The discussion about what constitutes healthy eating has to include all people, not just a small circle of privileged individuals that do not acknowledge the reality most others have to live in.
What Is “Unprocessed Food”?
I’m pretty sure that Andrew Wilder of eatingrules.com is a pretty swell guy with his heart in the right place. I also believe that he has the best intentions when encouraging people to eat “unprocessed” foods, as he thinks that is the way to be healthier.
Yet I have more than once wondered about his definition of unprocessed foods and while I’m sitting here typing this, I eat some dried dates, pondering if they would pass Andrew’s “kitchen test”. That test is his way of deciding if a food is unprocessed or not: if you can’t make it in your own kitchen, it is processed and should therefore be avoided.
That strikes me as a definition as wishy-washy as they can be. If you own a $50,000 kitchen equipped for even the latest in molecular gastronomy, what you can and cannot prepare is a lot different from what the guy with the kitchenette coming with a mini oven and portable double burner on top can handle.
Going back to my dates, I’m pretty sure in spirit they are within Andrew’s idea of “unprocessed”, but his kitchen test they don’t pass. Simply because I can’t sundry dates, due to the lack of sun heat they are dried with in their home country of Algeria.
Are You Eleanor Roosevelt?
Going over Andrew’s blog we also learn how to ferment our own mustard, what the steps are to prepare sauerkraut right from the whole cabbage and we get a course in the essentials of canning. Andrew also often references food enthusiast Michael Pollan, who over at his site tells us that families just have to think a bit more like Eleanor Roosevelt to be able to enjoy shared meals every night.
All that is swell, but where do I take the time from for hours of mustard making? Or how do parents that both have to work multiple minimum wage jobs find a chance to share a common time slot with their children, each night, to eat together?
The truth is that only people with the time and resources, and having those usually means being financially rather privileged, can go for this style of living. It is no coincidence that many food bloggers are stay-at-home moms or have high-paying jobs that leave them with ample spare time. The food blogging single mother of two who has to fend for herself by juggling a job at Wal-Mart and another at a dry cleaner is a rare specimen indeed.
Keep It Simple
All this does smack of some elitism, as it leaves out the reality most people have to live in. It sets the bar to “healthy eating” much too high and needlessly so.
It is pretty well documented that obesity is one of the leading causes of death in western societies. Combating it doesn’t require complicated rules about processed and unprocessed foods or instructions on how to make your own mustard. It would be enough to educate people about energy balance and weight management.
There is in fact no indication that a person of normal weight, eating foods that in some circles would be coined “processed”, is unhealthier than his brethren eating organic, “unprocessed” food. Quite to the contrary, a large independent study just recently found that the advantages of organic foods are negligible.