Wo/Man cannot live on Nutella alone

To live on foods without any packaging

We are often told that landfill is all our fault for using plastic shopping bags. I did the decent thing and bought a linen shopping bag. But

  • it advertises Asda (Walmart), which makes me feel they should be paying me, rather than I should have paid them a pound or so for it.
  • being too idle and disorganised, I never remember to take it out when I buy anything.
  • being generally slack, I seem to have got it almost too filthy to take anywhere, without attracting public disgust.
  • filling it up with foods packaged within an inch of their lives just seems to be hiding standard wastefulness under a hypocritical facade of concern for the environment.

None of my efforts at recycling are much use. On the sink top, there are a dozen slightly smelly jars and bottles that never made it to the correct recycling container on the right day. My compost heap is just a pile of rat-bait at the edge of the yard, appreciated only by the feral cat that turns up once a week. My pile of old Guardians and free bus-papers doesn’t have a proper collectible green plastic bag to store it in, so it’s just a fire hazard/burglar trap behind the front door.

Basically, inept recycling is changing my home into a transitional garbage dump. Too concerned about landfill to throw anything out. Too lazy to spend an hour a day on sorting, washing and packing trash for recycling.

The alternative plan is to avoid packaging. This won’t work with clothes or new electrical items. (Cutting down on buying them would help. But, I can generally rely on my income to do this for me, all by itself.) But food, surely I can do it with food.

I decided to try and eat only unpackaged foods that I can just drop into my non-plastic bag and carry home in their natural state. Blimey, there’s not much there. The list seems to come down to two things:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Bread from a baker’s shop

Firstly, you can’t get fruit and vegetables from a supermarket. Even supermarket bananas are wrapped in plastic.

Secondly, it seems you have to concentrate on buying BIG foods. The shopkeeper is getting a bit irked when he has to collect together individual item groups, from a jumble of mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, for weighing. Yams are ideal. (No, yams are a bad idea – transport miles – carbon footprint… Plus, buying up the staple food crops of the poor countries is not very defensible.) Well, big potatoes, then. Bananas are good – intrinsically well-wrapped and big enough to handle. (No, wait. Transport costs, staple foods in poor countries, etc. Big fruit corporations.)

OK, local potatoes, it is. By an uncanny stroke of luck, I live close to one of the few shops left that actually sells cheap,tasty locally-grown potatoes. But this could become a diet of Potato Famine- like consequences, if I’m to be stuck eating only potatoes. Oh, and onions. Cauliflowers. Broccoli. Apples. Peas. And a few other fruits and vegetables that can get tipped into my bag, however irritating it is for the lad behind the counter to weigh things that aren’t in handy plastic bags. (Berries are out. Grapes may be OK, if I can collect a big bunch all linked together.)

(Should easily achieve the 5-pieces-of-fruit-and-veg a day goal, however spurious its scientific basis. Then again, potatoes don’t count.)

Bread. Bah, there aren’t any local bakeries for miles. Can walk a mile to the supermarket and get a loaf there, though, from the instore “bakery.”

Eggs. There are still a few places that sell loose eggs. Buying eggs in an unpackaged state involves a dedicated egg-shopping trip, so as to avoid making an uncooked omelette in the increasingly filthy canvas advert-bag. Bugger, I have to boil or poach them, not having worked out a way to get oil back in my bare hands.

Butter. Cheese. Milk. No, can’t have them. Argh. How am I supposed to eat the spuds, without butter? Well, OK, then, fair enough. Veganism does always seem so much more definite and determined than my wishy-washy vegetarianism. (They would have to force those soya abomination foods into my cold dead mouth, though.)

Hmm, that’s it then. I won’t last long on this diet, I suspect. I’ll have to broaden it out a bit.

Extend the acceptably-edible categories of packaged food to include things with reusable packaging. Re-usable, not recyclable. (I’ve already said how crap I am at recycling.)

Cheese is back on the menu. w00t! The shop sells an Arabic soft cheese that comes in a drinking glass. (Even saving the packaging that a bought drinking glass would have. And increasing my store of guest cutlery by 100%.)

Nutella – also comes in a drinking glass.

There’s a SUMA peanut butter spread that comes in a huge hard plastic tub with a metal handle that makes a perfectly adequate plant pot (that I could use to grow some small food crop in, like a couple of radishes. If I buy soil and seeds. But they would both be packaged 🙁 )

Bread with spread. Some fruit. Some vegetables.
(Much more food than millions of people get. Way too limited for my pampered western self.)

The point:
Nothing, really. Just thinking about the absurdity of trying to change the world through our own individual consumption patterns, but, still remembering that we do make choices in the little things.

Why 5 pieces of fruit & veg anyway?

I am all for hammering the fake nutritionist tosh. “Doctor” Gillian McKeith “PhD (Intenet)” is an obvious charlatan. It’s very hard to see how anyone gave her any credence but – from Channel 4’s point of view – she rifled through human crap on tv, in the presence of its manufacturers even. This was always going to draw audiences. Actual nutrition qualifications would have just been icing on the poocake from the Channel 4 point of view.

I’m not a hundred per cent convinced by more official nutrition advice either. Everyone “knows” we are supposed to eat 5 pieces of fruit or vegetables a day. The government tell us so. There are posters in my doctor’s surgery. I am not disputing that we should eat fruit and vegetables (I’m a vegetarian. I would be going very hungry if I didn’t.)

I just want to know – Who said it? Where is the evidence? How big is a serving anyway?

Well, it turns out that original recommendation came from the World Health Organisation. The 5 a day is a UK version. The USA is more demanding. It wants you to eat 9.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid recommends three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits per day University of Iowa .

Are US fruit and veg weaker in their healing powers? Do American need higher standards of health than we do because of lacking an NHS?

Where does this advice come from? The UK Department of Health has some referenced links to evidence, on its site. Most of these actually turn out to be links to other DOH documents that repeat the same advice. There are however some links to research papers that report lower rates of heart disease and a couple of other reduced risks in those who eat more fruit and vegetables.

So far, fine. The researchers are scientists, so I am sure they will have adjusted the figures for other things that are correlated with living longer – apart from eating more fruit and veg – like being better off & more health conscious generally. I am perfectly capable of working out that fruit and veg are good for you, from any evidence they can produce from their research (plus a lifetime of imbibing this apparently “common sense” message.)

I would like someone to show me where the number 5 came from – was it just a think of number game? Is there any evidence?

I would also like someone to show me where the obscure rules came in – potatoes don’t count; juice only counts as one even if you drink litres of different kinds of juices. Where does the portion size of a serving come from? How can it apply to everyone from a 6’6″ tall heavy set man to a slight 5 year-old?

Unless someone shows there is a real scientific basis for this stuff, it strikes me as government promoted woo. It seems we won’t respond to messages like “It’s probably good for your health to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.” We aren’t intelligent enough to understand that message. We need to be directed, like the good 1984-in-2007 public we are, in terms that are simple and direct and very prescriptive. It doesn’t matter if the instructions are assembled from guesswork and back of an envelope calculations. As long as we have some rules to follow. With numbers.

Rather like “Doctor” McKeith’s approach to nutrition, really. Oh hang on, she’s an obvious quack.

It seems a disturbingly short step from this nonsense to deciding that vitamins do cure AIDS. I think you’d probably find that most people in the world who have malaria don’t eat 5 to 9 portions of fruit and veg a day. (A lot of them probably are lucky to eat. )

I bet the research shows that most people in the world with HIV infections don’t have cars or travel on planes. I suggest that you drive 10 miles a day and fly 200 miles every 6 months, to lower your chances of catching it.