Last weekend I went down to my grandmother’s house for lunch. She cooked me the same steak pie dinner she’s been cooking me all my life and we got chatting about what they ate in ‘her day’.
My gran mentioned her own mother and told me how she’d cook food for her entire family in a tiny apartment with only a stove and an oven.
“My mother was a lovely cook”, she said as if she was thinking out loud. Gran continued: “She was awfully fond of the animal fat too; she’d never cut it off her meat and she lived until she was 85; without ever spending a day in hospital.”
I started a brief rant about how animal fat is, in fact, very nutritious (as long as the animal was treated well) and how it’s the government’s fault people neglect to eat it these days, but we swiftly moved back to how things used to be.
“You see, Ross, my father grew vegetables in his garden and if we were short, our neighbours would ask if we needed any carrots, leeks etc. and vice versa. We all helped each other out by growing different foods.”
“What did your mum cook in, Gran?” I asked, already knowing what the response was going to be. “Butter or lard” she replied. By this point I knew the answers to the questions I was asking but I asked regardless, almost as a way of validating my knowledge.
“Did she always cook from scratch?” “Oh, yes – it was quite remarkable looking back. Wedidn’t have much money but we were never hungry and always had good meals to eat.” I asked my gran if people were fat back then.
She told me she couldn’t remember ever seeing fat children, before stating that there probably were a few but not too many to take notice of. She then commented: “It’s unbelievable the amount of fat children there are these days, Ross.”
I agreed wholeheartedly.
To bring this all together: back in my gran’s youth they used to eat the fat on their steak, they cooked their meals from scratch with fresh, locally sourced food stuffs, they cooked in butter or lard and they were lean and healthy.
Now let’s look at today.
Today we’re all “busy”, “stressed” and we “don’t have any time”.
As a result of this we rush around the supermarket after work buying whatever’s going to be quickest to prepare. Microwave meals are preferred to cooking – why chop up meat and veg and cook for 20 minutes when you can pierce a hole in the plastic and wait 2 minutes? Fruit juices are favoured over vegetables – why chow down on asparagus and broccoli when you can drink something sweet that counts as ‘two of your five-a-day’?
Stressful days at work are rounded off with a glass of wine/beer to help you relax and unwind before doing it all over again the next day and having a blow-out to celebrate the end of the week on a Friday night.
Had a really bad day? Why go to the shops/cook at all when you can pick up the phone and call the local Chinese, Indian or Pizza place and have dinner delivered?
I’m probably being a little harsh on the lifestyles of today’s man and I’m sure there are lots of you reading and thinking: “I’m not that bad”, “I don’t do that” etc. but I’m sure you see where I’m coming from.
As time marches on it’s getting easier and easier to get fat…which is strange given that there are more gyms, personal trainers, dietitians and nutritionists out there than there has ever been.
In my opinion, today’s obesity levels have got nothing to do with the eating too much or exercising too little, it all leads back to the food we’re consuming and – perhaps more importantly – the quality of it.
Our grandparents were brought up on home-cooked, single ingredient, locally sourced foods that they prepared fresh every day.
Today, we’re living off – and bringing the next generation up on – fast food, fruit/fizzy drinks (both the same to me) and chemical/hormone ridden meat and vegetables – if we’re even eating veggies at all. We’re surrounded by marketing propaganda: ‘low-fat’, ‘Only 99 calories’, ‘diet soda’ that makes us believe these horrendous foods are good for us.
We’re subjected to marketing campaigns by ‘health’ companies who are advocating the consumption of their heavily processed (and therefore massively unhealthy) products instead of real food.
The worst thing about the above marketing campaigns is that these companies are thriving. They’re making a killing (literally and in monetary terms) by marketing their products as healthy and okay for health conscious people to eat.
They aren’t and they never will be.
The moral of this story is that in order for us to be lean and healthy, we need to go back to the start. We need to start putting more time into cooking meals from scratch. We need to put more thought into where the food that we’re about to cook has come from and whether or not it’s full of/covered in inflammatory substances like chemicals, antibiotics and steroids.
It’d also be nice if we could close down all fast food outlets, grow our own vegetables and have a personal relationship with the farmer and butcher who raise and sell our meat.
That’s a dream world (for me anyway) but it’s exactly how my grandparents and everyone else lived before the Second World War and they seemed to be happier, healthier and less stressed, on average, than we are today.