What is TACT?
These used to be the 4 standards of good food. That’s how my grandparents taught my parents, and how my parents taught me.
A simple plate of stir fried Chinese broccoli. The vegetables should have a nice green color. It should smell like freshly cut vegetables, have nice taut texture and not overcooked and it should taste, well, like vegetables.
But this is before food became scientific. The TACT standards are no longer enough to validate how good the food really is for you.
Nowadays, All fruits and vegetables are colorful. That’s because colors can be infused into our crops genetically. An apple looks more “red” than they should be and an orange is, well, more orange color.
With the latest scientific ‘break-through’, we can now grow apples that do not oxidize after you cut it. You know how usually after you cut an apple, their flesh turns brown? That is oxidation and it used to be a way to tell you how fresh the apple is after you cut it. If it turns brown, you know its been sitting around for awhile. Now there are apples that are genetically modified that would just stay green after you cut it, for days and days. Still think that apple is fresh? Well, think again.
Have you ever ‘smelled’ artificial flavors?
Have you burned an ‘apple pie’ candle?
Have you smelled a ‘lavender’ room spray?
Scientists can pretty much simulate any smell that you’re used to, using nothing but chemicals that are mostly toxic to humans and animals. But you won’t smell the toxicity in the candle. Scientific foods nowadays are so good that they fool our senses into thinking that they are good for our bodies.
What about the Taste? As a kid, growing up I remember oranges to be slightly sweet with some tartness to it. These days, growers can genetically modifying oranges so that they are sweeter. But sweeter oranges don’t mean they have more vitamin C or it’s better for you. It just helps retailers sell them easier.
How about this? Do you like having fish with your Strawberries?
Many berries are now injected with fish DNA to keep the berries from freezing, even after the fruit has traveled and refrigerated for long distances and handled through growers, wholesaler, distributors, to the final consumer.
How about having some frog with your tomatoes? Did you know frog DNA is injected into tomatoes because certain frogs produce a chemical that repel the pests that eat tomatoes? So now you have tomatoes that are immune to these pests because it also produces the same frog chemical. Is that scientific enough for you?
Do you love to eat whole-wheat toast, whole-wheat pasta or whole-wheat cereal? Think that eating “whole wheat “ is healthy for you? Wheat as we know it is not the same that our ancestors ate. What we used to call ancient grain wheat was actually healthy.
Ancient grains wheat grew slow and was very short, and breads made from it were hard and crumbly. Not what you associate with breads, which is probably soft and fluffy right?
So wheat growers genetically modified the Ancient Grains wheat so that they would grow faster and bigger and took out certain parts of the grain so it produces the softness and fluffiness of the breads we know today.
Whole-wheat cereal? They are so heavily processed that any remaining nutrients in the wheat are gone.
Corn has a similar fate. The demand for corn as animal feed has grown so much that companies are turning to science to make them grow faster, bigger, last longer and resistant to pesticides.
So the traditional standards of taste, aroma, color and texture are no longer sufficient to tell what is truly good food.
Crops have been so genetically modified, sprayed with all types of pesticides and fed with chemicals that will make them more sustainable in harsh weather, to grow faster, and to last longer in stores. And they are all perfectly shaped and sized. Rarely do we see ugly fruits and vegetables in store.
Eating out at restaurants? The aroma of fried foods always tricks you to go where the smell is coming from. Whether it’s fried chicken, fried Twinkies or French fries.
Your mind is tricked from an earlier childhood memory of how good fried foods taste. Eating too much fried foods is bad for you but moderation is ok once in awhile.
However choose your fried foods carefully. They may all smell great, but if the French fries are a dark brown color, then it is either over-fried, or the oil that was used to fry the food was really old.
We recently went to an Asian restaurant that was crazy busy during weekends and is known for its great food at great prices. We weren’t impressed as we found the food to be drenched in poor quality oil, and the meats were over tenderized with baking soda and seasoned with MSG and who-knows-what to probably mask the taste of lower quality ingredients. Even the soup was also cooked in MSG.
Foods cooked with old or low quality oil will come out darker in color and usually leaves a heavy and rough feeling on your tongue. As for MSG, you can tell because it makes you thirsty. But since your brain can’t distinguish between thirst and hunger, the MSG tricks your brain that the food taste better than it actually is making you eat more of it.
What we saw was the color of old oil, smell of freezer burn and taste of MSG. The food didn’t seem so appetizing to us and we barely ate any of the food after a few bites.
It’s was weird that most of our friends was praising how good the food tasted after we left. Is it simply we had different taste buds from them, were we food snobs?
The reality is that most people are used to eating that type of foods as most Chinese restaurants use similar ways of cooking. They just mentally relate that specific taste and feeling of MSG and oil with the home-cooked, warm feeling.
We tend to choose our foods based on how we think it is going to make us feel, hence the phrase ‘Comfort food’. Because, well, we think it makes us feel secure and comforting, just like at home.
Your bodies learned to associate the smell of the old oil and the taste of MSG as signs of good food. It’s these chemicals that have hijacked their brains and their bodies to crave oily foods and MSG.
Then what should the new standards of food be?
Well, we think, good food must start with good, toxic free ingredients. If you consistently eat real food that is minimally processed, eventually, you train your taste buds to relate these good, clean ingredients to being ‘good food’. And once your taste buds are trained, your brain will learn and will tell you to keep eating well. At that point, it becomes a habit, and you no longer have to think about it.
I was lucky enough to grow up eating home cooked meals through my teens. My mom was an awesome cook; able to make all sorts of exotic Chinese dishes and my Brother was an Executive chef at a Prestigious Chinese Restaurant.
My mother will always shop for fresh produce that she planned to cook for 5 days and everything was made from scratch. MSG was never used and food was lightly stir fried in oil, never heavily drenched in it. My favorite dish, which was deep fried Pork chops, was always lightly battered with egg white and a little flour, salt and pepper and lightly fried to a nice Light tan color.
As for my brother he spoiled me to how High quality Chinese food should taste like. He taught me what to look for when going to restaurants, how to tell good quality from low quality ingredients and what to look for when they try to hide the taste or smell of low quality ingredients. Maybe that does make me a food snob and why Restaurants we find good may not taste good to others.
When I say good ingredients, meats and veggies should be fresh before they are cooked. This retains their natural colors, texture and taste. They should not be heavily seasoned, marinated, over tenderized or fried ahead of time.
Real food. Of course everything is real food right? Well dishes should come out looking like it did with the fresh ingredients it was prepared with. If you ordered a fish dish, you better see a fish and not just a few pieces of a fish in the dish. Ordered a beef dish, I prefer to see a whole steak or at least full slices of beef in the dish, not just bits and pieces not knowing what cuts of beef it came from. And Chicken, one of my favorite sources of protein, I like to see the whole chicken, sliced up and preferably roasted. If serving chicken breast, I prefer to see the whole breast rather than just bits and pieces like the beef, not knowing how long the chicken has been sitting in the kitchen.
Fresh ingredients just taste good. They have a certain texture, smell and taste that doesn’t need to be hidden by over processing. I know all cuisines prepare their foods differently, but if they are serving really fresh ingredients, they don’t need to hide the dish in sauces, over fry them, over marinade or season them with MSG. The taste of fresh ingredients should just shine through with minor seasoning. Good steak taste amazing with just a little salt and pepper as seasoning. Fresh fish steamed with a little oil drizzled over soy sauce is amazing!
Now are you hungry for some real, good, clean, colorful food? We are, so off we go.
***Andrew is a serial entrepreneur and nutrition coach, with 30 years as a self-start business expert
******Minna is a business consultant for 18 years, working for high tech companies as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions. ***
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