Cheese that…Isn’t

I rarely bring consumer affairs to my blog, and this is repost, but having popped two pizzas in my next click n collect shop, this sprang to mind. Have you ever heard of Analogue Cheese?

No, I hadn’t either until I saw a mention of it on television. Analogue Cheese is cheese that…well, ‘isn’t’. You can read more on it here in this wiki reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese_analogue but honestly, this makes it sound more palatable than it is. In the programme I watched, they made some in its raw state and it looked like baby sick to me. According to the presenter, it didn’t taste much better either.

It’s actually fats, emulsifiers and powdered milk, and if you’ve ever eaten a supermarket pizza or ready meal, the chances are you’ve consumed some. I don’t buy ready meals and we eat little pizza; when we do, I sometimes make my own, but I’ve vowed never to eat a cheap pizza again. Yuck!

I’ve since been informed that there was a huge scandal in Germany over Analogue Cheese resulting in a swift ban. Pity the UK never acts as quickly regarding such cases. The law shouldn’t allow manufacturers to call this cheese. It’s a cheese substitute, which comes in a variety of flavours, including Monterey Jack, so even looking at the ‘type’ doesn’t help.

We try to eat healthy, eat very little processed food and buy fresh produce, but even I had no clue cheese existed that wasn’t cheese. As someone who loves cheese I’m particularly disgusted, even more than I am by the thought someone invented things like cheese string, and cheese sprays, and advertise these to feed children.

There’s an overall complaint re the rise in obesity in the UK and an increase in certain forms of cancer, but are consumers really entirely to blame? Yes, overeating and lack of exercise is a problem, but I find it horrifying to think we’re becoming a nation that no longer seems to know how to cook. I was talking about this with a friend recently—a friend who lives on other people cooking for her or ready meals. I giggle when she claims to be ‘cooking’. Taking something out of a packet and putting it in the oven is not cooking: it’s heating something up. Yet I’m more horrified by the thought many ready meals contain a large proportion of chemicals and most of us don’t even know they are present. NOTE: this applies to Vegan meals, too!

Is the consumer entirely to blame for eating food advertised as cheap, convenient, and possibly misleading as to its contents and health value? I think not. I also don’t even think people are solely responsible  for not knowing how to cook. Many parents no longer teach their children to cook because no one taught them. A good deal of cookery or (as we used to call it at school) Home Economics classes are under threat or have even disappeared altogether owing to budget cuts. The government wants our nation to get fit and be healthy yet, typically, they’ve created part of the problem. For people to understand nutrition the subject needs teaching in schools and to include showing children the consequences of what they eat.

One other thing my friend and I agreed on is the way we eat. Most specialists will say that overweight people eat as a substitute for something missing in their lives. While I believe that comfort eating exists and is a genuine problem for some, I also grit my teeth and think a few choice words when I hear this.

Fact: food is a pleasure and as a race, humans love indulging in pleasure. Food tastes good! It’s that simple and I think if we could eat what we like without consequences a large proportion of the world’s population would indulge.

Yet, it’s also ‘how’ we eat, not what we eat, that I believe has consequences. Did you know that you should chew each mouthful 32 times? Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, and it’s a rather antiquated view, but there is some sense to this. Too many of us gulp our food. Some people lose weight just by eating more slowly and have said they felt more satisfied.

Why? Think about it. You’re gulping your food and your stomach doesn’t have time to process that it’s full until it’s ‘very’ full. Over time, your stomach stretches and wants more food. The human stomach is actually only about the size of an apple. It doesn’t need huge portions at any one sitting. In my grandmother’s day, they had four meals in a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Supper. I don’t remember snacking because they spread out food, so we never ate a huge portion—most people couldn’t afford to—yet never went hungry.

Gulping food and not chewing requires the body to break down whole chunks of matter. The eating process should begin in the mouth. The idea isn’t to chew to get food down one’s throat, but to break down the food so the stomach can then work on it. Swallow unchewed lumps and then the digestive system needs to work overtime. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t a strain on the body or that we fail to digest certain nutrients as a result.

Gulp food and what happens is we finish the plate, think, “Ooooh that was nice. I’ll have some more of that…” when what we should have done is slow down and enjoyed what was already on the plate for longer. Some people eat so quickly they cannot possibly taste half of what they eat.

I’m just as guilty. I do my best, but even I eat things I shouldn’t. I’m in a hurry and eat on the run. I don’t do enough exercise, though I try, and I’m equally determined to slow down and chew my food…I just won’t be chewing many more store-bought pizza and fake cheese.

Note: Apparently, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with Analogue Cheese from a health point of view. For those with food allergies it can be a helpful substitute, but it’s not as if we’ve not heard that before. In addition, I don’t care whether it’s harmful. At the very least, it’s fraud.