Turning away from ‘clean’ eating

If you have lived in Hong Kong for the last couple years, you would have noticed that the city shifts between various trends. For awhile, the city was obsessed with Korean foods and exports (Thanks a lot Descendants of the Sun), then there was the matcha craze, the brunch food craze; and when renowned British chefs like Tom Aikens, Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton opened their Hong Kong outposts, there was a brief renaissance of English classics like fish and chips and sausage with mash… Trust me, food trends should be embraced! It demonstrates that Hong Kong, as a global, metropolitan city, is receiving new ideas and culture and innovating itself to become better. While sometimes, we may disagree with these new fads, it is more likely to do with personal opinion rather than a general abhorrence of the trend itself. But there is one trend in this city that I have an issue with – a rather big issue too – and that is the rise of ‘clean’, organic, gluten-free foods.

If your body is intolerant to a variety of things – gluten, lactose, sugars, then there is nothing wrong with eating clean. It isn’t a sin to eat healthy. After all, no matter how much foodies will contest the point, we eat to live rather than live to eat. But when you see hordes of people instagramming kale, slathering avocado on everything God ever put on this earth, and avoiding starches like the bubonic plague, it is clearly evident that this trend has gone to far and has to be stopped.

Health eating has transcended over the realms of food – it has become a status of sorts. As people get wealthier, they spend more on wellness products. Walk into any social gathering and announce that you are a vegan/gluten-free/juice cleansed individual and you would most likely be met with adorning eyes. Rather than holding a coffee, it is now trendy to carry a bottle of juice (ice pressed of course, God forbid you drink regular juice) and munch on raw kale leaves. Just like India, where it is a sign of status and nobility to eat vegetarian and abhor meats, our city is descending into the same train of thought – rejecting animal proteins, grains and the occasional sugary, fatty treat is the trendy thing to do, and it is a demonstration of one’s class and ‘dedication’ to their own bodies. Bullshit, I say.

Answer me honestly, does kale actually taste nice? The green concoctions you see people chugging in Central and Admiralty, would you prefer that over a diet coke? The problem is, no matter how hard people try to make ‘clean’ eating work, ‘dirty’ food simply tastes nicer. Enthusiasts can spend hours arguing the merits of vegetarian meats and gluten free pastas and it would still be pointless, as a real piece of meat and real pasta will undoubtedly taste better. The flavours of authentic sugars, protein and fats will trump synthetically produced ones. I stand by the notion that food should be judged by their taste, and taste only. On that basis alone, ‘clean’ eating fails. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend made me a dessert she copped from a well known vegan, clean eating YouTuber. It was cunningly named ‘Banana sundae’, but rather than using cream and sugar to make ice cream, it consisted of pureed frozen bananas and coconut oil, some healthy sugar substitute and raw cocoa. The minute I tasted it, I longed for a real banana sundae, where the ice cream melts on the tongue into a cooling puddle and the taste of cream and sugar lingers in your palette. This was harsh, discoloured, grainy and tasted of ice cream not at all. It made me question the whole point of clean eating – whether or not it is a marketing ploy cleverly set up by health food companies seeking to exploit gullible individuals by convincing them that they were not healthy as they ate, *gasp*, normally. Indeed, with the rise of health foods around the world, the price of superfoods and organic produce have skyrocketed. You will practically have to sell your testicles and kidneys to afford Quinoa, chia seeds, kale and other things health gurus online believe you cannot stay healthy without. Connecting to the point above, while people spend more on wellness and health products, this also opens up new niches and new consumers for big corporates to exploit. Perhaps we are all just sheep after all, following trends set by individuals like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chrissy Teigen.

You can eat ‘dirty’ and still remain healthy. Our ancestors never abhorred meats, fats and grains like we did, and yet, it is common knowledge that our generation is regarded as the unhealthiest of them all. As long as there is a balance between your vegetables and your proteins, along with a moderate amount of carbohydrates on the side, you will live a relatively healthy life. So why subject yourself to countless avocado toasts, synthetic vegetarian ‘meats’ and green mystery juices? So, do yourself a favour, step away from the quinoa and get yourself some damn pork