Sarah Carey: ‘Oven chips rank up there with fertility control when it comes to women’s rights’ –

It's so nice when other women give you permission to be a bit useless. Usually they're making you feel worse.

So look, I know. I know the packaging is terrible. I know we eat too much take-out. I know it's not as healthy as the real thing. But let's face it, we're all worn out and I'm tired spending my life feeling like a failure.

My new year's resolution is to wake up every day grateful for the fact that I can walk into a shop and buy a stir-fry with pre-chopped vegetables.

They won't tell you this in the 400 articles you're going to read about a healthy diet for 2020, but processed food is the best thing to happen to women. In the history of women's rights, oven chips should rank up there with control of fertility, equal pay and washing machines. The next time someone complains about processed food, ask them if they'd like to be churning their own butter.

Instead of feeling that we're letting the family down, perhaps we should recognise that the way we eat now is both a luxury and liberation.

My mother tells the story of having to bring a car to be serviced and spending all day in the garage 30 miles from home. She was driving back exhausted to a house full of children and men from the farm to be fed. In desperation, she called into a local restaurant and asked the owner if she could bring home some chips. They said no. Totally depressed, she had to continue on home and put on the potatoes. It was just one of many experiences that knocked any illusions out of her about the moral value of home cooking. "Never be a slave to a dinner," she warned me.

It's interesting that both she and the woman in the supermarket queue used the same term: slave. There are now 11 takeaways in our small village and no one has to go home after a hard day and put on the potatoes.

Women were slaves to food preparation because they had no other choice.

But now some of us are slaves to our own minds. We cook when there's no need or throw a frozen pizza in the oven but suffer crushing guilt for so doing. As an added bonus, wives sometimes resent husbands, who are often quicker to take the easy way out and order in.

It reminds me of the Bob Marley line: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery."

That's what we need to do. Buy the processed food but feel good instead of bad about it.

It's not easy when you never hear a good word about processed food.

But when I was pregnant I used to get that horrible hyperemesis - vomiting all day, every day. At one point, the only thing I could keep down was a McDonald's hamburger. Talking to the nutritionist in Holles Street, I confessed my guilty secret. But she was quite clear. There was protein in the meat, carbohydrates in the bread and fat in the sauce. "That's a meal. It's nutrition. Relax."

But it's hard to get over the moral anxiety attached to food which appears to have replaced our sexual neuroses.

This Christmas, I found myself staring in horror at "pre-peeled potatoes" in the supermarket. It felt so wrong. Surely this was cheating and slothful?

I thought about those potatoes a lot and my judgemental reaction.

Peeling potatoes is a pain in the arse. If it can be outsourced, then why not? Because the freshly peeled potatoes lose nutrition and don't taste as nice? We are not short of nutrition and maybe a few less-than-perfect spuds won't ruin Christmas.

But I couldn't do it and in the end my husband was kind and peeled the spuds. Everyone said the roast potatoes were gorgeous, so maybe it was worth it. But I think I'll risk it next year and see if anyone notices.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure I'll ever buy a Christmas pudding. The one we make is far too nice.

But there's a tendency to indulge in nostalgia about traditional diets and local food. People ate local food because they were poor, not because it was sustainable. Seasonal food sounds virtuous but the reason people gave thanks for the harvest was because they were hungry waiting for it.

In the history of humanity, entire civilisations were built on the desperation to import nicer food. Wars were fought over sugar and spice and the Greeks knew that when people were driven to eating root vegetables and greens, times were bad.

So let's not forget how hard life used to be, and how hard our life now is in different ways. Crushed with pressure to be good workers, good entertainers, good parents and to look forever young, the last thing we need is to feel bad about the things that make us the most privileged people in history.

Irish Independent

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Sarah Carey: 'Oven chips rank up there with fertility control when it comes to women's rights' -

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