Politics on a plate

I come from the country where people talked about politics only in their kitchens and it seems like politics is firmly planted in everybody’s kitchen.

Our food had stopped being about nutrition and health long time ago. Ever since tribes started waging war on each other strength was defined in numbers (classical quantity-vs-quality dilemma). Tribe with the most warriors typically wins (it does help if advantage is N-fold). Now to breed such army you need dense agriculture and guaranteed yields. Crops like wheat offer that. Health is not a concern – only “well-being of the nation” (read “numerous population”). Sedentary lifestyle that comes with agriculture allows for more breeding as you don’t need to transport multiple offsprings along on your journeys; dense agriculture provided enough food to feed that mini-army. As political systems developed economic pressures came into play: agriculture elite now wanted to remain wealthy so any threat to status-quo was quashed before it had a chance to develop into something serious. “Guns germs and steel” certainly explores those possibilities and it makes sense: European political culture, along with European economic system bundled with European food dominated the world for a prolonged period of time.

With that out of the way we can now concentrate on food today. What we eat is a product of economical and political pressure and drive rather than or dietary needs. Governments endorse grain (or more generically – food) industry in exchange for numerous albeit weaker population. And it is not about conspiracy – it wasn’t planned, it just happened. Nevertheless people keep on drawing parallels between nutrition and what we’ve been eating in the last millennia.

Look at most packaged foods: they are made to last longer on the shelves and make people buy more and are not made with nutrition in mind. It’s a very simple equation: corporations main goal is to extract profit with the least expenses. They can’t help but cut corners and dupe general population: they have to do so to survive economically. “Customer always right” losses it’s value as soon as in relationship 1:n “n” grows big enough or relationship morphs into m:n. That is when “customer” becomes a vague term that can be applied to any side of the equation and it really turns into”everybody fends for themselves”at which point corporation is only looking after it’s own interests and forgoes the analysis of greater good.

Look at dominance of grains (and wheat in particular) and ask yourself a question: “what is so special about it from nutrition standpoint?” – it’s “shelf-life”. It’s compact, easy to store, edible and… addictive. Nobody in medieval times asked themselves: “what’s the best nutrition for the people?” But rather: “how can I produce some food that is easy to store, transport and grow?” Or current nutrition grows out of habits and necessary compromises rather than “evolution”. Remove politics and economics and I can almost guarantee that or food would look different today.

Historically humanity leaned towards “junk foods” because they tickle those pleasure receptors so much better. Animals are no batter than us: they get hooked on junk real fast. Difference is: for animals to procure “junk food” (we’ll assume no human presence)
they have to work hard and typically those are scarce and seasonal which limits their impact. Humans however learned how to take shortcuts and provide junk daily. But we also possess the power to reason and analyze and adapt.

Above plays nicely into Paleo doctrine. And it makes sense for us now to look back and critically assess our nutrition now that we have tools to do that. We really need to reevaluate our views and find the balance. Maybe Paleo is not the answer, maybe it’s just a fad but it’s a disruptor that should force people to think and think hard about their health and nutrition.

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