Judge Not the Poor: Eating Healthy

There have been enough popular  news media and academic articles about the unhealthy triangle of poverty, limited food choices, and higher risk of poor health.

Cheap, good freshly made sushi and sashimi at Fujiya, a popular Japanese supermarket. Vancouver 2014.
Cheap, good freshly made sushi and sashimi at Fujiya, a popular Japanese supermarket. Vancouver 2014.

Such assumptions can sometimes be wrong:  I am a living example or shall I say, my family has been a living example that poverty doesn’t always mean living in the black shadow of crappy food choices and lousy diets.

Before anyone throws tomatoes and cheap MacDonald’s hamburgers at my words, I stress it doesn’t mean I don’t support healthy school breakfast programs for underprivileged children, community gardens in low income areas,  or feel that nutritional education for the poor, is waste of time.

Patronizing Assumptions About Low-Income Diets
To me, sometimes, over focus on poverty and lower education, as primary determinants to poor health risk and poor diet, is abit overblown. We should step away from bourgeois, patronizing assumptions about the poor and especially those who have lower education than us, as lacking nutritional smarts.

Restaurant Mexican meal of chicken mole (savoury chocolate sauce), rice and refried beans with freshly made tortillas. Vancouver BC 2015.
Restaurant Mexican meal of chicken mole (savoury chocolate sauce), rice and refried beans with freshly made soft tortillas. Vancouver BC 2015.

We forget, is some of these folks we may pity, have knowledge of traditional healthy food dishes, healthy attitudes about food diversity and eating in general.

Poor But Committed to Healthy Eating

Chinese steamed beef dish. Beef marinated with abit of soy sauce, oil, flour, ginger root and onion for 15 min. prior to cooking. A fast, easy dish I still make.
Chinese steamed beef dish we often had when I was growing up in Canada. Beef marinated with abit of soy sauce, oil, flour, ginger root and onion for 15 min. prior to cooking. A fast, easy dish I still make.

Take for instance, my mother. Not in best health because she didn’t look after herself consistently through the years of bearing and raising 6 children. If you met her, she doesn’t look like the shining paragon of  health nowadays.  She barely knows English (and hence, cannot read food labels), didn’t finish high school in China (she has Gr. 10 level), yet she did raise 6 children on a primarily Chinese healthy diet in Canada.

So how did a poor, large family in Canada do it?  How did my mother help lay a strong foundation of nutrition and healthy physical development on a shoestring budget  –without going to a food bank?  Without a blender to make smoothies and pureed soups?

Food market mural. Toronto ON 2014. Photo by J.Chong
Food market mural. Toronto ON 2014. Photo by J.Chong

* Having an arsenal of  family dishes, that primarily used techniques of stir-frying, steaming or simmering for meats, fresh veggies.  In fact, mother rarely deep fried any foods. She was simply afraid of the bubbling oil and a lot of children playing around in a small house.

*Very little or no sugar used in dishes. Not surprisingly, traditional Chinese dishes don’t use sugar nor are there desserts. It was fresh fruit for us daily which mother made sure of this.   Sweetened dessert was reserved for occasional ice cream early afternoon in  the summer or light sponge cake either bought or steamed at home for birthdays, cookies and candies for special occasions –Christmas and Easter or just a general treat for whole family. 1 can of pop was divided between 2 children.

  •  Nutritional information my father gleaned  from English news, TV.  Also his disgust as a Chinese restaurant cook, where the daily sight of richer, and sometimes deep-fried restaurant foods got tiring to see.
  • Food was never  used as a motivator, to punish or reward us as children for our behaviours.  It was just a neutral item, that was necessary to keep us alive.

    Looking at her mother's handcrafted cloth book on nutritional advice. Sage advice from a 12 yr. old long ago. Toronto ON 2012. Photo by J.Chong
    Niece looking at her mother’s childhood handcrafted cloth book on nutritional advice. Sage advice from a 12 yr. old long ago. Toronto ON 2012.
  • Living within a 15-min. walk of a large grocery store. Though we didn’t live in a food desert neighbourhood, we didn’t have a car until I was 14 yrs. old.
  • Integrating some dairy foods. Most likely a doctor told them some milk was good for growing babies and children.  We had some cheese and much later, yogurt.
  • Stock of cookies, candies, chips and pop were kept very low at home, or non-existent most of the time.
  • We seldom ate in front of the TV.  Since our house was too small for family of 8, we didn’t have a separate dining room. So we ate at the table as a family in the kitchen.   At least, no child had their own tv in their bedroom to escape with their meal.
 Page from a cloth book crafted by a sister for a school project when she was 13 yrs. old. Naturally got kudos and high mark from teacher.
Page from a cloth book crafted by a sister for a school project when she was 12 yrs. old. Naturally got kudos and high mark from teacher.

Crappy processed Chinese foods were eventually rejected for home pantry.  Mother really didn’t want much jarred Chinese condiments with a ton of salt and other food additives.   She had less trust on food safety for  processed products from China vs. from North America.

I used to think she was paranoid. But recent news on shocking food safety violations in China, in their quest for a quick buck, have proven her right.

50+ Years Later, Food Palate Footprint on Me
* No interest in pop drinks ever since childhood. Sure I’ll drink a can  –once a year.  A can of  pop sits in my fridge for months.
* No lusting after fried foods.  Sure, I’ll eat donuts maybe up to 8-10 times annually, fried calamari or chicken several times per year.  I’ve never made deep fried food at home. I have no interest.
* Daily need to have veggies and fruits.  When I miss out, a day or 2 later, I’m constipated and sluggish. I feel wrong.
* White rice –only several times annually.  This restriction was due to diabetes 2 scare several years ago after blood tests.  So I gradually withdrew from daily white rice over a few months.
* Not tempted by chips, chocolate bars and pop that my fellow high school classmates were snapping up, when I volunteered weekly at our high school tuck shop for a year.

Devouring a light pizza with zuchinni strips and cheese at an Italian deli and bakery. West-end Toronto 2014.
Devouring a light pizza with zuchinni strips and cheese at an Italian deli and bakery. West-end Toronto 2014.

My bad habits:

  • Desserts more often than I care to count.  Influence of knowing Jack and fine gourmet baking from his mother.
  • Soft cheeses, prosciutto (too salty).
  • Eating mindlessly if I’m under stress or am out socializing.
  • Eating in front of the computer. I don’t have a tv.

I submit that I am earning a higher salary than my father for a big family. I’m more educated, yet that has not kicked out my bad habits.

Jack's own crepe production line moving along. Makes piles of thin crepes quickly and expertly. 2014. Photo by J.Chong
Jack’s own crepe production line moving along. Makes piles of thin crepes quickly and expertly. 2014. Photo by J.Chong

Not surprisingly, immigrants to North America or certain areas of Europe, once they earn some money and venture beyond their family, can easily gain more unnecessary weight and increase their heart disease risk by consuming more foods that have fat, sugar for taste or are processed.

Helping ourselves from cooked food at a family BBQ. Toronto 2012. Just easier to serve food in kitchen with hamburgers from backyard BBQ grill.

Now, myself and siblings, as adults living in our own households, some of us have slipped off the health wagon.  Then we climbed back on, to lose weight and take up an exercise.  At least, we are equipped with memory and past knowledge of what it means to be healthy and what balanced, healthy and tasty meals at home, looks like without  huge effort, cost and no processed foods.

Fresh yogurt with red gooseberries, red currants and blueberries from British Columbian farms. Vancouver BC
Fresh yogurt with red gooseberries, red currants and blueberries from British Columbian farms. Vancouver BC

We can’t deny to even ourselves, we didn’t learn the lessons of nutrition and healthy food underneath our nose, right on our plate.

More Reading:
Keung, Nicholas. “Canadian Living Takes Toll on Immigrant Hearts.” In Toronto Star. Aug. 31, 2015.     A study of 800,000 first generation immigrants who settled in Ontario since 1985, which included many East Asians.

Darmon, N. and A. Drewnowski. “Does Social Class Predict Diet Quality”. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 2008, vol. 87 (no.5).
Excerpt:

Studies of dietary habits of lower SES groups have emphasized lack of nutrition knowledge (124), lack of cooking skills, lack of motivation (125, 126), and a general disinterest in cooking (126). It is not clear that such reports are correct. One UK study found that cooking skills showed little differentiation by SES and that lower income groups are more likely to cook than are higher income groups (178). Similar observations were made in Canada (179) and in France (63, 180), where the middle and upper classes cook less and consume more convenience and ready-to-eat foods. Other studies found that low-income groups have adequate cooking skills (155, 181). In very poor families, the lack of cooking equipment will in itself discourage cooking.

A lack of nutrition knowledge (182), apathy toward nutrition prevention messages (183), and an erroneous perception of body weight (184–186) have all been cited as potential explanations for unhealthy dietary habits and high obesity rates among disadvantaged groups. However, nutrition knowledge alone may not necessarily be sufficient to initiate behavioral application of healthy diets (187, 188). Limited time for food shopping and cooking is an important factor influencing food intake among low-income mothers (189).

Home meal of asparagus cheese ravoli with mushroom bison soy-balsamic vinegar sauce with bison local sausages. Calgary AB 2015.
Home meal of asparagus cheese ravoli with mushroom bison soy-balsamic vinegar sauce with bison local sausages. Topped with brie cheese. Calgary AB 2015.
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47 Comments Add yours

  1. I agree whole-heartedly Jean. When I was trying to get my own business going and other times I have had less money. I shop for 2 or 3 meals at a time, with meat, veggies, etc and I do it for relatively cheap. Each meal lasts me for 2-4 meals, so I can freeze some and eat another day. So lots of variety and lots of home cooking! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Good, healthy cooking at home. I’ve been intrigued by recent articles of journalists who tried to cook/subsist on a welfare money diet (plus accommodation). I understand this challenge as well. It really does mean a lot less food choice ingredients which results in some repetitive meals: but that is not always much different from people eating MacDonald’s or something similar several times per wk./month.

      Have memories of many home cooked kohl rabi dishes …because that was one of rare veggies parents could grow in garden without bugs ruining the veggies. But it was healthy..in soup, stir fried. That was reality also. Same with butternut squash @ 25 cents per squash when I was growing up. Fortunately I like squash then and still now. I returned to kohl rabi 20 yrs. later when Jack reintroduced it as a dish he grew up with. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Margie says:

    I agree with your assessment, Jean.

    Today, the CRTC says Canadian families spend about $191 per month for cable, cellphone, internet and home phone plans. Statscan says the average Canadian family spends about $185 a month on restaurant bought food. The average grocery store food cost is about $480 a month.

    As a society, we have access to information about nutrition, food preparation, and cost effective food sources. Our Canadian ‘poverty’ is not always for lack of food, but lack of good judgement, perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Marg: The monthly telecommunications consumer bill is a tough for many folks. However there is cheaper alternative– pay for cellphone/landline, give up tv (I’ve lived without household tv for about 15 yrs. in total or more. Right now, no tv at home for past 5 yrs. since I’ve moved to Calgary.) and use the Internet at local public library. Don’t know if they allow you to log in to do webmail via your local telecom provider. Best thing is to ask library. My guess is yes, because I’ve done it myself while we were bike touring. (We don’t carry cellphones.)

      We do have lots of great good info. from health authorities and govn’t sites + plus healthy Internet recipes. But yes, good nutritional and food consumption judgement needs to be cultivated and practiced. It helps to have some family members or friends who also support such changes.

      Like

  3. Sue Slaght says:

    You raise some good points Jean. Bravo to your parents for their insight and efforts in creating such healthy choices that left you with such a solid foundation of healthy eating habits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      And I believe, you eat healthy yourself. Just based on your comments in other bloggers’ posts on food. At least, you can burn it off with all that rock climbing, hiking and cycling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        We do try to eat healthy Jean and be as active as we can. I always find it easier in summer as I tend to want to hide under a warm blanket come winter. 🙂

        Like

  4. MB says:

    We were poor growing up and I didn’t know what McDonald’s or Burger King was until Middle School. My first time at a sit-down restaurant was in the 8th grade. To my mom, it was cheaper to buy fresh produce and cook at home. We ate free school lunch, but at home, my mom served steamed rice, steamed veggies, and stir fry. Like your family, we ate occasional sweets, but because we were so poor, they were not a necessity. Today, I don’t crave for sweets or soda. I hardly have processed snacks in the home. And I have my mom and my poor upbringing to thank for teaching me healthy eating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      MB, so your Hmong community didn’t have social gatherings in a restaurant here in the U.S.? My first sit-down restaurant was usual Christmas restaurant banquet that my father’s employer, a Chinese restaurant would provide annually to employees and their families. I must have been around kindergarten or abit older, I think. So I first enjoyed Chinese stir fried lobster, shrimp, etc. We couldn’t afford to have such seafood at home, except for fresh whitefish or pickerel, both common freshwater fish in Ontario. Those annual banquets were happy memories..of wonderful, to me, elegant food (for a child) and playing with other children.

      Unlike you, my elementary school did not have a lunch program. I had bologna sandwiches. Which later was ham or cheese (whiz). Then I moved to another school, where we walked to and from school to eat lunch at home.

      Yes, this post is in a way homage to parents who have made serious effort to cook nutritious meals daily..um for 20 years at least. 🙂 I bet, you’re like me: some of these recipes are baked into our DNA. The recipes are in our heads, just waiting to be acted upon.

      Like

  5. My family wasn’t rich either, pretty much low middle class during my childhood but still my mother made sure that everyone got some healthy diet. These days my family is financialy much better of and they still eat the very same things as before, no fast food or similar.
    I dont drink myself soft drinks often, perhaps a few times a year a glass and thats it. Fast food is also nothing I like, I prefer own cooked food over anything except when going to China as all those small street kitchens have delicous food.
    However I am really terrible when it comes to chips, chocolate or cookies. I just cant get enough of that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Our guilt food haunts us when we’re bored, tired or stressed. No doubt, the street food in China has given some tasty variants for you. Nathan has 2 great cuisines already to draw upon –when he really notices this advantage. What does he like chomping on now?

      I don’t know much about Finnish food. Provide us with a link here if you’ve written some observations / memories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nathan loves to eat everything, really everything except of the ready made baby food from the stores 🙂
        I havent written anything about Finnish food yet as there is not really anything to write about, it is very simple and boring. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_cuisine
        For Chinese it is a nightmare to live in Finland and eat the food, as even salt is rarely used!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          So salt is rarely used. Seriously? Not even as a preservative for dried foods. Like fish? By the way, I don’t agree with much salt in food. So too much soy sauce is not healthy.

          Glad Nathan avoids the pre-made, store baby food. He’s a smart little boy. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. He is really smart. He enjoys especially the food my mother prepares for him such as mashed potatoes mixed with mashed carrots and milk…
            In Finland they really don’t use much of anything. Sure there are some cases where they preserve fish with salt but usually it is eaten within hours after catching it

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Mabel Kwong says:

    Very interesting to read about how food was put on the dining table at home in your younger days, Jean. My mum is not a fan of cooking fried foods either, and neither am I. Not because of the oil splattering around and the fact they are unhealthy foods, but it is a more messy kind of cooking. I’m not a sweet person (more savoury), but red bean soup was big in my household, and I grew up with the impression Chinese desserts tend to be more sweet than Western ones. My mum loves putting rock sugar into these Chinese desserts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ah yes, rock sugar. Admittedly to me, that’s no different than pouring in some packed brown sugar. I hadn’t seen rock sugar used until a cousin who had recently immigrated from China at that time, made some sort of Chinese caramelly dessert. I can’t even remember the name of it. But for certain, my mother never got into using rock sugar. We did have white sugar in the cupboard which we used a pinch to brighten a large batch of home tomato and chicken stew. (which I can’t replicate my mother’s good recipe) I do know how to make steamed chiffon cake. Someone at work had a chocolate cake that was made in an electric rice cooker. Kind of smart and convenient. It was closer to a moist brownie. I’m sure the recipe is on the Internet somewhere.

      I associate a lot of Chinese desserts as tamely sugared, lighter in palate feel except for the red bean dessert soup and few rare exceptions.

      Yes, deep frying at home is just a lot more prep and messiness. No doubt, experts will disagree with us.

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      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        Chiffon cake was very popular in my family and with my friends while growing up. Pandan cake and pandan swiss rolls were very popular snacks and desserts when I grew up in Malaysia. Always laden with sugar, not that good for us but I do miss it (can’t get them fresh in Australia).

        Another Chinese dessert full of sugar that is popular with my family is sweet peanut soup (花生糊). Think a thick yet more viscious kind of peanut butter. When we have family banquets, we will order it for dessert.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          I may have had peanut dessert soup but cannot recall all dishes I’ve consumed in restaurant banquets. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. livelytwist says:

    If our health matters to us, we have to let go of our excuses for not eating healthy. You had a good foundation Jean. Some aren’t as fortunate, and poverty had nothing to do with it.

    I’m reaching for a healthier diet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Certain times of year, we have to be a tad more vigilant about what or how much we eat. Hope the Dec. holidays don’t present too many challenges for you, livelytwist. Or better just find interesting healthier dishes to switch up which in the Netherlands can’t be hard. It’s matter of time, effort and cost.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lani says:

    We’re lucky because we have Asian parents and Asian parents know how to cook and eat cheaply. Asians also know how to make food taste good and we’re traditionally fans of fresh frutis and vegetables.

    I also got to say we are a lot more educated about food + nutrition as a Western culture than we we were in the past. I don’t know about Canada, but the American food pyramid has been restructured. And most Americans eat considerably less fresh fruits and veggies than Asians do. (For example, many Americans in the past, would reach for frozen or canned veggies and fruits. A hearty all-American breakfast would be pancakes, eggs and bacon.)

    When it comes to making our money stretch so many factors and questions can be raised re: circumstances, but when I think about how people eat and what they choose, I think about comfort, fulfillment, satisfaction and convienence/time and maybe even escapism.

    It’s a fascinating subject, nonetheless and one that I feel I can endlessly chat about. So I better stop here! Cheers.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Methinks Canada’s food pyramid has been restructured too. Not sure of the details. I think I had my first real all-American/Canadian breakfast like the one you described..maybe when I was around 19 or 21 yrs. old. At a friend’s place with her family or..was it after I graduated from university (23 yrs.), working to earn money to travel. That type of breakfast to me, is at a restaurant which is where I would have such a large brekkie. I’ve never cooked such a large breakfast at home. It’s like preparing lunch or more like dinner: a huge effort for me so early in the day. I’m simple: microwaved plain oatmeal, with dollop of plain yogurt and fresh fruit with some milk. Or cornflakes with milk.

      However I’ve never hankered to have congee for breakfast like traditional Chinese foodies might want. Some of Vancouver’s Chinese restaurants have such visitors. (I guess I go for dim sum..something I haven’t made myself.)

      How’s breakfast in Cambodia? Toast, juice? Or rice based??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        Cambodia truly is a mix mash of cultures and at the same time, truly its own. An omlette and a buttered baguette can be breakfast as well as a bowl of steamed fish and rice (both in local restaurants). I imagine Vietnam is the same way with its French influence.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. diahannreyes says:

    Interesting peek into your childhood and family and also family food. My family immigrated from Asia, along with most of my extended family- and there was a definitely pull toward American junk food- while maintaining our love for Filipino, which I’ve come to realize isn’t the healthiest in terms of my favorite dishes. Food is a big bonding ritual in our culture.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Bonding over shared junk food…wonderful. 🙂 Decadent! But hey, it is fun if we know it doesn’t happen often. I actually have not had enough different types of Filipino dishes though both Toronto and VAncovuer have several Filipino restaurants. I was told by another Filipino (Canadian) that there tends to be more different meat dishes.

      Like

  10. Frances says:

    I also grew up on an immigrant’s adapted diet –in our case Cuban food along with a typical 1960s American diet. Although Cuban cuisine isn’t known for its wide use of green vegetables, one of its most famous dishes, rice and black bean, is a nutritious, inexpensive and delicious mainstay — though of course the rice was white. Ropa vieja — old clothes — is another economical dish we lived on — cheap meat cuts braised for hours. We did have to go to a small Cuban grocery store to find some of the items we ate regularly, but we got a variety of tropical produce that wasn’t found in typical midwestern supermarkets: plaintains, yuca, mango, mamey, avocado, Even avocados used to be difficult to find in a mainstream grocery store. The big drawback to this cuisine is the cooking time –there just aren’t short cuts for many of these dishes.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I know so little about Cuban cuisine, Frances. All I’ve heard from Canadians who have vacationed in Cuba in the past 20 yrs., is the food they had seemed plainer to them. What types of dishes would use yucca, mamey (which I have to look the latter up)? Cheap meat cuts to me, were chicken necks etc. I do remember helping my mother skim off the bone gelatin or using some of the bone gelatin for next batch of soup.

      With the lifting of the embargo between Cuba and the U.S., wonder if and how the Cuban diet will change.

      Like

      1. Frances says:

        Compared to other Latin American cuisines, Cuban cooking is mild — nothing spicy. However, they used a lot of garlic and other herbs for seasoning, so it’s very flavorful. Mamey is a fruit, often used in preserves or my favorite, in pulp and added to a milkshake. Good point about the diet change–we would expect to see more junk food. My uncle had decided not to immigrate when my father did, back in the 1950s. After a quick visit to Chicago, my uncle said, I can’t live in a country that considers hamburgers a meal!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I recall those who went to visit Cuba, did comment that the cuisine wasn’t the fireworks spiciness found in ie. chili-based dishes in Mexico, some East Asian dishes, etc.

          North America, urban and rural palates, at least accept a lot of garlic in dishes. (It was different 40 yrs. ago. outside the big metropolitan cities.)

          I looked it up: mamey looks like cantaloupe. I’ve never heard of it. (And I’ve eaten a lot of unusual raw fruits –logans, lichti, guava, jackfruit, passionfruit, cactus pear, dragonfruit, rambutan, etc.)

          Methinks Cubans will go like mainland China after the iron fist of Mao rule (Cuba’s politico-trade relations has been different), a stampede of communist-capitalism invaded the China: more processed food imported or produced cheaply locally — more fats, sugars but adjusted to cater to local traditional palates. No secret that those with some income in mainland China, aren’t slim like previous generations.

          Sad thing, there is a line of thinking for those who haven’t had the experience of junk food, junk food from the West (McDonald’s, Starbuck’s) is sometimes seen in local eyes, as “higher” status, as a sign one is more global and part of the trend. Hopefully your uncle and similar Cubans will stay healthy and be a good role model.

          Have you blogged at all about your Cuban-Midwest American past?

          Like

  11. Chrissy Jee says:

    Reading this post reminds me so much of how my family eats. My grandparents had very little money but they knew not to eat a lot of sugar, salt, eat lots of vegetables, boil and steam.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Memories, eh? 🙂 Life easier just to start off like your grandparents with very little sugar in a diet. I do eat desserts from bakeries, restaurants, but I no longer make desserts with sugar. I used to bake desserts. I haven’t for past 15 years, partially due to sheer laziness. I make other stuff. We will use a bit of honey or maple syrup if something absolutely need abit of sweetening. Not much is needed. Hopefully your daughters naturally gravitate to some healthy dishes.

      Like

  12. Thanks for this, Jean. It’s a conundrum. 30% of Americans are obese. How do we connect more people to affordable, healthy nutrition?

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      It does take significant effort and some adjustments in time, to seek out bargain healthy food. It wouldn’t help a busy parent if they live in a food desert and they don’t have a car. As for teens, it’s a socialization thing. All go to Starbuck’s to hang out or Tim Horton doughnuts after school. Kids socialize around food if they aren’t horsing around on their iPhones, etc.

      Like

  13. Alex Hurst says:

    A really interesting article here, Jean. I come from a house where food was a central part of discipline and rewards, as well as the way in which we socialized. It shows in my bad habits (and general excitement/love of trying all kinds of food). Your comment about desserts really brought that home for me.

    One thing we can agree on is fried foods…. my body can’t take them! It used to just be a taste thing (I don’t like added salt or oil), but now it’s a very real issue with my gall bladder freaking out every time I eat them. I sometimes say it’s the result of eating organic for so long. My mother was very concerned with no added chemicals, and then I came to Japan, where those sorts of things are not labelled (or at the very least, I can’t read the relevant kanji).

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I’ve never heard of this type of fried food reaction! Wow. Sounds like you’ve a doctor help diagnose the cause. Yes, one can imagine there are certain amount of additives in various Japanese processed food products. There’s probably some organic food stores in your city? I met someone from Japan here in our city when she was visiting. She really was into organic food. She had some sort of skin eczema and something more that break out with certain foods. Her English wasn’t good and I wasn’t clear what it was.

      She also had a belief of “slowing down” certain cancers with her own homemade medicine involving certain large leaves (I saw a bundle of them. I have no clue how on earth she got the stuff past international customs.) and burning them slowly protectively near the skin. Another story involving someone she knows here after living here for 2 yrs. temporarily.

      In Chinese and Japanese supermarkets along processed food aisles, I tend only buy certain dried noodles, occasional dried fungi, dried mushrooms and jarred sauces (which are produced in California). I bypass a lot of the packaged processed foods produced in Asia. Terrible to say, but I prefer to buy Chinese veggies, where possible, grown in North America. Vancouver area does have growers of bok choy and some other greens. I refuse to buy snow peas from China. This is very easy veggie to grow in southern B.C. , Alberta and Ontario. I just don’t see hardly any Canadian producers. Not sure why.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alex Hurst says:

        Yeah, the doctor said that basically my gall bladder produces acid at the wrong times, but fried food and eggs also exacerbate the problem. Hard to avoid both of those in Japan. We do have an organic grocer in my city, but every time I go, the produce is already gone. Like, actually gone, not hyperbole. Haha. I walked in one night and there was one bunch of dandelion greens and an onion. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Yes, that’s pretty measely leftovers. Sounds like no tempura for you. (I rarely choose tempura.) Surely you should be able to have egg white? I buy a small carton of egg whites to scramble.
          As an aside: I had stored my butternut squash too long. Meaning last 2 months in a warmish cupboard.I don’t have a cold area in a condo. When I cut into the squash,….I discovered the squash seeds inside the cavity, had sprouted. 😮 It was a weird, nearly monstrous thing….a whole garden of little sprouts growing inside the uncut squash.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful post, Jean. I will freely admit what I liked most about it, was its political incorrectness! It irritates me no end to have poor eating habits automatically linked to poverty. I’m the oldest of six children, and my parents didn’t have a lot of money when we were growing up. My mom made dinner every night, and we all ate together at a single table– just like your family. We never ate at a restaurant. The idea of watching television while you ate would have been a complete non-starter. It’s such a mindless activity, one where you’re not engaged with others– no wonder people just keep shoveling in the food.

    I don’t think we help anyone by telling them they’re victims, and that it’s all society’s fault. Nutrition programs are all well and good, but I don’t see how they can succeed if we’re simultaneously undermining the idea of self-responsibility. Thanks for a much needed breath of fresh air and alternate viewpoint on this subject– and I really liked that photo of you ripping into that pizza!! : )

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    1. Jean says:

      Not sure, if you noticed Mark, but several commenters prior to you, also shared same background of family poverty and healthy eating here in North America. Several kindred spirits on our personal childhood experiences. At the same time, when one is poor and concerned about access to healthy food, is to find ways of increasing knowledge of local resources, food sources and SHARING good useful knowledge they already have, with the wealthier locals: we’re all in this together, regardless of income.

      It IS more challenging to have healthy meals on a very limited budget but it’s not impossible. One just has to be quite dedicated to this effort –for the long haul which means countless thankless hrs. by parent(s) with hopefully recognition a different times of the year. I find it annoying because the reverse can be very true, having a higher income presents even greater access to unhealthy foods.

      Nowadays, the challenge might be asking children and adults not to bring their iphones to the dinner table in addition to limiting unhealthy foods.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Yes indeed so true. We grew up with less money but our live was as healthy as we could ask for. Yet when we have more (especially now) we tend to buy not necessary food because we consider ourselves that we deserved more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Certainly being poor and with the right attitude provides automatic discipline and restrictions on only buying food that your body needs to be healthy. Or at least exercise, more creativity in cooking. Not saying that we can miss some nutrients..

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  16. Very good points. Diabetes is as much a rich man’s disease as a poor one’s. Gout and obesity, definitely. Makes you think about what it means to be educated. And that’s great she didn’t stock up on junk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      My mother unfortunately does have a bit of gout. Her health isn’t as good as ours.. Not sure how her gout developed but she’s had this for past decade or longer. She did have a sister who died of diabetes complications in her 70’s. My aunt had type 1 since childhood.

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      1. Of course genes play a big role. Not to mention the stress of raising a large family in a new country. Those conditions arise from an acidic internal environment.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Stress and mental health adjustments certainly can manifest in psychosomatic symptoms. There was a point in my life I was pushing down some truths inside and it would result in me falling asleep at the strangest times during the work day.

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          1. Fascinating. Wish that’s how I respond to stress and internal struggle!!

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