"Super foods"

Wendy Neale
5.August 2021

Do we have superfoods now because most of what we eat isn't food?

I posed this question a few years ago when there were new-to-me exotic fruits around, such as Jaboticaba, labelled as superfoods. I was postulating that superfoods used to be just everyday food, but they've had to be elevated because now we eat other things that we call food and they can't all exist in the same category.

When I say 'other things that we call food' you might think I mean stuff like margarine, cheese-food, anything that contains petroleum and is an unnatural colour, reconstituted potato chips with an ingredient list as long as the container they're in, those things that are a legal defense for indefensible actions... hostess... junk... cakes? and I do, but I also mean fruit and veges, fish and meat.

I bought some carrots, cute little carrots in a bag. I was living in a country that grows less than 1% of their own food so everything comes in a bag from another country. It is also a very hot country, so I put the carrots in the fridge. And promptly forgot about them.

Another kind of superfood...

Three weeks later, I saw them again, and they looked exactly the same as they did when I bought them. (In my defense, I went on holiday. I would usually open the fridge much more often.)

Completely repelled by their long shelf life, but curious to see how long that life would actually be, I shut the vege drawer and left them there. I checked on them weekly, for three more months, until I moved out to go back to NZ. No change at all. Exactly the same.

Unfortunately I had to finish the experiment there, as NZ won't let me bring uncooked veges home on a plane. By this time, I could probably have argued that they weren't vegetables, but it wasn't an experience I wanted to have with our border control people.

Even so - almost FOUR MONTHS!!! No mould, no rot, no growth. How is that possible?

I know I shouted, but I think the lesson here is that even though it looks like a carrot, it might not be a carrot.

How can you tell if food is real food?

In brief, this is how I judge it:

I know where it comes from, even who grew it or made it or fermented it. It was grown in the same environment that I live in. It smells good - a peach smells like floral honey, not damp wood, a capsicum smells like spicy juicy sunshine, not like nothing at all. It might even have some dirt on it. It might be so delicious that bugs have been enticed to nibble on it.

I think we're doing something wrong if the bugs won't touch it. Or if there are no bugs to eat it.

Why does it matter?

There are lots of reasons. You are what you eat - if you eat good food, you'll feel good about it, maybe even happier and healthier. Good food is made with love, and you feel it.

But also, I think it would be quite nice to stop global warming. Healthy food, grown in a regenerative way, is good for us, good for the people who grow it, good for all creatures great, small, and very, very tiny. Apparently, eating that kind of good food will start to fix our environment within 20 years if absolutely everyone does it. To find out more about this, check out the 4 per 1000 website and watch the movie Kiss the Ground. They helped me understand that we really can make a difference, by choosing with our mouths and stomachs and our cash, even if we're not growing anything ourselves.

Kindness & generosity

So many years ago it was last century, me and my then-girlfriend used to go to the organic vege stall every weekend at the Salamanca Markets in Tasmania. Marianna, an exuberant and passionate organic farmer, was the stallholder and would be so welcoming every time she saw us. She might have saved something special for us, and would always pop
something extra into our bags for us to find when we unpacked.

We fell on hard times for a while, and stopped going there, because we had to be very frugal. I don't remember noticing how good the organic fruit and veges were when I started eating them, but I definitely noticed how tasteless the supermarket ones were when I went back to them.

Anyway, one day we saw Marianna in the street and, greeting us with her usual warmth and enthusiasm, she asked us why we didn't visit anymore. We both looked away, embarrassed, shuffled our feet a bit and then one of us mumbled a confession. She immediately said, bring the money you can spend, and I will give you your usual amount until things
start looking up for you both again.

No supermarket is going to do that for you.