I would like to question the necessity and nature of cooking and preparing food, as well as the energy efficiency of consumption. Before I begin, here’s some background information:
The reason we need food is for one primary purpose – the acquisition of biological energy in the form of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. The purpose of the digestive system is to break down large foods into small molecules – a process which takes a great deal of energy to complete, resulting in a lot of wasted energy in the form of heat from respiration (unless you are living in a cold environment, of course, then it is beneficial). The gut provides the suitable conditions for this breaking-down process, and the lining of the intestines is perfectly adapted by increasing the surface area to absorb the food quickly. However, there are limiting factors to the amount of energy that can be absorbed into the bloodstream – resulting in wasted food which is expelled from the system.
But of course, before we actually can digest the food, we need to obtain it. In the past, our ancestors would use their cunning and skill to track and hunt wild animals, capture them, kill them, and then prepare them for consumption. The men who were most powerful, athletic, and intelligent, would be the most successful survivors. In the modern world of today, we humans are still using our intelligence to get to food – but instead of hunting animals, we are providing services for the people of the world – which allows us to acquire money, in order to purchase animals that have already been captured and then, in some cases, vigorously prepared. This is the same with fruits and vegetables too – although they are not hunted, they must be cultivated, grown and then harvested.
One simple problem I come across immediately, the amount of energy required to obtain the food.
Our ancient ancestors spent a lot of energy actually catching these animals – being strong and intelligent saved the time and effort required to do so. Otherwise, humans would have to pay someone for capturing these animals for them, which involved sacrifice of something they own. In the modern world, we cannot just go outside into forests and hunt animals like our ancestors. Most of the land is protected or owned by territorial law, and most of the animals on land are protected by preservation of nature laws. Nonetheless, we are managing the animals in a “stable” (pardon the pun) environment, where the only way of obtaining them without dispute is to pay for them. Therefore we must prepare every one of ourselves, every morning, for work, keeping the world turning, for another day. Then somehow we get paid, to which we then carefully select our food at markets and supermarkets (and sometimes upon impulse instead of what is actually needed). We then carry the food back to our homes, and in most cases, we then spend a good deal of time preparing and cooking the food, serving it up, and then cleaning after ourselves, ready for another day.
It is most clear at this point that the amount of energy required to absorb the food into the bloodstream so that it is readily available, is a very lengthy process and requires a great deal of energy to complete.
Now I would like to highlight an important issue. If the reason we have food is simply to acquire energy, do we really need to spend so much time cooking food? In retrospect, we more than often cook for ourselves and choose our foods because they taste good. Taste is one of our primary senses, and the arousal of the senses leads to a more stimulating experience, which only leads to pleasure and satisfaction. Aside from the fact that we need taste to determine if food is bad or rotten, we clearly are spending a lot of time and effort in just making the best taste possible. Does all of this effort not seem somewhat futile, knowing that we only need food for energy?
Therefore, food has no longer become the simple process of obtaining energy; it is now an art, and a point of pleasure. Just like music would originally be intended to tell ballads and stories and therefore to enlighten listeners, music is now used to arouse the audible senses. And one step further – television, arouses two senses, visual and audio. It is also therefore possible to see why intimacy and sexual activities are a most “pleasurable” experience – simply because, every single sense, including the more subtle senses such as balance, acceleration, temperature, knowing the position of your limbs, and pain, are being aroused. The more senses being stimulated, the more pleasurable an experience one is having. And food is so clearly becoming one similar to this – e.g. some people close their eyes when eating to heighten their sense of taste; desserts have become a general standard in most meals to accompany a main course, just for the exquisite flavour. But do we really need it?
Another great problem that the world currently has is obesity. People have literally let themselves go, and because food provides good taste and sensation to the brain telling one that the food is good, it instantly becomes a way of making oneself happy. And thus obese people can be entitled, “food addicts”. In my opinion, obesity is the manifestation of greed and selfishness, and is so very clearly, disgusting to see. While there are many countries that have easy and simple access to food without even leaving their home, many countries also struggle to even find food, let alone grow or catch it. Is it really fair that all the extra food consumed by humans be essentially wasted and stored as fat, when it could be saving the enriching the lives of other on this planet? Or would this cause even more problems – because the demand for food would climb even greater as the population is allowed to increase? Will the overpopulated worlds depicted in “Soylent Green” and “Logan’s Run” become our future, where the government has to control the population in terms of food resources and number of people that are allowed to live?
I hereby suggest some solutions to each of these problems, even though they may not be justifiable.
Increasing energy efficiency of obtaining food
· People cook less food, to save them from wasting energy by actually cooking food – instead, eat pre-prepared food that requires the least amount of effort to prepare for eating; or food in cans and bags
· Condensed food, such as the somewhat sceptical idea of pills (“Cube Zero” depicts this)
· Bypassing the digestive system and delivering energy straight into the blood (on a tangent, it could also be conceived that the myth of vampires who suck people’s blood, actually have poor digestive systems, and thus they obtain their energy directly from the blood of others, saving energy)
Reducing amount of wasted food
· Introduce a national or even global rationing system, to stop people from becoming obese, and to feed the poor, homeless and sick
· Changing people’s attitude towards food so that they only buy what they need
· Donating food to locations/countries that have a poor source of food
· Recycle food as fuel by using it as biomass
Promoting a sustainable source of food
· Growing food such as Quorn (minus the chicken egg white used to bind it), surimi or tofu inside factories, which does not waste heat from respiration in animals, which does not produce carbon dioxide and waste that animals do, and therefore reduces global warming as a result
· Growing muscle tissue in factories which is designed to mimic that of chickens, pigs etc.
· Homes grow their own food in their gardens
· Reducing the amount of animals grown and killed in favour of vegetarianism and veganism
I accept that many of these ideas are heavily controversial, however, with the way the world is currently running, I feel that only drastic measures such as these (but not necessarily these precisely) will enable the world to reach its goal of ending world hunger, preventing obesity, and ultimately, saving the planet, and our species. Only a big change will solve an even bigger problem, and things will only get worse, before they get better.