Ignorance Ain't Bliss

posted on: Thursday, 26 June 2014

My mates at the Urban Agronomist grow their own food like these incredible pumpkins

What's freaking me out lately? Imagining a load of chemicals dyed yellow to appear like butter, leaves thrown into a sealed plastic bag and sprayed with nitrogen to increase shelf life, a blackened bulb placed in cold storage for eight months before being bleached white to look convey freshness. Eek! I'm talking about the margarine, bags of baby spinach and garlic at my supermarket. And that's only three innocuous items. If we knew half of the ways our food was tampered with, we would never eat again.

Matthew Evans' - aka SBS's Gourmet Farmer - agrees. In his recent book he mentions that one of the things that motivated him to trade being The Sydney Morning Herald's food critic, to start a new life in Tasmania growing his own food, was a series of interviews with food producers that shocked him. Driving around the fields of a chickpea farm during an interview, he asked the farmer if they got sick of eating chickpeas. The farmer was taken aback, saying something like: 'God no! We don't eat them. Have you seen what gets sprayed on them?!' Hmmm it's not ideal when some of the people supplying the food we buy, wouldn't be caught dead eating it themselves.

Unfortunately, once you know these things, you can't unknow. But the good news is that there are heaps of solutions. This is what I do to avoid eating nitrogen-laced baby spinach leaves and blackened chemicals masquerading as butter:
  • Grow some of my own tomatoes, red russian kale, basil, mizuna lettuce, sweet potato and paw paw in the garden. If I can, anyone can.
  • I'm obsessed with Food Connect's weekly fruit and vege boxes which come from trusted local farms and the Northey Street City Farm stall at the Northey Street markets which sells seasonal asparagus, buk choy, kale, herbs and bush lemons right next to the garden they're picked from. 
  • I hit up Sourced Grocer for independent dairy like Maleny Dairy milk, Barambah yoghurt, Pepe Saya butter and Pandelyssi Halloumi. 
  • In sweet justice, my fave cafes happen to have seasonal menus and specifically use local ingredients: I love Depo in West End and Merriweather in South Brisbane.

Guess what? All of this is more expensive. But anyone who knows it takes two years to grow asparagus from seed or three years to grow a pineapple, would agree it's fair to pay for the effort and quality of what we eat. Ultimately, there is a choice to be made and I think we all need to wake up and realise that we have the opportunity to say no freaking way to companies that have no qualms about selling us things that are harmful to our health.

Ignorance ain't bliss!

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