I have been thinking about this Food Horror for quite a while now, but never found the time to sit down and write about it. However, I have recently had a few different “encounters” with margarine, and I have decided that I can’t keep it in anymore. I know that some people will disagree with me. Yeah, spoiler, I hate margarine.
I don’t think I’ve ever met many people who maintain the same opinion of margarine for, say, a ten-year period. I know some who have gone from thinking it is good for you, to it is not so good for you, to this one is definitely good for you (or variations thereof). I think the only person I know who has been consistent in their opinion is my sister. And me, of course.
I have never liked margarine. This includes the fact that I have never liked the taste of margarine, which I find to be very fake. And this has been reason enough for me to stay away from it as a child. Growing up, I saw such a long list of stuff as ingredients, that I did not know what to make of them. More reason to stay away from it. Now, as an adult with a mission to spoil everybody’s fun when it comes to food, I find it a rather scary product. The additional reason for this is that margarine seems to be a paste whose virtues change miraculously by the addition of a single new chemical compound that is now believed to save our lives. But honestly, what is that based on? Even if the miracle compound were to save our lives, I doubt that adding it to margarine would. We don’t feed on chemical compounds, we eat foods, combinations of compounds that have also evolved in a natural way to be in a certain way and us to eat them in a certain way. Stripping down compounds and mixing them together in a distasteful mush is hardly the same thing.
Now the horrors I have been witnessing in relation to margarine are of different types. I don’t watch a lot of TV, you know, the old-timey one with programmes in between commercials, but I have seen some ads that have made my hair stand on ends. One of them was for a new flavour of margarine with olive oil, because olive oil has some virtues. I would much more happily put olive oil on a slice of bread (with a salt crystal and black pepper, yum!) than sliver an unknown paste that supposedly tastes like olive oil and has its wonderful properties added to said paste as well. And put jam over that (more on that in a minute)!! For anyone who has tasted real, good quality olive oil, you know that it actually has a pleasant taste. And you won’t be eating a gallon of it either, you stop fairly quickly. I haven’t tried those pastes, but I sincerely doubt they taste anywhere close to olive oil. Not even low quality olive oil tastes like olive oil. As to its benefits, I don’t really see how it can replicate them.
Another ad for a different kind of margarine said that we need to get our kids to eat more plants. Fair enough. But not just any plants, the oils in plants, now, surprise-surprise, included in the new type of margarine we have just put on the market! If you look at children’s eating habits today, would it really be oils that their diets are deficient in? And spreading that paste on their sandwich would bring their eating in line with what it should be? Come on!
But the one that drives me the most crazy is the official feeding recommendation for small children (under 4) here in the Netherlands. This is the stuff they put in your kid’s baby book, where you record their growth and what not, this is the stuff you see on the walls when you go to the doctor for your kid’s check-up, and I am sure this is what they would tell me to feed my child, if I were to actually ask for their opinion (which I don’t). According to them, babies should be given bread with margarine from 6 months. 6 months! The advice continues for the daily feeding of kids until the end of the book, so basically until the kids turn 4, when they go to school and need to take a sandwich with them for lunch. At that point, given that your child has eaten a sandwich with margarine for almost every day of his life, it is easy to continue the practice. But I digress. From the age of 8 months, parents are told they can add something on top of the margarine, such as jam (told you), fruit mousse, or cream cheese, pate, regular cheese or ham. This sort of “bread meal” is advised to be given once a day at the beginning, then two times a day by the time the baby is 1, not forgetting that almost half of the third main meal is also to be made up of grains of some sort (like pasta). Not only is the margarine to be presented on bread, but it is also to be added to vegetables. So basically, all three main meals of the day should contain margarine. I’m rather surprised it is not explicitly recommended for snacks too! So when the advice given is that babies should be eating more bread (and other kinds of grains such as breakfast cereal, rice waffles, crackers and the like) than fruit and vegetables, when they are to have margarine with every meal, I think I am entitled to stop listening too closely to their advice.
Side note: I actually stopped listening to them when Kid 1 was a baby and I kept having ridiculous conversations with them. For instance, I would go there and start by measuring and weighing him, as is the norm, and when our turn would come, I would go in to see the “qualified personnel” (I’m still not sure what they are, because only some of them are doctors) who would pull out the growth chart and give the verdict: is the kid growing well or not? The answer was always yes, he would grow in his own uniform curve, slightly taller than average, and a bit thinner than average. But then, they would ask me what he ate, and I would tell them. Shock! Disbelief! He drinks too much milk! I will stunt his growth! Feed him more, woman! The next appointment came, and by then he was drinking less milk anyway, because that is what happens with babies, they gradually drink less and eat more, so I was prepared to tell them off on the milk front. The chart is pulled, the verdict comes: he is too thin. I look at it too; he is growing in the same uniform curve he has always followed, why is he so thin all of a sudden? You need to feed him more. How? He was already eating three substantial meals and two generous (I thought) snacks a day. He was never left hungry. The answer: give him more snacks. Riiight… So I left, convinced that I should not be paying too much attention to them when it comes to food.