A story in The Washington Post this morning caught my eye:
The Surprising Number of American Adults Who Think Chocolate Milk Comes from Brown Cows
Surely this must be a joke, right? WRONG!
“Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.
If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.
One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef.”
Now, I did not grow up on a farm, though one of my pseudo-uncles was a rancher, and a friend of my parents’ was an orchardist. But, I know from whence most of the food I eat originated. The article, once my initial shock had worn off, brought back some memories. My sister-in-law used to think that hamburgers came from pigs … ham-burgers. Okay, I guess I can see that. And my niece was visiting one summer when I made French fries one night. Now, I most often eschew the frozen ones and make homemade French fries by peeling and cutting potatoes, then frying them in hot oil. When I did so, my niece said, “Wow, Aunt Jill, I didn’t know you could make French fries from potatoes!” Sigh.
“When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California high school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.”
I did learn something new today from a related article: baby carrots are not baby carrots! They are, rather, sculpted from full-sized adult carrots. The story:
“In the early 1980s, the carrot business was stagnant and wasteful. Growing seasons were long, and more than half of what farmers grew was ugly and unfit for grocery shelves. But in 1986, [Mike] Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable.
At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.”
Who knew? I guess I’m as under-educated in matters of agriculture as the rest! Today, the ‘baby carrots’ account for 70% of all carrot sales. It’s rather sad, though, to think of how much carrot is going to waste in this manner. I typically buy the baby carrots, as they are just the right size for soups and stews, snacking, and roasting, but I think I will go back to buying full-size carrots now … after all, it only takes a minute to peel and cut a carrot!
As tends to happen frequently these days, one thought sets my mind down a perilous path of many twists and turns, and the original article, about ‘food-ignorance’ led me to an ugly place. Sigh. But one must wonder, with the bulk of our population living in urban areas and never having grown so much as a scallion, what happens if … if there is an extended power outage, if through an act of aggression or a natural disaster, we are not able to run to our local supermarket and purchase veggies, cheese, milk and chicken?
We have become all too dependent on our food being always available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we do not give a second thought to how that food got there. When the weather forecaster says “a chance of flurries in the overnight hours”, the supermarkets are suddenly packed with shoppers who simply must stock up on milk and toilet tissue. In the past year or so, people have become even more dependent, as now most major supermarkets offer a service where the consumer can go online, select their groceries, specify a pick-up time, then simply drive to the front of the store and pick up their grocery order. I have not tried this service, and probably won’t, for the bulk of my shopping happens in the produce department, and I prefer to select my own peppers and onions. But to others, it is a time-and-energy saver, and is gaining momentum, from what I understand.
All of us have become far too dependent on things that could disappear in the blink of an eye, and I am no exception. I do not pretend to know what the answer is, and certainly we cannot live our lives in fear of the unknown. I remember during the cold war, families building ‘bomb shelters’ in their back yards, stocking them with surplus food and other essentials. Even more recently, in response to a panic that computer systems would not be able to handle the date switch to the 21st century, rumour had it that the entire electrical grid of the U.S. might be down for a long period. Remember Y2k? So no, I do not think panic is in order, but I do think it would behoove us to at least understand some of the more basic things in life, such as how to grow a few veggies, how to bake our own bread, and most importantly, how to live with less.
Now how the heck did I go from what was intended to be a humorous piece to this? See … this is how my mind works. I call it ‘mind bounce’, for it is as if there is one of those small bouncy balls inside my skull jumping from one place to another with warp speed. Welcome to my world!!!