As a child growing up I frequently heard my parents and other ‘old’ people complain that food just did not taste the way it did in the old days. I thought these dinosaurs were out of their minds. Food is food, beef is beef, eggs are eggs, and yucky school lunch boiled cabbage was exactly that!

Having reached the ripe old age of 55 I look back in awe at the ‘dinosaurs’ wisdom. I find myself making the same exact statements! Food today is not the same as it was when I was young.

I like food, it is one of my favorite hobbies and over the years I have eaten my way across the planet. Long before the internet I visited far flung places vicariously through cuisine. From the rich almost regal food of the Madras region of India, to the hearty and county style of Germany and Hungry, even stops in the far east, and the wonderful foods of the middle east, all have found a home in my tummy.

I am not a chef by trade, cooking is just something I enjoy tinkering with. So why does the food today taste different from the food of yesteryear?

I had pondered this question for a very long time, I even had a few theories, but opted to keep them private. Lets face it, no one wants to admit that their parents were right!

A few months ago I read two books by Mannie Barling and his wife Ashley F. Brooks. My wife was somewhat incredulous that I would want to read something titled Arthritis, Inflammation, Gout, Crohn’s, IBD and IBS: How to Eliminate Pain and Extend Your Life. She pointed out that I did not appear to have any of these medical conditions, so why was I even remotely interested? I used my usual stock response “knowledge is power”.

The second book Mannie’s Diet and Enzyme Formula: A Change of Lifestyle Diet Designed for Everyone, was equally illuminating. I began to understand why the food of today is different from the food of my youth. There is a difference between a Tomato grown at home to a shop bought one. There is a huge difference between the taste of a sausage from your local butcher than one purchased from your local megamart.

My initial quest was one about flavor, but I quickly discovered that it was not just about taste, there are much darker forces at work. As you start to look more carefully at food products you quickly run into the ‘Alphagetti’ of the food industry. HFCS, MSG, GMO, RDA, the list of acronyms is almost endless.

Even the innocuous seasoning that resides in every kitchen cabinet Salt, becomes Sodium, MSG, Yeast Extract, and a whole raft of other names within the world of Big Food.

Sugar suffers a similar fate. I grew up in England and the favorite hot beverage was a ‘cuppa tea’ served with milk, and the question one or two? This referred to teaspoons of sugar. As an aside, this tradition has found its way into Canada. Although the beverage of choice is Coffee rather than Tea. The Canadian equivalent of Starbucks is a chain of Coffee and Donut stores, Tim Hortons. They don’t do the foo foo grande’s and latte’s you just hear “Large Double Double”, this translates into a wanting a big cup of coffee with two doses of cream and two doses of sugar.

Sugar is Sugar right? WRONG. Sugar comes in many forms, a favorite within Big Food is HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). Through a process that only Mary Shelly could love, Frankensugar was born!

It’s alive It’s alive, now we can put it in virtually every product sold in the megamart!

In another part of Big Foods FrankenCastle the mad scientists were trying to figure out how to get more for their protein dollar. Factory Pharming was the answer! It is unlikely that the delicious fried chicken that you just picked up ever saw daylight, born in a cage, lived in a cage, and died in a cage. Could this be why the chicken needs 10 secret herbs and spices to make it taste good?

More importantly, what are the secret ingredients? I can hazard a guess, some variation on salt, a variation on sugar, and some synthetic chemicals to give us that natural flavor.

How about that great steak you ate last night? It was tender and tasty? You can’t mess with a cow, right? Um, if you said yes, you are wrong. BGH, that’s Foodspeak for Bovine Growth Hormone is a technique used to increase the size (profits) of the animal. The lovely marbling on most steaks also comes from an unusual source. Cows like grass, they are good at dealing with digesting it, but to fatten them up for slaughter they are given corn. Corn is not part of the animals natural diet, and it becomes a race, put pounds on the animal before it dies from the corn!

My quest was a simple one, why doesn’t today’s food taste the same as it did when I was young? I think I have answered that question. But many more remain.

Over the past few months I have become much more aware of what goes into my tummy. Mannie Barling and his wife Ashley F. Brooks are people that I talk to on a regular basis. They are the catalyst that began my radio quest Surviving The 21st Century. Its not Al Quaeda that’s going to kill you, it is what you eat!

If you missed our last program, you can find the recording here.

Simon Barrett

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