When our distant ancestors invented farming ten thousand or so years ago, they began altering these and other wild plants to make them more productive, easier to grow and harvest, and more enjoyable to eat. To date, four hundred generations of farmers and tens of thousands of plant breeders have played a role in redesigning native plants. The combined changes are so monumental that our present-day fruits and vegetables seem like modern creations.
~ Jo Robinson
After a year, I think I’m getting the hang of using my “new” gas grill for all kinds of salmon, chicken, brats, beef and pork. Between my crock pot for slow-cooked pot roasts and pork roasts (AKA wad-o’-meat), and grilling on the grill, I could eat meat daily to my heart’s delight (not what my doctor ordered). Of course, I know that too much red meat is not good for my cholesterol, and I do try to manage my intake. But, BBQ ribs …
On the other hand, I’m not supposed to eat many carbs or sugars. Since I’m not one of those dessert-driven people, the sweets are only an occasional treat for me (except for pie). But I love good bread, the kind I can get at real bakeries or even at the local summer farmer’s market. And pasta. I can give potatoes a pass most of the time, but there are some things that just go with mashed potatoes or French fries (meat loaf and hamburgers, respectively). And, of course, who can resist good beans — baked, refried or just slow-cooked with a ham hock (and corn bread)?
That gets me down to the fruits and vegetables. I really do love veggies in almost any form. Most of the time the really tasty ones are fresh, either grown in my garden or purchased at the farmer’s market. I prefer my fruit fresh, but can enjoy other forms, particularly if they are incorporated into a pie with lots of whipped cream.
It seems that human intervention in plant growth, essentially since the invention of agriculture, has warped the nutritional content of the original wild foods that our ancestors survived on. Jo Robinson noted, “Compared with wild fruits and vegetables, most of our man-made varieties are markedly lower in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids … Remarkably, some varieties of produce in our supermarkets are so relatively low in phytonutrients and high in sugar that they can aggravate our health problems, not alleviate them.” Being picky about which ones we eat can make a difference.
According to Katherine Martinko, “Upping one’s intake of fruits and vegetables for health reasons has the added bonus of reducing one’s environmental impact, for when meals are rounded out with vegetables, it often translates to less meat and dairy on the plate. Focusing on vegetable-centric eating is something that many people are trying to do as a climate change mitigation strategy, so it’s a win-win situation for all.”
She goes on, “We have been breeding medicine out of our food for thousands of years, but the loss of flavor has been a relatively new exploit. It came about because of another agricultural revolution — the industrialization of our food supply.”
Michael Pollen preaches against industrialized agriculture, Big Food, as being very detrimental to the environment, “A food system organized around subsidized monocultures of corn and soy … guzzled tremendous amounts of fossil fuel … and in the process emitted tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas. The types of food that can be made from all that subsidized corn and soy … bears a large measure of responsibility for the steep rise in health care costs.”
In sum, most meat is bad for my cholesterol and the environment. Carbs and sweets are bad for my health. Fruits and veggies have reduced nutritional value and taste and can be bad for the environment. That leads me to conclude that I actually may be bad for my health and the environment.
Perhaps, in a selfless show of altruism, I should throw myself on the meat, carbs, sweets, fruits and veggies, thus saving my fellow humans and the environment. I think I’ll start with the ribs … and then maybe some pie.
Katherine Martinko, Double Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake for Much-improved Health, Treehugger.com, February 23, 2017
Michael Pollen, “Big Food Strikes Back”, The New York Times Magazine, October 9, 2016
Jo Robinson, Eating on the Wild Side, Little, Brown & Co., 2013