Back in Mum’s day, growing up in London under the Bow Bells, they went to the local greengrocer for fresh fruit and veggies, the butcher for meat, and the general store for essentials. Sixty years ago, most midweek meals consisted of egg and bacon or stews or meat with two veggies. Due to a lack of refrigerators, everything was purchased fresh — whatever you could buy at the markets was your nightly meal.
Fast forward to the today and you could travel the world (in a culinary sense) every night of the week. Monday — spaghetti Bolognese, Tuesday — pad thai, Wednesday — tikka masala, Thursday — chilli con carne. The list could go on for more than a month! How amazing is it that our kids are growing up with such a variety of choices and the opportunity to experience such unique flavors? But as a Mum now myself, the hardest part of feeding my family is simply choosing what to eat and how to balance our diets!
Too many choices can be overwhelming. Take my five-year-old son for instance. He will go on a play date to a new friend’s house, and becomes an excited whirlwind going between all the new toys. He has to play with everything, and before you know it, every box, cupboard and bag has been emptied. Now if he was in a room with only two toys, he would happily play with one for a lot longer and be more content in his choice. The term overchoice was coined by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock, and you only have to Google this term to come up with a plethora of articles about the paralysis of choice.
The supermarket is the epitomy of the overchoice that has become part of our weekly, and sometimes daily, life. Choices that include sugar free, fat free, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, organic, hormone free, free range, pasteurised, frozen, etc. You could spend a whole (exciting!) evening reading the back of every single packet or jar to make sure it suits your requirements. Ironically, if my kids had it their way, we would eat pasta every night, and sometimes without sauce (taste buds are wasted on the young — seriously!).
Don’t get me wrong, for those with intolerances and allergies, these new food breakthroughs are amazing and have made a huge difference in their quality of life. And even though the convenience of a supermarket is a massive time saver, I walk in to get one thing to complete the evening meal and end up with a bunch of random items and no dinner! So, with all these food options so readily available, are we really better off?
I believe choice is always a good thing, as long as you are prepared to say no. As my Mum would say, “you aren’t a slave to your taste buds”. I love the idea of only having meat and two veggies for dinner every night — not having to make big choices and to battle my will power over the unhealthy processed delights in the supermarket — but really? Once you’ve lived in multicolor could you go back to black and white? Having been so lucky to have tasted the mouth-watering cuisine from around the world, there is no way I could go back — I’d miss my pizza too much!