I recently went to the Farmer’s Market to buy a garden tomato: a tomato that had been allowed to ripen on the vine. I asked the sellers whether the tomatoes had been picked green or red. The answer from everyone I asked was “picked green and then allowed to ripen”. My silent retort was that the tomatoes they are selling are not “ripe”, they are just red. The sellers there are trying to make a buck fairly and the tomatoes were beautiful, but they were not ripe, just red. The sellers do not understand what ripe means.
I would argue that there is no restaurant in my town where I can buy a truly nutritious meal. I can get a healthy meal or, at least, choose among healthy options, but I can’t get a nutritious meal. The reason is that restaurants are buying commercial produce and every tomato is picked green, every vegetable is grown in ways that reduce nutritional content, and every piece of meat is raised on corn. The rare restaurant that serves grass-fed or free-range meats is an effort to provide “healthier” and greener options, but meat is not nutrition.
What we get when we buy a “red tomato picked green”, we get a weak representation of what the tomato can be. If we took a vine-ripened tomato and then stripped away all of the nutritional qualities, we would be left with a store-bought tomato. This is what I call the “tomato template.” It looks like a tomato, but it is nothing more than the starting point for a proper tomato.
When I say this to an older audience, everyone knows exactly what I mean. Older people grew up with garden produce; produce that was grown slowly and we had to wait for it. Today’s produce is grown rapidly, artificially, picked early, and is not allowed to express its true potential. Older people bemoan the lack of flavors. The younger generation typically has never been able to experience those foods.
Restaurants, especially fast-food, must keep their prices down to remain competitive. That means they choose $1 a pound commercial tomatoes over $3 a pound garden tomatoes, $1 per dozen commercial eggs over $5 a dozen heirloom eggs, mass-produced commercial vegetables over local options. Most shoppers do the same thing. All of those decisions drain the nutrition from the meals we eat. The nutrition choices we face at the restaurant have already been decided for us.
The consequences of low nutrition foods are many. Our obesity/diabetes/auto-immune/cardio-vascular disease epidemic is closely tied to the low-quality, high-calorie fresh and processed foods that provide low nutrition and fail to satisfy our hunger. When we eat high quality food, we are healthier and more satisfied, we eat less and feel less sluggish, and our physiological processes work better. But finding that food is the biggest challenge we face. I wrote Eaters Digest to help everyone understand what “quality” means when it comes to food choices and I will give you very specific advice on overcoming these obstacles to healthy living.