On trying to find a balance

Even if you have been living under a rock, you cannot have missed all the bad news for foodies (and terrifying news for new parents) that has been circulating in the media lately.

First Maggi, then Nan Pro 3, then Complan, then Haldiram’s, then Mother Dairy milk and Cerelac – everything seems to be contaminated. And then, there are the messages floating in on Facebook and WhatsApp which say that these are not the only brands that one needs to be careful of. Apparently, Proteinex, Horlicks, Bournvita and several other brands of supposedly healthy foods and drinks contain harmful elements. They, apparently, aren’t fit for human consumption. Then, we hear of maida being mixed in asafoetida and in wheat flour, and papaya juice being added to aam ras, and what not.

I am not going to get into the technical details of these news items. Neither am I going to get into a discussion of which of the Facebook and WhatsApp messages are hoaxes and which ones aren’t. I am not talking only about the items that are currently under the scanner and being hotly discussed. This post is about the dangers of contamination, of adulteration, we live with every day.

I have always been wary of consuming things that are packaged, which haven’t been made in front of me. Yes, I am a big-time foodie and I eat out occasionally, something that I have consciously been trying to cut down on. Yes, I eat processed foods like cheese and ketchup and jam, things that, again, I have been seriously trying to reduce and learning to make at home. I gave up on instant meals and carbonated drinks a long, long time ago, but I do have certain indulgences – like chocolate, for instance, or Nutella. The thing is, there is stuff that you just cannot replicate at home, however hard you try. Yes, you can live without these foods, but for a hard-core foodie like me, that would be a bland, dull life.

You cannot make every single thing you use at home, I think. I have heard of people resorting to using soap nuts for washing, instead of using the harsh chemical-ridden soaps that are available in the market today. Some people grind their masalas at home. How far can this go on, though?

You can build a farm house with a little garden and grow your own fruits and vegetables; even hire a gardener to help out, maybe. You can have a cow – or two – and get your own milk. You can make your own bread and preserves and cheese and butter. You can make all the street food that you crave for at home. To an extent, then, you will be free of harmful ingredients and bacteria. I must say, I have been tempted to do that myself. Sorely. But then, isn’t that a terribly isolating way of living a life? You, your home, your family, your garden become your own cocoon. Will such a lifestyle leave you time for a social life? Does it leave you enough time for your children? Does it leave you enough time to pursue your other passions? As far as I know, it has got to be a terribly consuming life, taking up every waking – sometimes even non-waking minute – of yours.

What, then, is the solution? Where does one draw the line between self-sufficiency and trusting someone else to make a really good product for oneself? How does one find a balance?

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16 thoughts on “On trying to find a balance

  1. I understand the dilemma! I’ve switched to organic recently but you don’t get everything in organic and yes it’s not cheap. I’ve also tried to shift to natural products, soaps, but it’s difficult.
    I don’t have the time to manually do everything, and sometimes I just give up!

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  2. I seldom used these products that are on red-zone recently. I dont drink any health drinks and have not been consuming maggi much after I moved out of the PG. But then, does the contamination stop with just these? What about our fruits and vegetables? We try to include as many colorful veggies and fruits into our daily diet with the hope that its good for our health. But are we not consuming a whole lot of chemicals along with them? Its scary really. No wonder we dont have the immunity and the strength of our parents. I remember eating nothing out of a packet until I joined my first job in Bangalore. At home, parents still follow that. I make conscious efforts to prepare most of the stuff at home and have completely cut down on outside food. But then, as you said, how far can this go?! Sigh.

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    1. @Greenboochi

      I am not talking only about the products that are under the scanner now. Most products we use today seem to be contaminated in one way or the other. But then, we cannot depend only on ourselves for every single thing. There has to be a balance somewhere.

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  3. Profound questions, this is what I always say. Even if you make everything yourself, there will be a threshold beyond which you cannot go. This is the sad state of today’s life.

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  4. Look up the dirty dozen. These are foods that is recommended you buy organic. I try to follow that list. That apart, I try avoiding packaged food as much as possible. But like you said – it’s impossible to make things like ketchup at home! I’m not sure what I think of the other stuff that’s floating around. I drank bournvita for years and I still do! I’ll wait for some official report to come out on it πŸ™‚

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    1. @Perspectivesandprejudices

      I hadn’t heard about the Dirty Dozen. Any link to it, please? I couldn’t find the one you were referring to. Thanks!

      Also, I wasn’t referring to only the products that are in the news now. Most products we use are, to some extent or the other, contaminated, due to various factors. It is very difficult to find absolutely pure stuff without paying a premium price for it, which not everyone can afford. What then is the solution? Organic is good, but doesn’t come cheap. And then, there is no guarantee that the so-called organic products we buy off supermarket shelves are really pure.

      Then, there is another school of thought that says that official reports/studies/research is mostly funded by corporates, so they are often manipulated in their own interests. Governments can be bribed to release research reports that suit corporates. There are corporate mafias working. What do we believe and what should we not believe?

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  5. These are very interesting questions you pose – I think we are all trying to find that balance. My sister-in-law and her partner are homesteaders – they raise their own chickens (for eggs, not meat) and grow most of their own produce, and they do spend a great deal of time on this pursuit. It works for them because they find it very rewarding. For me, I am content with my small patio garden and with trying to shop at farmers markets and the local cooperative. I think there is a spectrum when it comes to how much effort we put into sourcing our food, and where we fall depends on our personal commitment and on how much spare time we have to dedicate!

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    1. @Jaclyn

      I think there is a spectrum when it comes to how much effort we put into sourcing our food, and where we fall depends on our personal commitment and on how much spare time we have to dedicate! – My thoughts exactly. Most people really on sources outside their home because they are hard-pressed for time!

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  6. All this news is indeed depressing. But then, it has been coming to us over the years. It seems we can do nothing correctly when it comes to food and feeding. I too try to create a balance. Sometimes I succeed, At other times, I just go with the flow. Such is life. 😦

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    1. @Deboshree

      Same here. Sometimes, I try to create a balance, and at other times, I just go with the flow.

      Yes, this is nothing new. These news items have been coming to us, bit by bit, over the years. That is why I consciously took a decision to reduce processed and artificial food stuff to the maximum extent possible. That helped me manage my weight to a great extent. Lately, though, there has been a flood of such depressing news, which has made me wonder about this a lot more than I usually do.

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