Tue | Aug 22, 2017

What are we really eating?

Published:Tuesday | February 24, 2015 | 2:00 AM

My daddy asked me a terrifying question on Sunday night: "Where do carrots come from?"

Fear washed over me. It wasn't dissimilar to the fear you feel when your child asks, "Where do babies come from?" But I actually think that this was worse. I know where babies come from, and I can explain to a child, with minimal effort, an age-appropriate explanation.

However, to answer my daddy's question, I was blank. I had never before given it thought. Now probed for a response, I realised there was nowhere for the daddy carrot to put anything in the mummy carrot; that I had never in life seen a carrot seed; and even I couldn't buy the carrot stalk story my head was trying to brew.

Where do carrots come from?

I turned to the beacon of all knowledge, the cove of all wisdom that is good, and frantically searched for the answer. According to Google, carrots are expected to grow for two years and only then do the leafy tops bend to reveal seeds from which carrots grow.

I know the carrots I've eaten don't grow for two years. And I've gone to country and reaped carrots on many occasions, and not once have I ever seen a seed in the leafy tops. Odd.

Carrots got me thinking about the entire gamut of food that I ingest and their true origins. I started to question how much I really knew about what I ate.

My original food phobia had always been human and animal centred. My questions before were more like:

The cashier really going to collect money and serve my food?

Where have all the stray puppies gone?

Why she talking so much over the special fried rice?

How come that pea is crawling?

But this stall not near a bathroom, so where does he wash his hands after he does his 'business'?

Where does he do his 'business'?

None of the answers to these questions ever made me comfortable, and the "Where do carrots come from" answer provided by my trusted Google is no more comforting. There really is little I know about some of the things I eat. With blind faith, I ingest fully grown six-week-old chickens and pesticide-sprayed vegetables and GM fruit.

That GM thing bugs me. Perhaps it shouldn't, but it does. I wish we would spell out what GM really is. GM sounds sexy. I would want to go on a date with a GQ man and eat some GM food. But when you say what GM actually is, the idea of eating something 'genetically modified' creeps me out.

And yet, the scientist friends around me tell me were it not for GM foods, the world could not be fed. They tell me I would have had to wait many, many more months for bananas after Hurricane Ivan were it not for GM foods. They tell me farmers would be plagued by disease-ridden crops were it not for the miracle of GM in developing pest-resistant strains of crops. So I'm on the fence.

Food and health

Modern science hasn't yet been around long enough to dispel or establish a correlation between our food that started in a lab and our health. Doctors often attribute the rise in instances of critical illness to what we eat; but their explanation as to the direct correlation is often vague. There is clearly still a lot to be learnt.

I bought a papaya on the weekend that was bigger than my head (and my head is pretty sizable). The greedy girl in me was excited when I first saw it in the market stall thinking, "Bigger is better." Now having had this conversation with Daddy, and thinking about the modification that may have caused this giant fruit to end up in my kitchen, I refuse to eat it.

And so as paranoia seeps in, I think I'm going to cook more ... and maybe start a backyard garden. One thing's for sure: "Wah eye nuh see, heart nuh leap."

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.