Having just moved to a new house, a new neighbourhood, hell a new country, there are a lot of things to get used to. One of those things is the lay of the land at your local supermarket. So, when you have just got the hang of where the cabbage is and how to navigate the Almond milk section, it’s somewhat frustrating when they go and change it. But, even more frustrating than trying to find your favourite brand of eggs in an entirely mixed up supermarket, is when large amounts of the fresh fruit and vegetable section have been completely replaced by ready made meals.
Tescos latest range of convenience meals and snacks, my fit lifestyle, is meant to be healthy (obviously). So I thought I would do a little research. I’ve read (and reread) the press releases, the packaging, some not-all-that-exciting tweets, and the reviews online. And? The range still has all the regular sugar, salt and preservatives added, and focuses completely on the calorie value of food rather than the nutrients, balance or ingredients. Nuff said. Who ever decided to remove the actual healthy stuff and replace it with packets of faux-healthy reconstituted (and according to many on liners, tasteless) food options should, quite frankly, be shot.
But, you know what, it’s not just Tescos to blame. One thing that’s hit me like a tonne of bricks upon moving to the UK is packaging. (Seriously, the other day a tower of boxes from Ikea fell on me and it really hurt. All we’d bought was a bed, couch and some pots! But, what’s shocked me more than the layers of bubble wrap surrounding my Swedish sofa, is the amount of plastic that greets me every time I hit up any supermarket).
Between the pre-packaged lunches, zap-in-a-jiffy dinners and sliced vegetables, it seems you can barely buy things not tampered with in British supermarkets. It baffles me. The time it takes to slice an onion is minimal, like really minimal. It’s kind of the exact time it takes to heat up a pan with a nice knob of coconut oil in it – why would you want someone else’s greasy fingers all over your onion? And mushrooms? Those things don’t even make you cry, they’re probably the easiest thing in the world to chop. If you’re going to buy something pre made, you should at least opt for something you can’t actually achieve while simultaneously making a coffee and ironing (or not ironing, as the case may be). Packaged origami carrots (think Chinese takeaway styles), makes a tad more sense (not much though). But the worst bit about those already chopped up vegetables is that amount of preservatives, sugars, salts and flavouring that is often added to keep them looking and tasting fresh. To keep them exactly how they would be if you had just done the dirty work yourself.
Once you leave the veggie section of the supermarket there is also everything (seriously, everything) else. I’ve seen it all, from vacuum packed (pre-mashed) mashed potatoes to entire banquets of crispy duck pancakes made to chuck in the microwave. I mean, I get it. It’s a busy world out there and not everyone has the luxury of time, or the love of cooking, to motivate them into a kitchen. But surely the knowledge that is so readily available, the understanding that these options are pumped full of chemicals, injected with sugar and covered in a layer of E numbers, would stop you in your tracks? Why, as a society, has the laziness level reached a point of refusing to peel a carrot?
Despite all that, I have a confession. There is one item that has got me (and my laziness) well and truly hooked, and it’s beetroot. Yup. That little purple veg is like crack to me. Roasted, steamed, sautéed, I don’t care – just give it to me now. And, one sneaky piece of pre-packaged food that has made it onto my trolly (seriously, the only one) is a wee bag of pre peeled and steamed beets. I have searched long and hard for the words “sugar” or “flavouring” on the ingredients list and they just don’t exist. The only thing in that little package is beetroot. That’s it. And its darn useful. I mean its not really worth comparing to chopping an onion, because to grab a beetroot, steam it and peel takes me around 38 minutes (I know because I am a geek and I timed myself). So, it’s a pretty useful one. I want my readers (thats you) to know, I understand why that packet of ready chopped stir fry sneaks in occasionally, I really do. But every week? and every meal? We all just need to step away from the friendly little packets and think. Think of the environment, think of the food footprint and last (but definitely not least) think of yourselves.
Running, working out, eating organic and seasonally are all incredibly tough. I get that. (I really, really get that). But you know what’s not? Chopping your own food. We are not a nation of toddlers, our mothers aren’t there to pre slice our dinners into convenient bite sized portions. We are a nation of adults (well, apart from the actual kids – they are obviously still kids), we have bank accounts and vacuum cleaners and at the end of a f**king hard day at work we will still find the motivation (most of the time) to grab an onion and run a knife through it.
Yes we will.
Having said all that, every now and then I will still buy my perfectly steamed and sealed beetroot (until someone can tell me something that I’m missing about these babies). But I will get a tinge of guilt as I do, and feel a little like my pre pubescent, mother dependant*, self.
*Ok, ok, I’m still pretty darn mother dependant even in my (well beyond) pubescent years, But it’s not for food chopping ok? Grazing your knee however – that’s a different story. You freaking NEED your mum for that. Obv.
If you love beetroot as much as me (aka are a bit obsessed) check back next week for my beautiful beety recipe.