Having an organic wholefoods business has introduced me to a whole world of people and their reasons for seeking what they require, from me. Of course there are some, like me, whose philosophies demand they think about all the aspects of what they do, before settling on buying any product, especially food.
However, I would say that the majority of my customers come to my shop because they have dietary problems of one sort or another and I am someone they can ask for assistance in finding what they need.
The digestive tracks of Australia and many other parts of the world are rebelling! When so many people, from 8 to 80 years of age, have a small range of very debilitating dietary problems then something is seriously wrong with a lot of what is being sold as food to these people. Sure, maybe they should be growing their vegetables (some of them already are), but this is more about those things we usually don’t grow, like grains, dried fruit, nuts, milk and meat.
“I don’t have time” is the response I most often get when I suggest people read EVERY label and avoid EVERY thing with numbers or ingredients that are not a food.
“Ok” I say “You know what? Neither do I…. so you want to know what I do?”
“Oh yes please!” (So, now they have gone from saying its all too hard, to being really keen to know an easy answer and this is step 1 completed already!)
“ Right… I only buy processed foods that have 1 ingredient” I answer.
“Hmmm…. what do you mean?” They ask.
“Well, if I want sultanas, I only buy sultanas. Look at most packets in the supermarket and what you thought was a good old, Australian brand of Australian sultanas now is owned by a foreign company and the sultanas are not Australian either. Moreover, the sultanas now also contain oil and preservatives.”
“Oh, well, why is that? Should I care?” Asks a now slightly concerned customer.
“Rancid oil is linked to cancer. There is no control over the oil on these sultanas; we don’t know where it comes from or even what it is, never mind how old it was when mixed with the sultanas to make them all shiny…. and if fruit is well grown and properly dried it does not need a chemical to preserve it; that is what the drying is supposed to do…. preserve things!” (We are not launching into the whole organic thing here yet…. just awareness.)
Customer now thinks of their children and all the sultanas they feed them and now is dead keen to get started on this new and very simple way of shopping and eating.
Since we are standing in my Pantry Room, I open a bucket of sultanas…. organic, Australian and grown by a man called Mark; no oil, no preservatives, just good, old-fashioned, Australian sultanas, like the customer thought she was buying in the supermarket.
And that is what is so unfortunate; most people just don’t realise that things have changed. They still remember, as I do, TipTop wholemeal bread delivered to your door early every morning, (by a man with a horse and cart, in my childhood!!) when bread was real bread; grown, milled and baked with real, local ingredients, not numbers and cheap fillers made in a factory somewhere.
…..When milk came in re-usable glass bottles, fresh on your door step every morning, from cows eating grass not far away; unhomogenised, with real cream on top, not white water that has been taken apart and remade according to some industrial recipe, on the other side of the country then packed in plastic and stacked in supermarkets.
…. When meat animals lived entirely on pasture and the better the skill of the farmer to manage his pasture herbage, the better the meat. Pasture used to be made up of dozens of annual and perennial grasses and herbs, packed with natural nutrition. Now animals are crowded into feed lots and fed artificial food to tenderise their flesh and make them gain weight, with no account taken of the the discomfort of the animal’s digestion nor that of the humans who are going to eat this industrial protein.
….. When grandpa and grandma grew vegetables and shared them with the extended family or people shopped daily in greengrocer shops or markets stacked up with local, seasonal produce not weekly in supermarkets buying vegetables grown in China, Peru or Thailand while our own Australian farmers go broke trying to compete against those highly sprayed, unsafe, fresh and frozen vegetables.
If you think I am dreaming, then watch Landline for a while and listen to the farmers. Watch this week’s Landline, in fact, and learn about our last vegetable processor, Simplot, that packs Australian frozen peas, tinned corn and all the other things you think will always be there for you, and how they are struggling to keep going. To me, not having Birds Eye Australian frozen peas would be like the elephant going extinct…. seemingly impossible but devastatingly near.
All of this is responsible for the problems my customers have with their health. The other thing is the promotion of processed goods as healthy food. Muesli bars, fruit yoghurts, ready-made and frozen meals, cheap pastas and breads, lite milk, baked potato chips, artificial sweeteners etc etc ….. these are treats or emergency rations, not foods for everyday eating. They all have attractive packets, proclaiming their virtues which people believe because they have never realised that they are being tricked and deceived.
I was brought up to question everything and my mother was interested in health and food. I was lucky. Most people only begin to question their food choices when they are diagnosed with something that has been plaguing them for years. It is not fair. I have seen couples struggling to accept that one of them can no longer eat wheat or gluten or dairy foods and what this is going to mean for the whole family.
Our health system is a sickness system. No doctor I have ever been to has asked me what I ate or what I fed my children.
All I can do is write it down here and hope I save one person…. if you want biscuits, make them from the best, individual ingredients there are. If you “don’t have time” then don’t eat biscuits. You are entirely what you eat.