naath: (Default)
[personal profile] naath
A thing that has been really annoying me about the horsemeat scandal reporting but is actually only tangentially related.

So, some people came over all "well don't eat this nasty crap then" so some other people came over all "but it's cheap and easy and delicious". Now, I don't dispute "easy"; it certainly is a lot easier to buy a microwave lasagne than to prepare your own. I'm not sure about "cheap"; I've never really thought about it, but certainly compared to other low-effort food options (for instance going out for food). And anyway there whole layers of stuff to do with lack of access to cooking skills, equipment, etc.

But really what's pissing me off is the "delicious" part. It's not that I dispute that some people find this type of food tasty; clearly they do. But I've seen a number of people writing about how these foods are "carefully engineered" to be exactly the sort of thing that most appeals to humans. A view that basically "these foods are super addictive; it is only through sheer willpower that anyone resists them" (and often goes on to insist that people ought to, well, have more willpower - which is a shitty thing to insist; but anyway).

Personally I think this is utter utter bullshit. What these companies have done is not a triumph of food science. It is a triumph of advertising. Of getting into people's heads and saying "this is what food should be"; especially getting to people young.

The thing is that in part because my parents were seriously strict about not having this sort of food; and in part because my current lifestyle is fairly well insulated from a lot of advertising crap; and in HUGE part because I've never lacked money to the point that I've been fretting about the cost of using the oven... well; I've never accustomed myself to eating these types of food, and essentially as a consequence of that I think most of them are simply disgusting. I genuinely would prefer to eat rice and beans. I know most people wouldn't.

I think that the people who write things like "OMG McDonalds makes addictive food we must stop them somehow!" are PART OF THE PROBLEM - they are participating in the advertising campaign that says "this food is addictively delicious".

I think that if "we" want to change the way "people in general" eat the answer has to involve teaching people that the "better" food is delicious, is "normal", etc. etc. And I think we need to get them young. Personally I'm not particularly interested in telling people what they "should" eat; but I would welcome attempts to make healthier food cheaper, and more available so that more people have more actual choice about what they eat, rather than being forced into making the cheapest choice.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 01:01 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Objectively, a lot of the cheap food actually isn't all that tasty either. However, because people are told it is, and addictive too, then they expect it to be and thus it is... sense of taste being rather subjective after all.

For that matter, it's not cheaper either. I make my own burgers, it costs me £3 for a pound of meat, which logically I can get four quarter pounders from. Bread is £1 for 6 white scufflers [large buns]. So pricing it out, that's 92 pence per burger.

Pretty sure that's a lot cheaper than McD's.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 01:41 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Huh, true enough I suppose. I forgot about own brand supermarket burgers. [which shows you how long it's been since I bought them.] OTOH, fairly certain that the burgers I make don't contain any additives or nasty surprises. I know where the meat comes from, [heck, I could probably find out the name of the cow!] and I can watch my local bakers making the bread If I want.

That said, I suppose if you don;t have the time to spare, 'slam it in the oven' packet food is a realistic option. [although, if that were the case, I suppose I'd make and freeze mine for later.]
Edited Date: 2013-03-04 01:41 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 01:22 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
Pedantry time:

Tastes can vary in a number of ways. For example, people can have their tongues configured differently (I think this is a component in supertasters). Also, there are neurological conditions that affect the senses, taste is no exception. Also, acquired tastes - my experience with these is that there's usually some overpoweringly strong component to the taste that you have to learn to work past, and then there's something complex and subtle underneath. Whisky is a good example of this, especially peaty Islay malts, especially Laphroaig.

On top of that, there's a whole load of stuff to do with tastes being dependent on expectations, and varying depending on the presentation and the price tag and a whole load of other factors.

By your reckoning, are the first lot of factors (the ones in the big paragraph) objective or subjective?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 01:33 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Relativity objective... within parameters defined by physiology as opposed to psychology. Meaning that the bias can be measured and compensated for statistically. I suppose I should've defined that better in my comment.

Strictly speaking, nothing is truly objective though. Not even 'objective' measurements based on instrumentation, given that our perception of the instrumentation is filtered through our fallible senses and the nature of the observer effect implies that our expectations can bias the result.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 09:38 pm (UTC)
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
Oh, absolutely -- if McDonalds had some magic universal taste that appealled to pretty much all humans, why would it vary its recipes from country to country? That's certainly not the same thing as saying that people can stop finding McDonalds tasty, but I think you're right that this sort of rhetoric is just doing part of McD's advertising for them.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 11:19 pm (UTC)
chess: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chess
microwave rice, tinned beans :-) (although finding tinned beans in one-person one-meal portions is a pain in itself)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-06 02:27 pm (UTC)
beckyc: Me, wearing a gas mask (Default)
From: [personal profile] beckyc
I've often found that where I have found single portions, that they cost almost as much (or occasionally even more than) the larger version. That annoys me enough that I don't bother with them (which may perpetuate the price differential :-/)

Over here across the pond…

Date: 2013-03-07 02:57 am (UTC)
franklanguage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franklanguage
there's a misconception that "Vegan food is sooo expensive!" It's not. There's a book called Eat Vegan On $4 a Day (that's about £2, right?)

I eat vegan, and not having to deal with meat and dairy at all is amazing. I don't microwave anything either, because microwaving—for one thing—destroys nutrients, so is counterproductive.
Edited (fix code) Date: 2013-03-07 02:58 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 12:15 pm (UTC)
gerald_duck: (Duckula)
From: [personal profile] gerald_duck
Have you read Fast Food Nation?

It appears that many people (including detractors) find a lot of fast food pretty tasty. Certainly tastier than anything they could have concocted themselves out of the same ingredients.

So you have £5, or perhaps just £1. You can either spend it on cheap ingredients cunningly combined by a megacorp that makes a huge profit, or you can try to stretch to nicer ingredients to make a tastier meal. The latter will almost certainly be more wholesome, but will it actually taste nicer?

You say yes. You also say you've been conditioned from birth to like "proper" food. I fear there might be a smidgen of snobbishness on your part, there? Certainly, though I appreciate fine foods, I still hanker once in a while after those heavily artificial "cheese and onion" and "salt and vinegar" flavours crisps used to have in my childhood. If you'd been raised on cheap burgers, your tastes might now be very different.

I'm not so sure it's objective.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
I'm sure a lot of people do find fastfood tasty; but it does irritate me when they assume it is a *universal* desire.

I have been conditioned from birth to eat Food X and not Food Y; I submit that this is evidence that Food Y is not in fact universally amazing, but that it's amazingness is conditioned in. Presumably, yes, if I'd been raised on burgers and crisps and coca-cola I'd love them just as much as anyone else who was. My whole point is that it's not a matter of "this food is amazeballs and this food is boring; for everyone, ever, end of" but rather a matter of "the food that you have been socially conditioned to appreciated is amazeballs and the food that you haven't is strange and weird".


The economics of the situation are a bit complicated; and I think I'd actually have to try it to know. Megacorp is making profits - so surely I can undercut? But also they get bulk discounts on ingredients, maybe even using things that aren't available for general sale? And that's not even starting to think about the cost of my labour, time, experience, well equipped kitchen... It's trivially obvious for instance that readyfood has a much smaller time/effort cost than cooking for yourself does, and this is of course vitally important.

If I were in the game of "trying to make people not eat processed meat product" then I'd be wanting Megacorp to make cheap, easy, ready meals out of the ingredients that I think they should be using; selfishly I want them to do that anyway, because readyfood IS more convenient.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ptc24.livejournal.com
I have been conditioned from birth to eat Food X and not Food Y; I submit that this is evidence that Food Y is not in fact universally amazing, but that it's amazingness is conditioned in.

Laphroaig; it has a reputation as a "you love it or you hate it" whisky. It's an acquired taste, it's hard to acquire even by whisky standards. Certainly there was a long time when I liked lots of whiskies, even peaty Islay malts, but not Laphroaig - but now I seem to have the taste.

OTOH, aubergines, I never could get the taste for those, in fact they taste worse since I had a good try at getting the taste.

This experience seems to be remarkably common, and it is very striking. It seems... less a case of the amazingness being conditioned in, rather the "argh! fire!" and then the "urgh! smokey bacon flavour!" being conditioned out.

I suppose the idea I have here is that a lot of fast food is the polar opposite of Laphroaig - easy to like for many people but too simple and/or bland or dominated by one main taste for people used to different food. Like a jaunty tune tapped out on a stylophone.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
I like Laphroaig. It's much nicer than other whisk(e)y.

Maybe I'm just epic weird?

I don't dislike fast-food for it's bland simplicity (bland simplicity might be boring but it isn't nasty). I think in the main I dislike it because of the overeliance on meat; and the nasty texture of processed meat. I like crunchy vegetables!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ptc24.livejournal.com
ISTR [livejournal.com profile] emperor being particularly keen on Laphroaig, and having never been keen on Speyside whiskies. Seems odd to me, but there you go.

I eat quite a lot of convenience food these days, and a moderate amount of fast food, possibly there is an overreliance of fakemeat in some cases, but there's quite a lot that isn't. A pizza slice and chips (with too much salt) from Gardies doesn't over-rely on meat. Things aren't bland with too much salt on them; OTOH it is reasonably close to finding some "nice food" button in your brain and hammering on it repeatedly with no subtlety or finesse.

Textures... I'd almost forgotten about textures. I tend to concentrate too much on flavour. I wonder if this comes of being a chemist?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Things are horrid with too much salt - although I think salt is one of those things you build a tolerance to by eating it. The right amount of salt is of course delicious ;-p

I find texture very important in food; about co-equal with taste I guess.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 04:35 pm (UTC)
emperor: (drink)
From: [personal profile] emperor
Amusingly, I do now like rather more Speysides than I used to, and since having a less-wooded Laphroaig, have been much less keen on their standard expression.

Apropos salt - we never had it on the table (or, indeed, in almost any food) at home because my Grandmother had a series of strokes, and my Mum was paranoid about salt. As a result of which, I find many things too salty (including chips).

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ptc24.livejournal.com
Salt: I had a similar experience growing up with butter. These days... there are some circumstances where some butter is quite nice, others where I'd much rather have margarine, as I find the butter a bit overpowering.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 04:03 pm (UTC)
toothycat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] toothycat
The key insight is bulk cooking. You have to cook typically 8-12 portions at once to get a wholesome meal (including a staple, some meat/fish/seafood/hard cheese/etc, and a fresh anti-scurvy component of some sort) in the magic sub-£1 per serving range that is significantly nicer than anything you could buy pre-packed. (If you cook more at once, you can bring the costs down even further - though personally I prefer to make even nicer things instead :))

There are a number of solutions here; eating the same thing 2-3 days in a row lets you spread the time and financial costs, as does freezing some and defrosting.

But for someone who lacks the patience to eat the same thing more than once in a week, and/or lacks the spoons to cook every 2-3 days, I can see the prepacked meals might look appealing.
Edited Date: 2013-03-04 04:06 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
As a student I frequently ended up eating the same dinner every day for a week. BOOOOOORING. Boring is easier when the rest of your life is fun I guess?

I mostly wish that the range of available tasty, cheap, low-effort food was better. Because we're never going to be able to ensure everyone has heaps of money and free time.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 01:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lysystratae.livejournal.com
When I first heard about the fuss, I was confused; personally, I think horse tastes better than cow anyway, why the fuss? Then I found out about the fact that the horses could have had odd drugs in them, so that made sense. Microwave food is generally junk ingredients but lets not add more poison, at least.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
I think it's very important that horse burgers say "horse burger" on them; not because of horse being bad, but because accurate labeling is in general important.

But nothing wrong with eating horse.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-05 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
It's not just the drugs like bute which would be at less than a human dose after 100 burgers. Thing is, we're dealing with a massive food fraud, so no-one knows what is in it except it derived partly from horse. So it could be from diseased animals, with worms, bacteria, viruses, meat not kept ay low temperatures, contaminated with faeces, bulked out with hair or chalk-like stuff... Could be anything. Until the forensic accountants do their stuff, or there's another tip-off, we won't know.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 02:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ptc24.livejournal.com
"these foods are super addictive; it is only through sheer willpower that anyone resists them"

People who might hold such a view, for reasons other than just thinking it true.

1) Smug oh-so-authentic people who like to look down on "sheeple".
2) People who think that Capitalism Is Evil (with the capital letters, ie going far beyond rejecting free-market fundamentalism), and anything showing too many signs of being too closely associated with a certain sort of economy is highly likely to be a form of mind control, or otherwise destructive to free will. To be fair, possibly this is to counter the people on the right who say that capitalism is all about freedom and you shouldn't take that freedom away.

That said, you can think of "addictive" as being different from "nice" - there's a certain sort of food which is "moreish" which isn't just tasty, it's a certain sort of tasty. The sort that creates cravings?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 03:29 pm (UTC)
chess: (something)
From: [personal profile] chess
As a slight counterpoint, I often have a terrible craving for rice and beans :-). (And usually the _actual_ diagnosis there is 'thirsty, not enough protein' and the rice component is actually superfluous once I've had something to drink...)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feanelwa.livejournal.com
I think craving foods that are meaty, fatty and salty is a function of how scared you are that everything is going to be taken away from you without warning. When I am feeling secure and happy I will happily eat rice and beans. When I was unemployed and being threatened by Jobcentre Plus if I didn't turn up at the right time/prove I wasn't having sex with my ex despite washing his socks to fill up the washing machine which is obviously the same thing as being in a relationship/tick the right incomprehensible boxes, I was all about the grease and chips. (And when College were making me homeless every 8 weeks.) When I was at school I could happily have eaten McDonalds every day. (In one temp job between school and university I did. Turns out it makes you feel a bit weird.)

So, I reckon the fast food industry do kind of take advantage of people's biological inability to choose what they crave, but I think people who come from the willpower side of the argument should try being genuinely at risk of sleeping on the street and then see how they argue against their stomach hormones.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-04 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Oh yes, the willpower people are all about the STUPID and WRONG.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-05 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
All this, plus availability - lots of the 'food deserts' with no fresh fruit and veg within half a mile are in London and other cities, and the fact that if you're cold then you genuinely need more calories.
And if the main luxury you had growing up was a hit of sugar which is a penny even now, that's going to affect your taste associations.
but I would welcome attempts to make healthier food cheaper, and more available so that more people have more actual choice about what they eat, rather than being forced into making the cheapest choice.
I'll get back to the day job then...

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-05 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Is that really true in London? (I ask because I genuinely don't know)

We live in one of the "worst" areas of Cambridge but are within what I would consider very easy walking distance of three reasonable food stores and easy cycle or bus journeys of dozens. I guess maybe Cambridge is really really strange. I've never tried to buy groceries in London.

I don't doubt that early food experiences shape our food preferences for life; that's why the perfidious advertisers like to get in young. Personally I confess a preference for ludicrously expensive chocolates; and neither my bank balance nor my waistline thank me for it - probably my childhood food experiences had something to do with that.

That and the notion that porridge is a substrate for SALT not SUGAR; wretched sassenachs putting the WRONG unhealthy condiment on their porridge :-p

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-06 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ptc24.livejournal.com
No true Scotsman has salt on his porridge?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-06 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
Sure was true in 2006, and doubt it's changed that much. Does depend on whether you count the local corner shop's token shelf of manky veg, as there's few places that are further than that from any shop, but many, many housing estates or areas of terraces houses where the nearest shops are an offie/newsagent, chippy/takeaway, bookie and hairdresser, and nothing else in easy walking distance. I've been there myself, two handy pubs but not even a pint of milk in under a 20 minute walk - nearest was Mill Hill Broadway. Where I think the only veg were in the tiny M&S.
Previous year my housing may have been illegally skanky in many ways, but was near a Food Giant, 1p baked beans in KwikSave, and 20 ethnic groceries trying to sell you stuff and if you said you didn't know what to do with a strange vegetable, they'd give us one free and say what to do. And.was dirt cheap. I ate much better that year than when I had 3x the disposable income in Mill Hill.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-08 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pavanne.livejournal.com
I'm a bit doubtful that anywhere in London (except maybe the really posh bits) are half a mile from either an ethnic food shop or a Tesco Express these days. The ethnic shops are, as you indicate, better.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-05 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] passage.livejournal.com
I think you're onto something with the theory that people who say junk food is so addictive we must stop it are part of the problem.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-08 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pavanne.livejournal.com
Also, lasagne is the classic example of a dish you don't make for yourself because it's too much faff. So it's unfair to compare the cost/ effort of microwave lasagne with a homemade lasagne.

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