Health and health issues became more and more front and centre as the world developed, and yet diseases seemed to multiply. We became confused, indeed still do, as we are told by experts that food we had enjoyed for years was no longer healthy, sugar was bad, butter was bad, fat was bad. We had to learn to consume oil, we needed to retrain our cooking methods, no longer Salad Cream, but a Vinaigrette. No more meat and three veg. My mother was confused, who ever heard of frying chips in oil.

Cities were the places were food was happening, the divorce had begun, city kids thought that eggs came in brown paper bags and milk in bottles. No compulsion existed to relate to food, it was all there laid out in neat aisles for us to fill our trolleys with. We started drinking wine, we had dinner parties using Mastering the Art of French Cooking as the bible. City back yards no longer contained fruit trees, vegetable garden beds and tanks for catching the rain water. All gone. You didn’t need them, all food came in plastic packaging from supermarkets.

We were confused. Retrained.

Think www when it came… changed us? Take a look at any strip shopping centre, many shops closed, the variety of shops now much reduced. I found a ‘haberdashery’ shop in Gippsland, it was like stepping back in time, balls of wool, fabric by the metre and all you needed to stitch, knit and sew. They don’t exist in cities any longer. Who ever has time to knit?

Jet planes, international communication, the world wide web, electronics, so much so soon. Men walked on the moon, we lived longer (not necessarily better) so many changes and so fast. It’s no wonder we could not keep up, we did not know how. Gone the simple pleasure of Jonny the Greeks meat balls in tomato sauce, a bit of crusty bread and some rough red. Too much meat, Jonny was Greek, so way too much olive oil, bread was high carb and rough red indeed!

The down side of a confused and bewildered society is that it begins to lack the will or even the desire to succeed, it begins to develop the prisoner mentality and simply become compliant, losing taste for life. This alone opened the doors to much that is now despised. We were told by the Governments of the day, ‘export or perish’, the opposite to that was import and make money. Its hard to tell someone on one hand to export without allowing imports. And the imports were terrible. Our market was flooded with foods that were less than amazing and avaricious business people very soon began to see opportunities to make money… feed lots, growth hormones, chemical fertilisers, spurious growing and manufacturing all began to be accepted. We saw things like milk undergo the most amazing changes and even today it continues. To the amazement of many, simple pure milk is now banned!!

Along side all of this grew a controlling infrastructure of ‘experts’ who deemed such things as hand cured ham, pure milk, organic vegetables as unfit or improper for human consumption. We witnessed increasing number of people who were gluten intolerant, nut allergies and a growing list. We see these ‘health’ officers growing in power with authority to destroy perfectly good food and close business down. We see food/health officers now with amazing power. This is of course aided and driven by much of the media who dig for news stories.

Having painted a picture that is far from illuminating, it still begs the question, where too from here? My perception is that it is impossible to go back, indeed who would want to, whilst we may yearn for older slower more halcyon days, there was down sides with them too… medical science, little or no equipment to help the busy housekeeper, a very limited cuisine, travel, communication, all less than thrilling. We need to move forward, accept that the world has changed and grown, but make it a better world.

It would seem that the most obvious issue that moves the world today is money. Big business is ever wanting to make greater and greater profits and the investors (us) demand it. Look at clothing, we spend more and more money every year, quality of the garments is awful, but since they are most likely only wanted for less than a year, who cares. Clothing is made in Asian sweat shops where it seems clear that workers are exploited. We follow the dictates of large supermarket chains who have clearly manipulated markets to their own ends. Because of the enormous fear of litigation, the costs, the resulting chaos people are loathe to follow this path. Take a look at the reactions of the big business legal teams, they will immediately issue legal summons should even a whiff of anything threaten their bottom line.

How to fix this, it is perhaps best not to see this matter as ‘broken’ just different. The era of tough and efficient Government it seems is done, we don’t like dictatorial leaders, yet this seems to offer one of the best means to control. The down side of that is Governments like the new income cycles and will be loathe to reduce it. Yet it could be one of the results. It is clear too that Health authorities at every level need to apply across the board regulations in a fare and even handed way. The Food administrations (FoodStandards in Australia) need to be much more rigorous in the way they control such things as labelling laws. The current situation with berries out of China is a case, clearly the issue there is exploitation of a loose regulation to not have to say the country of origin.

In the end it is not hard to see that social orders we now have it is going to change, that two groups will emerge, on the one hand those who simply have no way around issues of time, finance and the need to shop economically, on the other those who are determined to pursue quality, sustainability and natural, have the time to do so and the money. The cradle to grave care many expect does little to engender a need to follow a way of living independently and sustainably.

The changes we are now seeing, the proliferation of Farmers Markets, engendering in food growers and manufacturers a more caring and determined punter who does all they can to push natural product. Slowly because of many issues that are being thrust at Government, regulation will change and we will see situation that are not pitched at international money, but at ways to sustain and maintain living standards.

I would love to offer a solution to make it all right. There isn’t one. There is bewilderment and confusion all set against rapid change. How this will all play out is anyone’s guess. Yet I suspect that unless we do address this problem, then the Earth will one day simply shake us off. We have become too hard.

~ by peterwatsonfood on February 25, 2015.

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