Monday, February 21, 2011
On the South African Food System
I have a future post in which you'll get a glimpse of my parents small but amazingly productive garden, but for this post, I wanted to tell you about the South African food system. South African readers, you know it better than I do, so take this as an outsider's perspective, one which I hope is measured and offers insights that are hard to see without a reference point.
Packaging seems to be equated with "better quality" food. It must be working, because all three major food shops -- Checkers, Pick'n Pay, and Woolworths, have all started to package vegetables. And Woolworths, the crazy expensive one of the three, is the worst culprit. Vegetables and fruits that you're going to wash or peel anyway do not need their own bags.
Consider letting Woolies know that you don't need pre-packaged produce, that you're ok with picking veggies from bulk containers (if indeed, you are ok with that).
Consider suggesting that your grocery weigh produce at checkout. Weighing in the produce section gives you a sense of cost, sure, but it also means you need to use a bag (a plastic one, unless you remember to bring one of your own), that you need to wait in line or find someone to weigh it for you, and that you use masses of those little stickers.
South African (western) groceries are full of margarine, and even ice cream doesn't actually have real cream in it. Some restaurants don't stock butter at all. This means more processing. Many people drink whole milk, which is kindof cool (in the U.S. it's less common).
I'll stop on those two observations for now; in S.A. as in the U.S., we seem more interested in nutrients than food. But nutrients don't offer the full picture: we know painfully little about how our body really processes nutrients, hence the idea of focusing on food rather than nutrients.
This is not to say I know anything profound about a healthy diet. But I'm a fan of Michael Pollan's one sentence prescription: Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.
A sneak peak of the garden: