In the Star’s business section a week ago, there was a grotesque photograph of the Mayor of Philadelphia eating his breakfast out of a tube.
The tube, filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon, was manufactured by IncrEdibles and is called push `n’ eat. It’s designed for « the time starved.’’
It intrigued me that someone could be so time starved as to want to squish breakfast out of a tube. So I cooked a breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and tea, and had an apple on the side. From the time I cracked the first egg, until I finished eating and put the dishes in the sink, it took me an unhurried 17 minutes. I munched the apple on the way out the door. Based on this, I figure the good mayor saved himself about 12 minutes.
I wonder what he accomplished in those 12 minutes? Given what Health Canada says about a diet of fast foods, could it possibly be worth foregoing a normal meal?
What the mayor and the push `n’ eat breakfast symbolize is the fast food culture of our times. Health Canada says this culture will kill a lot of us. It will promote cancer, heart disease, and strokes. It will also promote diabetes, says Debbie Field, executive director of FoodShare, a charitable agency supported by the City of Toronto and united way
Health Canada says that « Over time, the consumption of five servings or more a day of a variety of vegetables and fruits could, by itself, decrease overall cancer incidence by at least 20 per cent.’’ The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada warns against the high fat and cholesterol content of fast foods.
Nevertheless, I suspect that if statistics were compiled in Canada, they would show the same high preference for fast foods as in the United States, where 62 per cent of the meals eaten are fast food and takeout. Only 16 per cent are home cooked, and the remainder is eaten in restaurants.
Generally speaking, a diet of fast foods and takeouts offers a pretty thin variety of vegetables and fruits. Even in a restaurant, when was the last time you saw beets, parsnips, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, yams, kidney beans, eggplant, celery, or zucchini on the menu?
How did we arrive in this situation? One way, according to Debbie Field, is we’ve trained our babies to want fast foods by feeding them processed baby food. It’s homogeneous, untextured, and bland — like most fast foods.
Field says that when babies are four to six months old, they should begin adapting to different foods, textures, and tastes. She points to a FoodShare booklet entitled The ABC’s of Baby Food, which says: « The ability to manipulate, chew, and swallow different textured foods is an important learned developmental skill. Seven to nine months of age has been suggested as a critical period of development for learning to chew.’’
If your baby’s diet, during this learning period, consists of processed baby food, it won’t adapt to variety, and you will be depriving your child of a dietary learning curve essential to its long-term health, she says.
There’s a good chance your child will end up fussy about food, preferring vapid fast foods to foods that are textured, or have strong and widely different tastes.
As adults, we need texture in our diets, because we need fibre. We need wide varieties of fruits and vegetables, because we need the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals they contain.
Using a small, hand held grinder, Field shows how easy it is to prepare baby food at home. The grinder is available for $14 from FoodShare, which also offers workshops on feeding babies (telephone 416-392-6653). Judging by Field’s demonstration, it’s almost as quick to prepare your own baby food as to spoon it out of a store-bought jar.
« The purpose of baby food,’’ Field says, « is to teach a baby how to eat.’’ Judging from what I see around me, a lot of us were taught the wrong way.