About a month ago, I bought Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. I’d never read Terry Pratchett before, but love the Neil Gaimen books I’ve read. Part of the reason I finally decided to read Good Omens is because I thought I was going to loose my geek license. So many people have expressed surprise when I admit to not having read it. They expect a bibliophile like me (who’s read all the books in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Universe series, the M.Y.T.H. Inc. series, 2/3 of the Xanth novels, some of Gaimen’s other stuff — including some of his YA books — and many, many others) to have naturally have read this.
Ah well. There’s only so much time, and sometimes there’s just not enough time to read everything I want to. But at least I’m reading it now.
And something in the book really, really caught my eye:
One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has been busy while he’s been waiting for the apocalypse to happen.
Two years of Newtrition investment and research had produced CHOW (TM). CHOW (TM) contained spun, plaited, and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweetener, mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, coloring, and flavorings. The end result was a foodstuff almost indistinguishable from any other except for two things. Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman. It didn’t matter how much you ate, you lost weight.
He followed CHOW (TM) with SNACKS (TM) — junk food made from real junk.
MEALS (TM) was Sable’s latest brainwave.
MEALS (TM) was CHOW (TM) with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS (TM) you would a) get very fat, and b) die of malnutrition.
Good Omens Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett C 1990
Now, I know that this is satire, but doesn’t this really sound like what’s happening? In our schools they are trying to cut back calories so much in the school lunches, there’s hardly any nutrition in them. We keep being innudated by things in 100-calorie packs that have ingredients you have to have your PhD in chemistry to be able to pronounce, much less know exactly what it is and what it does to the body.
Then there’s Olestra. Olestra is synthesized using a sucrose molecule, which can support from six to eight fatty acid chains arranged radially like an octopus, and is too large to move through the intestinal wall and be absorbed. While it’s not exactly mineral oil, it’s still be processed to give absolutely no nutrients, and in fact, it inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients (source same as above).
If it weren’t for the fact that the original copywrite of the book was a full eight years before Olestra was used in food manufacturing, I’d think that the authors were parodying Olestra. Instead, it looks like they were merely being prophetic.
For myself, I have long been against engineered foods. I’d rather obtain my protein from eating meat, rather than drinking a drink that has either soy or whey in it. If I want soy, I’ll eat edamame. If I want a milk byproduct, why not just drink milk? (Yes, I know I’m blessed with a tummy and system that doesn’t have issues with milk, but the people I know who have issues with milk also have issues with milk by-products like whey.) If I want corn, I’ll eat it off the cob (or frozen from a bag) — I don’t necessarily want an engineered corn product in every single thing that’s on the market.
But the above quote really makes me wonder. Is this what we’re coming to? Where everything we eat is engineered to have so little of everything we need — vitamins, minerals, fats, calories, you know, the things that make a body healthy and strong — that we are all going to die of malnutrition? Whenever I see diet meals in the store and read all the additives in the list of ingredients I just have to wonder where’s the food (to paraphrase the 80’s Wendy’s (TM) commercials)?
I don’t know what the answer to this is. I know it’s not a question most people are asking. But maybe we should. Maybe we should ask the hard questions. If it’s true that obesity has increased by (whatever the percentage this or that talking head is quoting today) and it’s still a major increase from 30 years ago even after the rate has been adjusted for the arbitrary lowering of the BMI – overweight range in 1998, then WHY is it? By the 1970’s the US as a nation was, and had been, mostly industrial based for many years. The switchover from a mostly agricultural culture to industry came fully during WWII (if I recall my 8th grade modern history classes correctly from all those years ago).
So, if the problem was Americans getting lazy because they weren’t out doing hard, physical labor 12-14 hours a day every day spring, summer, and fall, why didn’t the obesity epidemic happen in the 40’s? Or 50’s?
Since it didn’t, what happened?
Somebody really needs to look into that, and then follow it up with logical questions. You know, questions like, if that was when sugar was taken out of most products and artificial sweeteners and other engineered things were put in, could that be part of the cause of the so-called obesity epidemic?
Oh, wait. I forgot. It can’t be anything like that, because we all know that the fatties bring it on themselves by having no self-control. Of course nobody’s ever going to look into those questions. There’s no need to. What was I thinking?
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