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  • Andrew McKenna

Eating the whole thing


Lunch in the Treetop kitchen. Comfrey and teff pancakes, avocado, mung beans, carrots, rocket and dandelion, umeboshi (salted plums) on a bed of black rice and quinoa. Oh, and topped with some Treetop almond feta.

I’m not normally one to post my meals on social media, but it’s worth talking a little about whole foods. That’s one of the reasons I became interested in making non-dairy cheese. I really welcomed it when vegan/non-dairy/plant-based cheeses started appearing in shops. Keen to see what they were made of, I was disappointed to come across ingredients such as expeller pressed non-GMO canola, titanium dioxide, pea protein isolate, modified starch e1404, and ‘natural’ preservative E235.

While most of those have been declared safe, they are hardly natural whole foods.

I lived in New Zealand for a few years and while I was there an alternative meat company launched, and after looking at the list of ingredients I was similarly disappointed.

Every time a population adopts a Western diet high in processed foods, they get sick, and that includes Westerners, who have only adopted it over the last hundred years or so.

Look, all foods are processed in some way. Macadamias are picked from the tree, shelled and ground up. I add chickpea miso to them and let them ferment for 24-48 hours before cooking, to add a flavour burst and a hit of probiotics.

Food that’s been ground up and put in a jar is patently still food, but a lot of our food today is produced with chemicals: not natural elements but weird concoctions like those mentioned above.

Highly processed foods can contain:

· Preservatives: Chemicals that prevent the food from rotting.

· Colorants: Chemicals that are used to give the food a specific colour.

· Flavour: Chemicals that give the food a particular flavour.

· Texturants: Chemicals that give a particular texture.

They can contain dozens of additional chemicals that aren't even listed on the label.

Whole foods on the other hand are just that: whole. You look at them and know what they are.

I wouldn’t know what E235 was if it slapped me in the face. We’re safer to keep eating whole foods, those foods our ancestors ate for ever, without the addition of weird chemicals.

Treetop cheeses – and some other non-dairy cheeses on the market – simply combine whole foods in new ways, and while they’re at it give a flavour rush and mouth feel of dairy cheese.

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