Comparing Diets Now vs. Grandparents or Great Grandparents

Its a concept I’ve heard discussed time and time again. Food Rules author Michael Pollan said it in an interview with Slash Food — “don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  Proponents of only eating those foods your grandparents (or great-grandparents in some cases) would recognize. The concept behind this is the foods previous generations ate were homemade of fresh or whole ingredients rather than processed and packaged.

I have heard it several times and wanted to really think through the concept. Its even the subject of this week’s food poll. So please vote before reading on.

Yes, my grandmom loved cotton too! 🙂

I didn’t know many of my grandparents and am afraid I wasn’t lucky enough to have any great grandparents. But figure my nieces and nephews are lucky enough to have some great-grands around so I’ll just looking at the way my grandparents ate (at least in the time I can recall). I’m sure family can help fill this out some and they don’t tend to “hold back.”

Some of the things that come to mind:

  • Meat — My granddad loved meat. He had been a butcher and he loved meat and even better? Meat with gravy. Or fried meat. For the family of four, mom remembers a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs and several pieces of toast each every morning.
  • Starch — They loved starches — potatoes, biscuits, rolls and some times rice.
  • Veg — Vegetables were either fried or cooked and cooked and cooked some more. Preferably with bacon.
  • Sweets — Grandmom loved a coke now & then, usually in the small 8 oz bottle and she’d share it with us. There was always something in the candy dish. And I remember a decent number of cakes and pies.
  • Fruit — A fig tree along side my grandparents house and a plum tree at ours led to preserves or jellies.  As for other fruits, we would have apples, citrus, grapes, bananas, berries, melons and stone fruits.
  • Extra — LOTS of things were fried. In summer, the family would make chow chow for the black eyed peas we’d shell.

That’s my version of the list. I’m sure some family members can argue I’ve messed up. That’s what the comments section below is for. Now, I can look at things from my current world perspective.

  • Meat — I think I eat less meat than we did in my childhood. Seems to have shifted from being the centerpiece of every meal to being a component of most meals.
  • Starch — My family has a genetic predisposition to love starch, especially warm bread. Sad but true. We tend to overindulge here.
  • Veg — I must say I love vegetables and love the diversity of vegetables we have now. My parents & grandparents made more of a habit of getting fresh veggies from the farmers market to put up, etc. I think some of this comes from feeding a big family versuses really small households (bushels of black eyed peas seem like a lot) but I could do better making it to Easy Way or one of the area farmers markets. Salads are far more common than I can recall and I eat them as the meal rather than with a meal and can enjoy them year round. And steaming rocks.
  • Sweets — Always have had a sweet tooth and I drink too much Coke (all kinds/flavors as we say down south).  Luckily my family never taught me I have to have dessert with every meal, but I have been working at healthier snacks like an apple or yogurt or something. Working from home keeps me out of the never-ending stream of fresh-baked sweets in the break room (pluses but missed sorely)

    Mangoes, dragonfruit & more outside of Manila Philippines

  • Fruit — This is probably where I feel I’ve really hit the motherload. I LOVE the abundance of choice and freshness in fruits. LOVE eating local fruits when available (blackberries are a lifelong favorite) but I can’t imagine my life without mangoes! Sounds overly dramatic I know, but I love mangoes. And the fruit I think of most often is dragonfruit…. love that too. I love that I can get figs from my friends Bryan or Martha’s trees if the bird don’t get them first. My preference outside that immediate area goes to Florida, South Texas and California but I think globalization works to our benefit here too especially with partners in Latin America, etc. I know I eat more fruit now than ever before, and get better nutritional value from that than my grandmom did because of the diversity at the grocery store / produce market.
  • Extra — I rarely fry foods, at least not deep fry the way they did. Ethnic foods are a huge part of my life. Mexican, Indian, Filipino, Italian, Turkish, Ethiopian… you name it and I like it! That wasn’t part of my grandparents world, other than an occasional pot of spaghetti.
  • While my analysis doesn’t have any hard and fast numbers, I would say eating like my grandparents isn’t necessarily good or bad. I love grandmom’s fudge pie and ambrosia (hints to anyone who would invite me to dinner anytime soon) so rockin’ it old school is a definite part of my diet. Some of the healthiest options I have are foods my grandmom wouldn’t have eaten — besides dragonfruit and artichokes, etc, tabouli comes to mind immediately and I don’t think she used bulgar or pomegranate concentrate. I love the diversity and should pick among the healthier options more often. But Pollan’s concept has gotten me to think more about food trends in my family and that’s a good thing.

    The diversity I have available to me is due to the hard work of  farmers — nearby and many miles away. I think my grands would like to join me as I take a few minutes to thank a farmer. Actually, I’d like to thank a bunch of them here in the Mid-South, across the Corn Belt, coast-to-coast and hemisphere to hemisphere. Thank you all for giving me healthy, nutritious plentiful options!

    About Janice Person

    I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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