Conscious Musings: An Essay

I felt compelled to get a little academic this weekend and write a little essay about food. So that you don't get bored while reading, I've provided you with some of the best of my personal cellphone photography pics.

After two months of Conscious Eating, I have another look at some of the food we eat and how we eat it.

The influx of cooking shows on television can make any viewer feel like a celebrity any night of the week. Technology and its sources have flooded the market making a gourmand out of any and everyone. Transcontinental travel, the Internet, multiculturalism, and global awareness make it impossible to be left in the dark about food. These are high times for international cuisine. These are also agonizing times.

Concerns and eyebrows are rising for consumers and food industry leaders concerning nutrition, diet, food sanitation, and safety. Cooks have turned away from mass-marketed sources. Cooks have turned toward inexpensive, sustainable efforts to ensure that quality, nutrition, and hunger needs are met. Recent national recalls of vegetables, meats, and pet foods send out a cause for concern as well.

Home cooks have turned to homegrown resources to pick up where the food industry has failed them. “Victory gardens” have turned into community gardens to produce safe food for families. Local slow food movements are gaining ground in communities to make the public aware of alternatives to mass-produced foodstuffs. As everyone can tell by their grocery bills, food costs are getting higher each month. Cooking for sport and personal enjoyment is not an option for many singletons or for families anymore. The search is constant and furtive for inexpensive venues and establishments to purchase high quality, low cost products.

Frozen foods and convenience entrees have been an ever-popular trend in home and professional cooking. Since Swanson introduced the first “TV dinner” in 1956, the frozen food industry hasn’t been the same. Modern food preservation, storage, and transportation have made fresh and exotic foods readily available to consumers and professional cooks. As savvy consumers, we demand flavor, quality ingredients, and a need to feel as if we’ve traveled to an exotic place outside our local grocer’s freezer section.

Since the inception of the American Frozen Food Institute, the industry has reached new heights. This national trade association represents all aspects of the frozen food industry supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors to suppliers to packagers. AFFI also provides regulations for safety and sanitation of frozen foods and monitors the delivery and marketing of frozen foods as well. Frozen foods are not only an integral part of home life, but commercial industries depend on them to better our lives.

Some feel that with all the technology that enables foodservice to be faster and more convenient, the need for chefs and other culinary professionals will be eliminated or greatly reduced. This is all but true. The science and professionalism of food is of utmost importance when food is prepared for frozen use. Anyone who has attempted to re-heat or oven-bake a foil-wrapped chicken after being in the freezer, the taste isn’t the same. The meat isn’t quite as juicy. The color isn’t as flush and inviting. Chefs, scientists, nutritionists, technicians, and the occasional artist all weigh in to create meals for kings and queens of convenience.

A number of casual dining establishments utilize individually quick frozen foods, frozen entrees and main course meals to serve you. Anywhere from six to 15 minutes after ordering, a freshly nuked gourmet meal can be plated and brought to you. A number of households choose to go the same route.

In the end, whether you prefer fresh and natural foods to frozen convenience foods, you have those choices because of the myriad of global influences on our world.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. When I was working I ate a frozen meal every day for lunch & probably used a lot more prepared foods at dinner. Now that I have more time to cook almost never eat anything that we don't make from scratch. I feel lucky to have that time & I think we are healthier for it.

  2. And happier too!

    I used to eat frozen meals all of the time. Now that I make everything from scratch, I feel good knowing all of the ingredients.

  3. Great read, Nik. I initially cringed at the word "essay", but knowing you, I knew it would be fun and insightful.

    I couldn't agree with you more. I was had a lot of packaged food growing up, because times were tougher and my family didn't have the time. I feel much better on a physical and mental level after getting rid of "scientific words" in my diet :)

  4. Good essay Nikki. Yes, I was of the frozen TV dinners once upon a time too. It was a time saver then, but as I have gotten older, I realize that the quality of foods that I put in my family's mouths or my own, is alot more important tht saving a few minutes here and there. Great post.

  5. Nikki I know you don't like beets but those are beautiful! Just radiant. I think I am lucky - my mum is a great cook and there was never a question of frozen meals. When she was on shift work, I cooked, the rest of the time she cooked. Now I am really starting to think about what is hiding in foods that look simple, the hidden chemicals and fillers and trying to make sure that what we eat is the best possible product for our health.

  6. Adam: I thought about calling it "a reflection" but I'm an academic at heart, so essay it is!

    I think all of us have fallen on frozen foods to back us up at one time or another. We just can't rely on them all of the time. But when you really want some fresh corn or lima beans in December, to the freezers we shall go.

    Teresa: Thanks! You make such good fresh food, I can't believe you've ever opened up a frozen food package!

    Foodycat: Those are the offending beets I needed so much help with. They ended up in some pasta and I couldn't taste them at all. Thank the good Lord.

    I'm afraid of artificial fillers, too. I'd rather have my food rot early than sacrifice my health. My grandma was the cook in our house. We're lucky to have such great women make sure we ate well.

  7. As with most things, I think that frozen food has it's time and place, just like farmer's market food and regular fresh grocery store food. My favorite, when there is enough time and we have had enough rain, is homw grown food, especially veggies. you know what you are getting and the taste is the best. This year low rainfall and little time combined, so not as many plants were planted and the occassional zucchini is treasured :)

  8. I try to do as much as possible from scratch. We are going through a food scare in Canada right now. 12 dead and many sick from contaminated lunch meat. It makes you stop and think about what you put into your body.
    The less hands your food has gone through, the better.
    Thanks for this.

  9. This was a great read Nikki! You know,I feel really lucky that I have never really had many TV dinners in my lifetime. Even when I was in college I found other ways. Like making my own - I would make a big 'ol batch of something on the weekend and freeze it in individual containers for later consumption.

    I guess I have always been conscious of what I put in my body. I grew up eating veggies from my grandparents garden and learning how to make something out of nothing without resorting to boxes.

    I feel very fortunate for that, and I hope to get my act more and more together, so that when I have little ones, I can do the same for them.

    I love posts that make me think! :)

  10. this was an interesting read. thanks.

  11. This is slightly off-topic, but I just have to say:

    Damn, girl! Just watched your video. Sunny Anderson better watch out, hunneh!

    Magenta is your color, btw.

  12. elle: I wish I had enough room for a garden. The best I can do are herbs. But I've been making everything I eat from scratch and it has made all the difference.

    natashya: Im afraid to eat anything from the grocery anymore. I don't like living in fear of my food. But that's how they control the masses, instilling fear (or disease) in our food!

    jenn: yes, you are lucky to not have really joined the FF (frozen food) bandwagon) I wish I could say the same...

    mom: you're welcome :)

    heather: Thanks, girl! She does NOT know what reckoning force is happening over here lol

  13. Great post . We do have so much choice now but we have to be careful and diligent. Yet for all the cchoices we have some dont have much.


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