The modern world, especially in the U.S., is very fast-paced. There doesn’t seem to be time for anything but work anymore. 21st Century citizens have lost the knowledge of basic cooking, for the most part. Culinary Art has a long and noble heritage. Preservation of these skills is only one the reasons why we should stop buying pre-packaged foods.
Pre-packaged food refers to processed foods that have been put into a convenient form to where minimal preparation is needed to render it into an edible form. Processed foods have been with us for a long time. Ancient people used smoking, drying and pickling techniques as a means of preserving food for leaner times. Sausage, bacon, and hams were also initially a method of food preservation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, different methods were developed to make food easier to prepare and transport for the military. In 1809, Nicolas Appert developed a vacuum-bottling process to provide portable food for Napolean’s armies. This evolved into the modern canning process, developed by Peter Durand (the father of C-Rations), in 1810. This revolutionized the food industry. Further developments were in response to a need for foods to be prepared quicker, have a longer shelf-life, and be consistent. In the late 1890s, John and Will Kellogg invented cereal flakes. Around the same time, white processed flour became widely available. By the mid 20th century, foods were frozen, freeze-dried, canned, pickled, dehydrated, and packaged as 90% ready-to-eat products.
Advocates for processed foods make a valid point. One of the tastiest foods there is, Jambalaya, is somewhat labor-intensive, and requires a level of skill to prepare that is beyond the ability of an average cook, and takes a bit of time to prepare. Boxed jambalaya requires only the addition of meat, liquid, heat, and a minimum amount of time for a person to enjoy a passable version of this delectable dish. Frozen, or canned versions require even less, usually just a bit of heat, and a few minutes. So processed foods do allow people of limited culinary skill levels to enjoy a nice repast. Cakes are another case in point. The skill level for a great cake from scratch is at the top of the scale, but with a boxed cake mix, almost anyone can bake an acceptable cake.
The bad part is that it has caused a loss of culinary skills. Why learn to make great sauces and gravies when you can just open a can, or a package, add water and heat, and chow-down? It has had the effect of making people dependent on strangers for one of the most vital and basic needs of life…food. We are putting things into our bodies that are prepared by people we don’t know, for reasons other than a concern for our well-being, like separating us from our money.
In many cases, rendering the food into a pre-packaged form is done at the expense of nutrients. Commercial flour is a case in point; fresh ground flour has over 72 vital nutrients in it, but they oxidize rapidly as soon as the husk is cracked, so that by 24 hours, 75% of them are gone. And, the flour will go rancid in a week or so because of the oils in it, which are also vital nutrients. Commercial flour has had the oils, and the germ removed so that it will not go rancid, then it is bleached in harsh chemicals to make it white. Most of the nutrition is in the germ, so the finished product is so devoid of anything but dead calories that they have to ‘fortify’ it by adding 14 vitamins and minerals to it to keep you from having serious vitamin deficiencies. The math is easy….remove 72 nutrients, add 14. Is this really an improvement? Most canned foods have been so over-cooked that nutritionally, they are only slightly better than going hungry. Of all the methods used in pre-packaged foods, freezing, and freeze-drying are the least damaging, and retain the most nutrition.
Do you even know what is in the food you regularly consume? See if any of this sounds appetizing to you: Amyl Acetate, Butyric Acid, ethyl Nitrate, methyl benzoate, Monosodium glutimate, methyl napthyl ketone, zinc oxide (yep, some of your food contains built-in Sun Block…), other ingredients….. These are just some of the 3000 food additives that are in the majority of pre-packaged foods. None of these ingredients are food items, or contain any nutrition on their own. They are added to make the food last longer on a store shelf, retain it’s color longer, keep it from caking up, and allow them to use less ingredients in the preparation, meaning they make more money off of it. And many, if not most of these are known or suspected carcinogens, and are suspected of causing other major health problems as well , such as Alzheimer, Lupus, and various auto-immune diseases. At the very least, pre-packaged foods are a known cause of chronic obesity, diabetes, and heart trouble. This has been verified by the World Health Organization, and studies done by the Harvard Medical School. Another reason why we should stop buying prepackaged foods.
Most people are under the impression that the Food and Drug Administration protects us from harmful things in our food. The truth is, they couldn’t be more wrong. The FDA does not require companies to list any additives they have classified as “Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS)”. All the label has to say is “artificial flavor”, “artificial coloring”, or “other ingredients”. The classification GRAS is determined by a group of politicians, with little or no scientific education or training, making arbitrary decisions based more on how much the companies are paying their salaries, rather than any concerns over your health. Don’t get me wrong, the Food Industry, and the FDA want you to stay alive, but only because if you die, you can’t buy anymore food, or vote. The main concern, like for everything else in business and government, is money, politics, and profits.
Pre-packaged foods are convenient, taste good, and can be prepared by almost anyone. But you will never have the satisfaction of watching your guests enjoy a World-Class repast that you prepared yourself, putting your heart and soul into it. You will never experience the sense of accomplishment that comes when you taste a perfect creation that you gave life to with your own hands and skill. By preparing your own food, you can be secure in the knowledge that you know what is in it. There are lots of other reasons why we need to stop buying pre-packaged foods, but these are more than enough. It is probably not possible to completely eliminate pre-packaged foods from your diet, unless you grow and prepare all of your own food, but you can limit it as much as possible. Do yourself a favor; buy some cookbooks, watch cooking videos on YouTube (some of these are really great), tune in to the Food Network on TV, and learn to properly prepare food. You’ll become a different person for it.