Barbara Kingsolver has pretty much nailed it:
Woe is us, we overfed, undernourished U.S. citizens – we are eating poorly for so many reasons. A profit-driven, mechanized food industry has narrowed down our variety and overproduced corn and soybeans. But we let other vegetables drop from the menu without putting up much of a fight. In our modern Café Dysfunctional, “eat your vegetables” has become a battle cry of mothers against presumed unwilling subjects. In my observed experience, boys in high school cafeterias treat salad exactly as if it were a feminine hygiene product, and almost nobody touches the green beans. Broccoli was famously condemned in the 1990s from the highest office in the land. What’s a mother to do? Apparently, she’s to shrug and hand the kids a gigantic cup of carbonated corn syrup. Corn is a vegetable, right? Good, because on average we’re consuming 54.8 gallons of soft drinks, per person, per year.
Mom is losing, no doubt, because our vegetables have come to lack two features of interest: nutrition and flavor. Storage and transport take predictable tolls on the volatile plant compounds that subtly add up to taste and food value. Breeding to increase shelf life has also tended to decrease palatability. Bizarre as it seems, we’ve accepted a tradeoff that amounts to: “Give me every vegetable in every season, even if it tastes like a cardboard picture of its former self.” You’d think we cared more about the idea of what we’re eating than about what we’re eating. But then, if you examine the history of women’s footwear, you’d think we cared more about the idea of showing off our feet than about, oh, for example, walking. Humans can be fairly ridiculous animals.
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
If you want to read a passionate and beautifully written ode to food, it doesn’t get much better than this book.