There is no doubt that there have been many changes to our lives in the decades following World War II. These range from technology and the digital transformation of our communications, transport, social changes in how we work, education and globalisation. While many of these have brought benefits, they have also changed our way of life.
Nowhere has this change been more obvious that in our food consumption patterns. Where once we supported our local corner store for our daily shop, today most of shop at large supermarkets. Where once we purchased many items in a non prepackaged form – as individual ingredients – today we buy more processed and premade, or at least partially premade products.
Many communities were able to supply their local community with a variety of fruits and vegetables – either as home grown or a local producer. The food miles were kept to a minimum. More than that, seed was collected and kept for the following season to ensure an ongoing supply of vegetables. When there was a glut, produce was preserved as fruits in jars, pickles, jams, chutneys and sauces. The packaging was reused each year – the only thing you ever had to replace in the Fowlers Vacola kit was the rubber rings.
This produce also reflected the recipes that were staples in many households. The wonderful local cookbooks that were produced by the local school, church or CWA are notable in the types of recipes and household management tips that reflected an era of thrift and good management. They didn’t have food waste because there was always a use for any leftovers. Food scraps – those items that are unavoidable food waste such as peelings, cores and ends had a place in the garden either into a compost pile or consumed by the chooks that every house had to produce fresh eggs.
Use by and best by dates were non-existent because people did not have the luxury of buying processed foods that had to be consumed by a certain date or a marketing plan that ensured constant turnover of product in the shops. The consequence of this has been a growing lack of understanding about food and how to manage it.
Relocalising through encouraging local food production either at home, local producers or through community co-operatives such as community gardens is one approach to rebuilding our knowledge and understanding of food. The benefits of doing this is probably a better understanding of our diet, a reduction of diet related disease (those relating to over consumption of processed foods) and less food waste.