A kinder way to treat a potato

October 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Books, food, health, nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
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‘Don’t get your food from the same place your car does.’

This is the advice of writer Michael Pollan. American petrol stations make more money from food and cigarettes than from petrol. It’s very probably the same here in Australia. And the food is all ‘Highly process non-perishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks…’ Pollan writes that petrol stations ‘have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside you.’ (In Defense of Food, 2008, p. 192)

I don’t know that Australia uses as many corn products as the US but the principle remains the same – petrol stations sell food that is very high in sugar and this is very bad for us. Very addictive too.So-o-o-o-o hard to give up.

I liked Pollan’s book a lot. His basic advice is this: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ It sounds a bit Zen. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn’t say anything about alcohol but grapes are food, are they not? You’re not supposed to have more than two glasses a day if you’re a woman. And the size of that glass is probably smaller than you imagine. Sadly.

Men can get away with a bit more than two glasses a day because they have bigger livers. A bit more though – not a lot more. I think it’s three glasses a day.

In Defense of Food is well written, informative and funny. I think people should read it because they need to know about the massive number of poisons and toxic chemicals in manufactured food today – and how this desperate situation came about. They can see the desperate consequences of it all around them: unhappy, sick, obese people everywhere and a national healthcare bill that is completely unsustainable.

Australia, like the US, has staggering levels of disease and ill health. Nearly 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2) per day! With a population of only 22 million, that is awful. David Gillespie – http://www.sweetpoison.com.au – writes about this and has a similarly clear, witty style as Pollan. His books are a pleasure to read. A danger on public transport because you burst out laughing sometimes.

Pollan quotes Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘The Pleasures of Eating’ where he writes about monoculture and the increasingly vast size of farms. Of course this generates vast profits. ‘But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.’ (Pollan, p. 159)

And so, if we don’t want to be plagued by the ill health that makes us dependent on drugs and chemicals, Pollan advises to eat as many plants as possible – they all have different anti-oxidants and these help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins. The more toxins there are in the environment, the more plants we should be eating.

‘There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound [you know, that’s about half a kilo – Pen] or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.’ (Pollan, p. 166)

‘A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.’ George Bernard Shaw said. When he was on his death bed – actually, he lived for years after that – he thought that his hearse should be drawn by all the animals he hadn’t eaten.

I’m not really a vegetarian. I just have never liked the taste of meat. I do like fish and chicken. When we lived in the bush (East Gippsland, Victoria) chicken used to be only for birthdays and Christmas. (Yes, they do run around the yard for a bit just after their head’s been chopped off. Ugh. But as kids we never felt Ugh.) On my father’s sheep farm, he’d cut the throat of a sheep and we’d live off that for a while. We lived on porridge in the morning (we had a cow) and mutton and mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin and boiled peas. Oh, and bread. My mother made that as well as the butter and jam. (She even made the soap.) I always loved Fridays because we were Catholics and forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. To this day, decades after I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, Friday still has a great taste for me.

My older brother Bill told me that my father thought I was just being stubborn when I didn’t want to eat my meat and vegetables. So the last time I saw him, Bill was recalling when I was two, and our dad forcing me to eat my mutton, and I projectile-vomited all over him! From then on, I still had to eat it – there was nothing else and we lived in an extremely isolated place – but I could take my time to do it. This went on for years. I have memories of still being at the table at 10 o’clock at night; I wasn’t allowed down until I’d finished. Ugh.

No wonder I so enjoy eating now. And yes, I do eat mostly plants. No more mutton. No more mashed spuds and no more pumpkin. I know the latter two are plants but there are kinder ways to treat them. I still can’t stomach pumpkin (except in scones or the wonderful American invention of pumpkin pie) but the best potato recipe is Aussie food writer Jill Dupleix’s Crash Hot Potatoes. Ooooh, so good! And easy.This is how you do it:

16 small spuds or chats
Handful of thyme
Carraway seeds (or any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Parboil about 16 small spuds or chats. Put them on an oiled baking tray. Squash them flattish to about half-way through, with a potato masher. Then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle thyme and caraway seeds – or whatever herbs you fancy – plus sea salt and ground pepper on them, and put them in the oven – 350 degrees, you know, average temp – for 20-30 minutes. Yum! They will emerge hot, crispy and aromatic.

Have with a green salad and some protein – meat, if you eat it, or grilled fish or chicken. Plus a glass (or two) of wine. The crash hot spuds are also very good cold the next day.

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