If only yoghurt grew on trees
Ever wondered about the origins of all that stuff you’re wearing and eating? Australian school kiddies have. And – according to new research – gazillions of ‘em think cotton socks come from animals and yoghurt comes from plants.
Since this jaw-dropping news broke on Monday, the international commentariat has erupted with mighty geysers of parent-bashing, school-bashing and just a little bit of (metaphorical) youth-of-today-bashing.
Certainly I shudder to think from what part of a cow, sheep or hirsutely testicled boar a schoolchild thinks it is possible to extract a pair of socks. And what about these yoghurt trees? Growing alongside the butter bushes, custard vines and cheese slice plantations, are they?
But while tch tch-ing about student ignorance is always enjoyable, the awkward truth is that no child is going to be knowledgeable about the make-up of modern food unless they also happen to be an industrial chemist.
Inspect the ingredient lists of your grocery items and you’ll see that, in many cases, the numerals outnumber the words.
Right this minute I am reading the fine print on the side of my new box of lightly crumbed frozen calamari rings and I have absolutely no idea where they came from.
The wavy blue box design and drawing of an octopus makes me want to say “ocean”. But what of the full 50 per cent of this product which turns out to be not squid? The acidity regulators 450 and 451? The flavour enhancers 627 and 631? The thickeners 1420, 1422 and 1414?
Children – and also grown adults – could be forgiven for thinking such products are actually harvested from late blooming calculators.
Equally mystifying are the origins of my creamy ricotta cheese pastizzis which claim they are proudly handmade according an authentic recipe.
Their constituent parts, however, include acidity regulators, ascorbyl palmitate and tocopherols concentrate from soy. Call me old fashioned but I don’t remember the last time any of my authentic Italian recipes called for a cup of di-glycerides of fatty esters.
Interestingly enough, my low-fat, low-sugar yoghurt with the “no added artificial colours or flavours” label has the most inscrutable contents page of the lot.
It is chock full of the goodness of preservative 200, mineral salts 341 and 452, sweeteners 951 and 950, acidity regulators 330 and 331, natural colours numbers 160a and 120, as well as thickeners 1442, 440, 406 and let’s not forget scrummy 410.
“No added food” is a more accurate descriptor. Just as the correct answer to the “where is yoghurt from?” question should be “vaguely adjacent to the idea of a cow”.
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