Overcoming Squeamish Feelings about Real Foods

by Ellen

I’m kind of embarrassed to write this post.  I mean, why should real, healthful, natural foods make me squeamish?  More importantly, why should they make me squirm more than some ultra-processed virtually fake foods do?

Okay, I’ll be easy on myself when it comes to eating organ meats.  That’s something that I’ve never really done and it’s all too easy for me to picture the animal (and its parts) that gave its life to nourish me.  I’ve even decided that in order to enjoy a liverwurst sandwich, I’ll probably need to down a nice pint of beer along with it — courage!  Yet, I find myself craving liverwurst, as if my body knows what it needs.

Yup, even eggs.

I’m ashamed to say that the first few times I ate pastured eggs, I had trouble.  The bright orange yolk was so different and it made me think about the egg so much that I struggled to eat it.  Now I adore pastured eggs, which are so much better for us than eggs from battery hens raised in captivity.

Jamie Oliver’s West Virginia Kids

Did you catch the second episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution television program?  It’s the one where he decides that the best way to turn children away from chicken nuggets is by showing them one way to make them.  (He emphasizes that nuggets are not prepared this way in the United States.) First he carves the choice cuts of meat off a chicken –the breasts, wings, and drumsticks — and then he asks the kids if the remaining carcass, with its less-than-prime meat, connective tissue and blood looks good to them.  After he gets the desired disgusted responses, he proceeds to pulverize the remaining carcass in a food processor.  He next pushes the resulting glop through a sieve, to take out the bone fragments.  When he inquires whether the resulting pinkish paste looks appetizing to any of the children, he is pleased to receive the same negative response.

Then something happens…

Jamie next adds flavorings and stabilizer to the mixture and shapes it into patties, which he breads and fries.  By now the nuggets are looking suspiciously like what’s served in the school lunches.  As he’s frying, he asks who would be willing to eat them.  The answer?  All the children would!  A deflated Jamie Oliver shakes his head in astonishment: He has never failed with this experiment before.

I wasn’t so surprised.  While the children claimed they were hungry and that’s why they wanted the “nuggets,” I have a theory about what really happened:  The kids went from reviling the carcass they could easily see and recognize to salivating for the well-loved bread crumb-cloaked nuggets.  Food.

This phenomenon is where the insidious nature of packaged, ultra-processed food comes into play.  It seems that if we can’t recognize the components of a “food item,” we practice willing suspension of disbelief that it’s food and go ahead and pop that Twinkie into our mouths.  It’s only when we stop to think about it long enough that we allow ourselves to get disgusted.  Real food is so much more in our faces.  We see the chicken livers, not what goes into the nuggets.

My Conclusion:

We are not averse to eating what’s “normal.”  Some cultures eat eyeballs with no problem.  Some eat Vegemite!  Others become disgusted at the thought of eating the honey comb, like some Ghanaian friends of my husband who have no trouble eating caterpillars.  If we want to become less comfortable with eating foods comprised of chemicals and more used to eating the way our ancestors did, we need practice.  Practice makes perfect.  Luckily, habits are easy to form.

Want to learn more about real food?  Check out these great resources from my post, “Why Do I Eat That Way?

Real Food: What to Eat and Why, by Nina Planck.

This is a fantastic overview of real, whole foods and why they are essential to good health. Nina Planck writes for everyone, showing the science to back up how ancient foods are sustaining and essential, while modern, industrialized foods (like high fructose corn syrup) are to blame for modern disease of man. This is a straightforward book, with easy-to-implement dietary changes.

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

This is the book that “traditional foodies” use on a daily basis. It’s a cookbook full of recipes using ingredients that are prepared in traditional ways — such as nuts that have been soaked and dried or lacto-fermented vegetables. But, don’t worry: Even if you’re not yet ready to soak, sprout and ferment, the introduction contains a great summary of the different food groups, vitamins and minerals and how they’ve been co-opted into what is considered “politically correct” nutrition. The recipes also serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come from traditional ways of preparing foods. You’ll find great tips and facts in the margins of the recipe sections.

Food, Inc.

If there’s one food movie you should see, this is it! It’s a horrifying look at agribusiness in the United States. Topics covered include the inhumane treatment of animals used for meat and their unnatural diets, which result in diseases for the animals and the humans eating them. See how “seed saving” by farmers can be a criminal offense. Learn why it’s cheaper to buy junk food than to purchase vegetables. You’ll never see your food the same way again.

Fat Head

Fat Head was made in response to Super Size Me, a movie where Morgan Spurlock ate at McDonald’s for a month while watching his weight balloon and his health plummet. Fat Head spends the first half of the movie trying to show that Spurlock had it wrong: You can eat at McDonald’s and lose weight, if you choose wisely. The second part of the movie is of much more value — it’s full of interviews with doctors and researchers about the science that debunks our current notions of what’s healthy and what’s not. This is the movie I show to relatives who want to understand why I go against current diet recommendations.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop. This is a fantastic blog by a super nice person! Kelly is kind, thoughtful, welcoming and smart as she teaches us why we should eat real food. You’ll find loads of good recipes here, too. Be sure to check out Kelly’s post on milk.

Cheeseslave. Another amazing, patient, dedicated and really nice blogger, Ann Marie at Cheeseslave does an incredible amount of research to explain why foods prepared from traditional ingredients are essential to good health. Anyone who loves cheese and cream so much can’t be wrong, in my book! Check out her new weekly podcasts.

The Weston A. Price Foundation
Weston A Price was a dentist who traveled the world studying the diets, health and teeth of traditional societies. He found that although traditional diets varied greatly, the people who followed them were in excellent health and had remarkably good teeth and bone structure. (Okay, I’m sneaking another book recommendation in here: Dr. Price published his findings in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a comprehensive look at the traditional diets of healthy people worldwide.)

Mercola.com While Dr. Mercola sells a lot of products (he claims all proceeds go directly back into research for his website) he does offer up a constant stream of useful nuggets of health information. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he definitely gets me thinking. I subscribe to his newsletter.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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Peggy April 28, 2010 at 8:01 am

I have another theory about Jaime Oliver’s experiment. When he asks who’d eat the breaded, fried, pink slime, one hand goes up almost immediately. The rest go up in response. Kids are followers and leaders like the rest of us, and Jaime was burned by a leader! If he had taken that one child and made him the “chef” of a kid-sized cooking lesson, he would have had a powerful ally.

Just sayin.

BodyEarth April 28, 2010 at 8:32 am

Good point, Peggy! Having “the leader” as an ally probably would have completely changed the response.

Jon April 28, 2010 at 9:27 am

Really nicely written, I love your site in general!

BodyEarth April 28, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks, Jon! That means a lot!

chanelle April 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I missed that Jamie Oliver said chicken nuggets weren’t made that way in the US. Any idea on how the process differs?
My husband would agree with you on having to think about the animal. I recently served pigs head for dinner…not a new family favorite! ( I blogged about it here if you want the gory details: http://simplyrealfood.blogspot.com/2010/04/pigs-head-torchon.html)

BodyEarth April 28, 2010 at 7:07 pm

I loved your pig’s head post, Chanelle! I would have eaten your yummy-looking patties for sure, but not seeing the head first would make it easier :-)
I don’t know how chicken nuggets are made in the US, but I once saw a picture of a machine squirting out pink glop (looked like soft-serve ice cream at first glance) that was supposedly going to result in chicken nuggets. I am guessing that it was a machine that makes MSM (mechanically separated meat).
According to Wikipedia, Chicken McNuggets are made this way:
“The Chicken McNugget is a small piece of minced chicken breast and mechanically separated meat held together with phosphate salts and some chicken skin. The pieces are then coated with batter, lightly fried to set the batter, individually quick frozen, packaged, and sent to stores. At the McDonald’s stores, the McNuggets are deep-fried and sold. According to McDonald’s, Chicken McNuggets are made entirely of white meat chicken.[1]”

chanelle April 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

So, more white meat, less innards, more added salt and other additives it sounds like.
For my husband, even the thought of pig’s head made him squeamish. And I have to admit, I liked leftovers better than the eating it the day I’d actually come in contact with the whole head :0)

Wendy (The Local Cook) April 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

I have not been able to bring myself to eat organ meats, but I have noticed that since I’ve been trying to eat more locally raised meat that the “fake” chicken just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

BodyEarth April 30, 2010 at 10:13 am

Hi, Wendy. I’ve also found that I can taste the difference between higher and lower quality foods once I eat enough of the better ones. When I first started eating grass-fed beef it tasted stronger to me, but now I like it better.

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