by Arnold De Villa
November 16, 2012
If you know what you knew then or know what you did not know, would you act on that new knowledge or would you behave as if you did not know?
In one of the many Thanksgiving parties I attended, despite the jovial atmosphere of friends sharing the fellowship of so many reasons to be thankful, talking about people who were not there was as an unspoken tradition. And it is not because of their absence but because of the shortness of life that we converge and reminisce. It was just like yesterday when he was around or just the other week when she came over to watch over the kids.
“Why are there so many people who die of cancer in the United States”, asks a newcomer to a group of veterans.
“Ya, that’s true. And it also seems that a lot of small kids have allergies, teenagers are getting extra curves and more Filipinos are having diabetes and heart problems. Why is that so?” Lolo responded with a big dish of pansit on his hand.
“Ah naku”, said Tita Isang. “Why don’t you just eat, enjoy and forget about those grim things about diseases and death. It’s Thanksgiving Day after all”.
And so I thought. Sometime back, food was simple. Cans, bottles and wrappers were not needed. There were no premixed, pre-cooked or pre-seasoned ingredients of any kind. Food also had more meaning than just being victuals that gathered folks together. Sometime back, we waited for food. They had their own time, their own season. And when that season arrived, food added meaning to the occasion.
“So why are there so many people who die of cancer in the United States?”, the newcomer persisted with his question. And then he looked at the people in front of him.
“Food”, said Tito Kiko. “Food” is the main culprit of all these bad things, he said. “When you go out shopping, take some time to read and look at the labels of what you buy. Whenever you find a word that seems too long or too difficult to understand, write it down on a piece of paper. When you get home, try to find out what it means. More than often, those things are not food, should not be in the food you eat, and should not be part of what you ingest. We used to have “sinigang” using sampaloc. Why in the world do we need that “sinigang mix”?
“Ikaw naman”, said Tita Isang again. “We are all busy. We need some things to make things faster. You know, the likes of instant mixes and magic seasonings. The end product is the same anyway. Masarap din”.
In the meantime, Mitch was just roaming around the table, trying to determine what he could put on his plate. “Mitch, are you not hungry? Get something, they are all good”, his cousin told him.
“Sorry, Kuya! I am gluten sensitive. I cannot eat anything with wheat in it. I also cannot eat anything with dairy products, soy beans and fake ingredients”.
“Really”, his cousin interjected. What can you eat then?”
And the party went on. While everyone enjoyed their meals, I wallowed on thinking about what I heard, or more so what I overheard. Like Tito Kiko, I am inclined to think that food is the culprit of so many modern day diseases. But then again, food was primarily designed to provide us with the needed nutrition to survive. Across ages, food became a source of pleasure, a hub for social engagements and a scapegoat for modern day stress. And then our attitudes changed. Food became a need and a want, having certain things as must haves whether are in season or not. Manufacturers and processors, ever hungry to gain more profit from any source, easily captured the quick change of paradigms and worked on food. Stores wanted to sell more as more people wanted to have more. Labels were promoted, expiration dates were extended, appetites increased, and bellies ballooned. Food sources were also tapped. Technology wanted their meat to last longer and designed their source of meat to battle against the adverse elements of nature in the cheapest way possible. And so we hear of high fructose corn syrup, GMO, corn fed animals and overweight fowl. They wanted cows, chickens, pigs and other meat producing animals to grow faster, fatter and cheaper. Crops, fruits, vegetables and other produce joined the band. Now many of them are resistant to deadly microbes. They have been reconfigured with built in fertilizer DNA’s to the point that they are structurally immuned against any potential vegetative illness. It does not stop there, jams, jellies, chips, crackers and cookies are packed to sell cheaper, taste better and last longer. Many of them contain things that make them so.
Maybe Tito Kiko was right. It would not hurt to read the label. And if there is no label, it will not hurt to ask. It is too bad that we have to worry not only how we eat but also what we eat and what we buy together with what we eat. Read the label. If there is any word in there that is too long, too odd, or sounds strange, chances are, they are not food and cannot be consumed. And if they are not food, what then are they doing inside the food that we eat. Are they really necessary? And if we eat them, no matter how small the amount, what guarantees would be there would have no adverse effects down the road?
But then again, is there any food in the United States that is totally natural, free from additives, untapped by genetic technology and free from unneeded antibiotics?
Yes, as I mentioned before, the case of Filipinos suffering from type II diabetes, gout, cardiovascular accidents and cardiovascular diseases are rising at alarming rates. As it is, Filipino party food by nature is already laden with lipids and other forms of cholesterol that increase our risk for food and nutrition related illnesses. Add the junk we get from junk food and that would be scary.
Sorry for being a party blooper folks! An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day! It is not the food, but the people though; the ones who are still alive and healthy, recalling all the reasons to be grateful and even those who are no longer around.
Happy Thanksgiving Day!