Mild fire of wine kindled his veins. I wanted that badly.


Food and nutrition. In concept it seems straightforward enough. Food is what we eat to obtain the nourishment and thus the energy to keep us going from day to day. Yet food has undergone radical changes over the past hundred years, especially in the industrialized West. People who lived at the turn of the 20th century wouldn’t recognize today’s grocery stores, and they certainly wouldn’t recognize much of what fills grocery store shelves as nourishment.

It all began with a push toward greater convenience in an increasingly mechanized world. Electricity and then electronics brought with them an endless stream of new gadgets for the home, each promising to make life easier in some way. Many of these time- and labor-saving devices were destined for the kitchen. Factories, too, were retooled to streamline the manufacture of everything, including food. But a growing segment of today’s population is concerned about healthy eating and about the place of heavily processed foods in their diet. Should convenience be the ruler by which we measure food and nutrition?

Some convenience foods actually predate the 20th century, among them canned soups, fruits and vegetables; gelatin dessert mixes; ketchup and other prepared condiments; pancake mixes; ready-to-eat breakfast cereals; sweetened condensed milk. After the First World War, these and more found their way into the kitchens of eager young housewives, with manufacturers often promoting their innovative products via free recipe books.

There’s no denying that flavor, texture and nutrients suffered, but people began to rely on these conveniences, and their tastes simply changed to accommodate. […]

Throughout the 20th century, the food industry worked to provide not only convenience but also ostensibly wholesome substitutes for natural foods, including butter. In fact, margarine has been around since the late 19th century, but for many years it was white by law. Eventually, however, it came with added artificial flavor and a capsule of yellow artificial food coloring (to be kneaded in after purchase) so it would taste and look more like the real thing. […]

After several generations of variations on this theme, however, we are seeing the effects of eating foods that are so far removed from their original state. Not only are many diseases linked to poor diet—from certain cancers to diabetes to heart disease—but obesity affects an unprecedented segment of the Western population.

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