30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 16 – Thoughts on education surrounding food.

Good afternoon ladies and gents!

Today is day 16 of my 30 day blog challenge and I will be talking about my thoughts on education surrounding food.

WARNING: Rant up ahead – Remember, these are my opinions and I do not expect everyone to agree with me.

I think Food education, in the west at least, is very inadequate. From start to finish. No one knows where their food is really coming from anymore or what is in it. No one understands what it is to live by seasons and some children don’t even know what a potato looks like, but will order a large fries at McDonald’s without batting an eyelid. All these things have come about because of a lack of interest in knowing where our food comes from and what is in it. This lack  is due to the excess of produce we live with and it has crept up on us over many years. In this post I am going to share with you where I did not learn about food and where I did.

Firstly, I would like to take you back to my food and nutrition classes at secondary school. Yes I learnt about vitamins and minerals, about diseases and deficiencies, but to be honest I properly learnt about them in my biology class, not in food and nutrition. My most vivid memory, that outlines my education about food at school, is when we had to make fried chicken. In my house when we fry something, you placed a little oil in the pan, heated the oil and then put the chicken in. However, in food and nutrition class I was about to find out that everything I had learnt at home was apparently wrong! My mum always laughs at this story and I am sure she already has the giggles reading this.

I walked into class that day armed with my chicken bits, flour and bread crumbs. The egg and milk would be provided by our teacher, Mrs P. As the class began I did what I would do at home: add a little oil to the pan, heat it, and add the chicken. However, when I did this Mrs P, with her purple hair (or was it orange hair at the time?), got terribly annoyed and asked what exactly was I doing? My response was, a wide eyed ‘I am frying the chicken Mrs P.’ She just looked at me, shook her head in disgust and proceeded to pour half the bottle of oil into my pan. I think I shrieked a little at this point. I never liked people interfering with my cooking. While I blankly stared at my now half full pan of sizzling oil, a whole barrage of things came into mind (she just drowned my chicken, all that hot oil has to be dangerous, what happens if it spills or spits, why is there so much oil???) I started to object and say that my mum… and then I was cut off with a wave of the hand and a long sucking of her teeth. She then turned to me with a look of impatience as her purple hair stuck to her forehead in the heat of the kitchen and said, I don’t know what you planned on cooking with that tiny bit of oil. And with that she walked off to sit at her desk while we all jumped about trying to avoid each other’s bubbling pans of vegetable oil. And that sums up my food and nutrition education at school. Pretty poor I would say, no wonder Barbados has such a high rate of type 2 diabetes.

My first real education about food was when I was really young. As a kid I was pretty sick. I had very bad asthma and was lactose intolerant. I am sure my parents grey hairs are 90% my doing. However, being a kid with health issues taught me A LOT about food. I quickly became aware of what I could and could not have. Fizzy drinks were a NO GO! Candy and really sugary things were not an awesome idea either. Anything with milk was basically a death sentence for my stomach and intestines, and would also cause asthma flare ups. So, at a rather young age, I just had to know what was bad for me, and in a backward way what was then good. In addition, my mum cooked from scratch most of the time and would always let me in on the action. She would often take me to the grocery store with her and show me how to pick out fresh fruit and veg, how they should look, feel and smell. Eating fresh has always been a part of my life. In fact, I did not know what a ready meal was and how it worked until I moved to the UK for university. There was always fresh fruit and vegetables around the house.  After all, I grew up surrounded by fruit bearing trees, cane fields, fields of yams, sweet potatoes and various other ground provisions.

I know some people don’t really appreciate him, but I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver. I like how he got frustrated about the state of children’s food education. I love how he pointed it out, made it an issue, and got people to talk about it, because it is a problem! A HUGE problem! There are kids with type 2 diabetes!!!! I was a picky kid, I am not going to lie. I am sure my parents felt like tearing out their hair several times when I would sit there and say ‘it has bits in it’. Nonetheless my parents persevered, and always made me aware of what I was eating, where it came from, and what I could and could not have. There were rules. There were boundaries. There was a limit. Now it appears there are no limits. No one knows where their food comes from anymore and it is disgraceful. It is almost as if they do not want to know because it will make them feel bad. I recently watched a Buzzfeed video about killing chickens and just shook my head at all their reactions. I mean COME ON! Where do you think that fried chicken leg that you are enjoying so much came from? And the sad part about the whole thing is that the way the free range chickens were killed on the show was the more humane and decent way of killing them. The majority of chicken, that the western world eats, dies much more horrible, slow and painful deaths. But I am glad they posted that video because, you should be aware of this, recognise it as an issue, realise that what you eat came from killing an animal,  it did not pop out of thin air like a lot of food companies would like you to believe. It is in becoming aware that you can then make conscious decisions to consume responsibly.

I admit I get very frustrated when I am shopping and I see a trolley go past with every processed product you could imagine and not a fresh fruit or veg anywhere. I am judging and I can’t even hide it. I understand packaging can make everything very over-complicated, the media confuses the hell out of people and not everyone has the time to eat fresh and cook from scratch, but as I have said before, you should be interested in what you are putting into your body. Do not be naive in thinking food companies always have your best interest at heart. Think independently, do your own research. If you are looking for some information about the food you consume there are plenty of books, magazines, documentaries and programs you can watch (TedTalks: Chew On this, Hungry for Change, Food Inc., Food Matters and GMO OMG).  Do some research, learn something new! Have a little fun finding out about one of the elements of life’s sustenance.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it was not too rant-like for you!

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