Warning – Kinda ranty post with lots of research-y link things where I pick on quinoa and kale (a lot). If you’re offended by this click away now…
Okay, I’m going to admit it… I spend far more time than I tell my family binge watching Food Network. Not only that, I then go off and stalk the show hosts I like on the interwebs.
In doing so over this past few months I have developed a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. Not the kind of teenage-girly-mid-life-crisis-leave-your-husband kind of crush, but one of those crushes when someone out there just “gets” ( obnoxiously swearingly agrees with) the way you think about stuff and then takes it a bit further and more think-y-er. (His recent essay on sexist kitchen culture has made him just that bit more interesting and attractive).
In short, I have an intellectual food-crush on this guy (she says adding him to the ever-growing list of food crushes … Sarah Wilson, Rachel Khoo, Maggie Beer, Rick Stein and that River Cottage Guy are just a few others. It’s getting pretty long). He’s not more special than any of the other chefs, cooks or obnoxious opinionated food lovers I follow on the interwebs. I actually don’t know that much about his foody history, but I do like his no-BS commentary on the places he visits. In particular like the attitude he shows towards food in his TV shows.
Yes, he visits “classy” “trendy” places and tries out all the fancy overpriced weird crud they offer, but the best bits are where he eats “real food” (and compares it to politics and stuff). The kind of food street vendors and somebodies Nona have been making for centuries (sometimes longer). And guess what… none of the stuff he rates as awesome is over-processed food chain or trendy “superfood” cafe fare.
I actually cringe a little every time some hipster -wanna-be food guru uses the term “super-food”.
I feel more than a little miffed that all the so-called “experts” have treated us “ordinary” people like we’re just a little dim. I also feel a tad guilty that over the years, I too have been known to succumb to the hype spouted by popular and scientific media (yes scientists are hype-y too… they want you to believe that their research is better and more right-er than the other guys).
Take for example kale.
Yes its good for you, but, and I hate to be the one to tell you, kale is not new. I remember it in my own Nan’s garden in the 1970s (yes I’m that old) and there’s a bunch of WW2 era recipes out there that list it as a major ingredient (check out this recipe for Kale and Potato Soup). It grows just as easily as spinach or silverbeet, has the same kind of nutrients (there’s a table with all the numbers here for those who like that sort of thing). So quite frankly you can cram your $7 kale smoothie up your proverbial jacksy even if it is delicious. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. There‘s a whole bunch of bloggers out there that tell you how to make your own and avoid the ridiculous Cafe prices (okay I lied there‘s just that one ). Even so, last time I went to the local greengrocer a bunch of kale was priced somewhere around $5. That’s still an expensive smoothie.
Same goes for those trendy quinoa salads (pronounced in our house key-noh-ahh) and chia (Chee-ahh) seed pudding slops. Okay, so I’ve tried them both. I’ll admit I did kind of like the pudding, it wasn’t abhorrent and I’m actually trying to use up the last of the chia seeds I brought months ago today by adding them to a beef casserole- kinda weird but its working.
I will also admit that I do love almond milk (used to make the pudding slop) which is both easily accessible here and not expensive. Almonds are grown on a farm near our house so I make the almond milk, mainly because I have an intolerance for the regular cow stuff, I’m not allergic it just makes me gag most days.
Yes, quinoa, chia seeds or your fancy dried frankle-frugen-berries are okay. Yes, they’re nutritional dynamite, but so is just about any fruit or vegetable if you don’t process the crap out of it. If you have food allergies and such they’re fab, but things like chia seed or quinoa are hard (almost impossible) to get un- plastic-packaged here in rural NSW, and often are transported in from overseas. Even if they are grown here in Australia are quite frankly overpriced for a lot of us feeding families on a budget. Quinoa costs approximately $14 per kilo here. Its currently around $2 per 100 grams at Woolworths, as opposed to brown rice which is around 27 cents per 100 grams. Yes, quinoa beats brown rice for protein and a few other things but really they’re not all that different nutritionally, there’s a comparison diagram here.
Even “ordinary” foods have skyrocketed in price since being given the “super” label. Berries are the best example I can think of… blueberries here are $5 for a 200 gram punnet on a good day. That’s Australian dollars which equates to about 2 pound 50 or somewhere around $3.50 US depending on exchange rates and that’s just your un-organic supermarket variety, organic is (as always) a lot more. Frozen are often a lot cheaper (not to mention convenient) but again the plastic bag and transport.
Yeah okay so I made the frankle-frugen-berries up earlier, but you get what I mean….
In short, all these foodstuffs, and a whole lot of others are extremely un-family- budget or zero-waste friendly. Unless you have access to fantastic bulk stores locally, its hard to find most “superfoods” packaged in anything but plastic bags or other environmentally unfriendly containers. Yes they’ve got great nutritional stats, but so does almost every single unprocessed food (think whole grains, fruit, veg, dairy, meat).
Add to that, the majority of recipes call for extra speciality ingredients that are equally ridiculous in price for families on a budget and get used once, thrown in the cupboard only to be forgotten and then thrown out next time you spring clean.
I have a suggestion for all of us that have succumb to the “superfood” hype at one time or another… it might not be a popular idea, but how about we forget it. Forget “superfood” altogether and eat “real” food instead. You know the stuff you can get at your local butcher, greengrocer, bakery or supermarket. If you have a green thumb or are lucky enough to live with someone who does, the stuff you grow yourself (hint-hint Mr Scraps, Grandad Scraps) and the stuff you can make in your own kitchen.
It’s better for you. “They” proved it in the 1940s (particularly in England) when people ate far less meat, less fat and less sugar than we do today due to rationing. It probably wasn’t the worlds most exciting diet most days (you had to take what you could get – there was a war happening) but on the whole people were fitter and healthier than they had been before or have been since. Give it a look-see on Dr. Google, most information is from England but here’s an SBS show about it . It was by no means perfect (nothing ever truly is, is it?) and food may have required a lot more preparation than today without our modern conveniences like refrigerators, microwaves and food processors, but it kept people, on the whole, fed and produced far far less waste than we do today.
For me personally biggest bonus to no longer buying into the “superfood” hype is that it saves sooo much time, mainly because its been done before. In the Scrap House we eat things like carrots, pumpkin, beans, mince beef and sometimes even…shock horror… white potatoes!
Because they’ve been done before. I don’t have to spend 14 hours trawling the internet trying to find out how the heck to cook that supa-dippity-do-dah ingredient after a day at work with a hungry 4-year-old at my feet. If you don’t slather most whole real food stuffs in fat or sugar they have nutritional values on the same levels as your expensive “superfood” varieties. The biggest bonus is however, that NO ONE in the Scrap House turns their nose up at a humble baked spud or meatloaf full of hidden grated veg, they will however leave the kale chips to go limp on the bench and that quinoa salad with laboriously extracted pomegranate seed embellishments to fester in the back of the fridge….
….. and it would of too, but I ate that stuff for lunch for a week just so it didn’t get thrown to the Immortal Chicken.