Never-ending story of cuisine is a
subject for a lifetime studies. The history of food is as long as
history of human being. Politics, agriculture, society, science land on
our plate, minced, chopped and blended, spiced with the all known
chemistry. What we eat right now is very interesting.
is how food has changed nowadays. Food industry, global trade, factory
agriculture are the directions that we have chosen. This is the
mainstream, but not the only way. Fair trade, organic and slow food are
getting stronger and more popular, but still they are a small
percentage of what we eat.
Conscious costumers are lately more interested in where a product comes from, how it is made and who the producer is (both social, technical and ecological issues are important). Many food scandals in the nineties made food one of the main concerns of EU politicians. Food policy became one of the topics of a public debate. Present situation reminds the one from the previous decade.
In the age of overweigh and obesity, in the age of food crises, in the age of a second Green Revolution (GMO), food again is becoming an issue of a public concern. It creates unique chance to find a solution to some of the problems and if not, at least we can put it in the spotlight, so we can search for new ideas. But lets get back to the point. What is the problem?
One of the issues is wastage. Even more terrifying, when almost sixth part of global population is starving to death. Approximately 20 million kids die every year because of hunger. At the same time scientists estimate that on our planet there is twice as much food as we are able to eat. Why is it like that?
Crazy amount of food is landing everyday in the trash bean. One thing is we often buy too much, another is that supermarket chains system solution create situation where food needs to look perfect to get to the shopping shelves. Identical potatoes, stainless apples, cucumbers of the same size, this is what they want. But they want, what we want to buy. Probably about 30-40% of a farmers crops lands in the trash bean. It is especially difficult with organic farming. Fruits and veggies go through hard selection similar to a beauty contest. After a photo session in the storage (sometime even 30 photos is being taken) computer system analyses the view of the plant to take decision. There are also other reasons why wastage is so big. Transport from another part of the globe requires proper conditions – temperature, humidity. This is not only the cost of energy and environment pollution. Sometimes green fruits are being picked. So that later on after arriving to the place they are sprayed with especial chemical to make them ready for being picked. Experts estimate that the products for traditional American breakfast travel 1.500 km before they get to the table. But this story is not only a story of wastage it is also a story of people suffer and energy waste. Globalization got us use to the products from another part of the globe like exotic pineapples, mangos and bananas. Lemongrass from Vietnam, beef from Japan and Argentina, garlic from China, lame from Island, even carrots from South Africa Republic and don’t forget about our favorite shrimps from India (shrimps produced on the humongous sea farms that do have terrible social and ecological impact) everything nicely packed in the plastic folia shines on the market shelves. The madness of today cuisine, the madness of illusionary choice, the madness of paradise and hell on the same planet. The wastage of energy is obvious whet it comes to everyday plane trip of shrimps from Norway to Marocco, and back. These shrimps are not going on holidays. Cheap peeling process in Africa makes it more efficient for producer, but how about the ecological cost of airplane transport with is the most polluting one. Moreover supplying of a shops is one issue. Another is the way we do shopping. Traffic jams, polluted cities car trunks full of plastic bags, plastic bags full of canes, processed frozen meat meals, juices in non recyclable cardboards, exotic fruits and water, water in plastic bottles that are rarely reused, this the view of everyday life of the consumer in the consumer society. But there is more and more people that do not accept this. More and more people conscious and responsible for there consumption. More and more people that want to do something about that.
Food has became an ideology, philosophy that became practice for many people. The extreme example for that is freegans movement. It gathers people that that do not accept the annual food system. There voice of rejection is consuming leftovers and trashes that they are finding in the trash beans of a foods market and in many other places.
Other alternative movement is Slow Food. Established in 80-ties (Italian, now international organization) fighting for the true food. Promotion of biodiversity, ecological and traditional production, culinary education is only one of very vide spectrum of a Slow Food activities. Nowadays it is becoming a kind of political power with 100. 000 members in 80 countries.
The consciousness of consumers, the knowledge of the conditions of the work of the farmers, workers and producers in the third world countries and mainly the will and believe that it is possible to make positive impact on this situation ware the main reasons for raising fair trade idea. Fair trade is a concept of just trade rules between countries of global south and reach western countries. But it is not only idea. Fairtrade ( differed to fair trade) is also one of many, alternative trade, certifications that give guarantee to the consumer that the product has been produced in the fair conditions, with the respect for the environment, and the right to development. These are dreams, but not only a dreams. These are the facts that are giving hope that throws of conscious and the fill of gilt wont be a part of out Sundays dinner.
Polish culinary landscape
So how about Poland – it’s culinary landscape after five decades of communism?
This is a dramatic story of a country with beautiful culinary history that has been destroyed during fifty years of communism. The lack of many products, sometimes the lack of a basic ones, humongous lines full of peoples waiting for meet, this is how many people remember that time. Society was divided. And so is now. But it is important to remember that 1989 changed a lot not only from the political point of view. Since than the cuisine developed in something totally different, something new, something amazing and terrifying at the same time.
Nineties brought new products, but also new culture of eating. At that time everything that came form “West” and especially from USA, was threaten as something cool, something fashionable. Coca- cola, hamburgers, hot-dogs all different kinds of fast food became popular. People really wanted something new, they wanted as they never had it before, such an amount of different products- crazy and normal at the same time. New restaurants, new shops, new cuisines became popular. Because of many reasons one of the most popular was Italian style of cooking with different types of pasta and pizzas. Quite cheap, with a similar products made it one of Polish favorite. It is also important to say a few words about “Chinese” bars in this 38 million people country in the heart of Europe. Strongly connected with the immigration process lots of them raised with very funny fusion of polish and Asian style (Asian generally – not Chinese) of cooking. What is very specific for them is that when You look at the menu it seems like they are chain restaurants of Asian agenda with almost the same menu all over the country. From time to time there are some Polish samples in menu like schabowy or pierogi (typical polish dishes) what makes it even more funny. Anyway the price is good and this is very important. No matter the quality of this food, You can eat big dinner for three euro what makes it really affordable.
The development of globalization brought even more new products, cuisines, culinary fashions. Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican and many others became a part of a gastronomic landscape. These ware the positive aspects. But at the same time the quality of traditional food got worse. Chain shops with price wars made producers to produce even cheaper than before. Cheese that taste like gum, tomato that taste like potato and potato that doesn’t have taste at all. Shit quality meet and never-ending shelves of a products full of fat, salt and sugar – so typical for the reality described by Ritzer in his “macdonaldization of a society”. This is what happened, this is the Polish culinary reality.
What is optimistic is that public conciseness is growing. People realized that something happened. But what can I say? That ecology is getting stronger? That fair-trade is rising? Truth. But McDonalds is growing too. Chain supermarkets are stronger than ever. This is the moment where there is no conclusion. Future will be a conclusion, it will show us the consequences of our choices. Frozen shrimps or fresh carrot. What is Your choice?
Bon appétit from Warsaw