Foods That Lie

foodThe holier-than-thou among us — and Internet nerds — like to point out that our food is woefully contaminated by all manner of terrible crap.  Yeah, so what?  We all know that Grape-Nuts cereal doesn’t actually have any grapes in it — or nuts either, for that matter.  (It’s made of wheat and barley.)  And any European will tell you that American cheese might very well be American, but it certainly isn’t cheese.  In fact, it’s so far from cheese that the manufacturers — yes, manufacturers — have to call it a ‘cheese product.”  And that’s the thing.  These days, various government regulations make certain we’re aware of what we’ve about to put in our mouths, so if you don’t want to eat tridisodiumonotoneglycirodium phosphate or whatever? Simple solution:  don’t.  However, there’s still a lot of food out there casually strolling through legal loopholes to masquerade (“scam” is such a hard word) as something it’s not.
(BTW, this isn’t about GMOs.  That’s a whole different kettle of faux fish.)

Orange Juice — “100% pure orange juice” is orange juice.  However, in order for your breakfast beverage to survive the month or so it takes to get to you, the OJ people actually remove the oxygen from it.  This prevents the orange part of the juice from turning green and the juicy part of the orange from getting slimy.  Unfortunately, removing the oxygen also removes the smell and the taste.  Both of these are artificially reintroduced during processing.  This isn’t a nefarious plot to con you out of your orange juice.  Use your head!  It’s just a very long journey from the tree to your table.  If you want pure orange juice, buy oranges and squeeze them yourself.

Tuna — If you’ve been to a sushi restaurant lately and ordered tuna maki, tuna roll or tuna anything else, chances are good you didn’t actually get tuna.  You probably got escolar, a cheap and plentiful fish that’s been “substituted” for tuna (and not just in sushi restaurants) ever since overfishing devastated the wild tuna stocks.  The truth is the only way you can be sure you’re getting real tuna is pay the big money or buy it in a can.
And while we’re on the subject…

Wasabi — The hot green condiment that’s a staple of Japanese cuisine — except mostly it isn’t.  Real wasabi is prohibitively expensive (it only grows in a few places in Japan) so most sushi restaurants use a combination of horseradish, mustard and food colouring.  They call it wasabi because people like me don’t know the difference.

Olive Oil — You get what you pay for.  Real olive oil is mega-expensive. Anything else is a combination of other oils (soy, mostly) that have had olives carefully described to them.

Honey — Not all honey is created equal.  Some honey is created by bees in a hive.  However, other honey is created by folks in a factory who take a small amount of honey (enough to justify the name) and add fructose, sucrose, glucose and any other -ose they happen to have kickin’ around.  Technically, this is still honey, but in actual fact, it’s syrup.  The way to tell the difference?  The busy bee sugar is pure honey and will start to crystallize the minute you open the jar. The other stuff is too lazy to bother.

Blueberries — The only similarity between consumer blueberries (found in cereals, muffins, cakes etc.) and real round blueberries is both of them are blue.

Coffee — Most consumer brands of coffee have a small percentage of foreign bits and bobs hidden away in the grind.  Basically, this is just part of the harvesting, roasting, grinding process.  No big deal — it’s still coffee.  However, some of the cheaper brands actually add things like grain, soy beans and corn to the mix — just enough so they don’t have to claim them as ingredients on the label.  Coffee?  Kinda, but if you’re devoted to real coffee, buy the beans.

What it comes down to is pure food is all about the money.  Either ya pony up the big bucks for the good stuff, or ya shut up and eat your tridisodiumonotoneglycirodium phosphate.


Technical Difficulties

I seemed to have hit the wrong button and now WordPress won’t let me like, reply or even acknowledge comments.  We’re working on the problem.  I hope we can fix it very soon but until then I want everybody to know I’m not ignoring you.  Cheers WD

Food Snobs and the Quinoa Hoax

I‘ve been eating quinoa for several years now.  Like most things I eat, it just showed up on my plate one day and when I didn’t whine about it, it kept coming back.  However, I had no idea quinoa was cool until I was given a free lecture the other night at a dinner party.  Apparently, quinoa is an “ancient grain” and the best thing since zippers on jeans.  It has more nutrients, phosphorents, vitamins and protein per weight by volume (or vice versa) than anything else on the planet.  It can fix migraines, heart disease and … menopause?   Its calcium content is beyond compare.  It has enough fibre in it to cure whatever ails ya.  It fights free radical, better than James Bond.  And probably if you eat enough of it you will see Jesus – if you believe in Him — or some hocus-pocus god from Uruguay (if you don’t.)  I learned quite a few things the other night, but mostly I found out that food snobs give me a shooting pain.

Let me set the record straight on quinoa.  It might be called an “ancient grain,” but first of all, it isn’t even a grain.  Google tells us that it’s not a member of the grass family; it’s an edible seed.  Plus it isn’t actually any more ancient than most of the regular grains, like wheat, that ordinary people have been eating ever since Grog the Cro-Magnon got tired of hunting and bought riverfront property in Mesopotamia — about 10,000 years ago.  And finally, Google tells us, quinoa comes from South America where it was the staple food of the Incas for thousands of years.  Everybody ate it.  They practically worshipped the stuff.  The question then becomes: if quinoa, is literally stalk and kernel above everything else ever chewed and swallowed, how come the entire Inca nation, including an army of 80,000, got their ass kicked by Francisco Pizarro and 170 Spaniards, one Saturday afternoon in 1534?  The Incas might not have suffered from migraines or menopause, but they obviously couldn’t fight very well with that muck in their belly.  For my money, I think I’d be finding out what the Spaniards had for breakfast before I started making wild claims about “ancient grains.”

Here’s the real meal deal on quinoa and most of the other trendy foods that have been creeping into our diet lately.  They’re food.  They’ve been around for thousands of years.  They taste good (if the cook knows what to do with them) and they’re better for you than 90% of the processed food you find on Safeway shelves.  That’s it.  You can make the same claims about an orange, a lamb chop or spelt the (actual) ancient grain of the Bulgarians.  Quinoa is no more or less healthy than any of those.   It has all that fibre, calcium, manganese, copper etc. in it because it comes in a bag – all by itself.  It hasn’t been processed to death.

What food snobs don’t understand is it’s not the foods we eat that cause problems.  It’s the adventures that food has to go through to get to our plate that’re bad for us.  The things processors do to food ought to be illegal.  Read the labels!  Honestly, when Wonder Bread gets hold of quinoa, there isn’t going to be enough food value left in it to keep a good-sized cat alive.  And when it finally makes it to the Munchy-Crunchy Snack Bar stage, no amount of “Vitamin C added” will be able to save it.

You don’t have to look any further than breakfast.  One of the “healthiest” breakfast cereals around advertises itself as containing something called fibre twigs and clusters of whole grains.  What the hell is a fibre twig?  Is it a small shoot from a wild fibre tree?  And, by the way, what’s holding those whole grain clusters together?  Magic?  People who eat this stuff spit on Cheerios.  There’s another “healthy” cereal on the shelf that doesn’t even call itself food.  The ads say it’s a “meal replacement.”   I’m scared to look at the list of ingredients on that one.  I don’t care what the claims are, in general, if you’re going to have breakfast out of a box, you’d be just are far ahead to eat the box.  Notice, most of the cereal ads say “part of a nutritious breakfast” and show a picture of toast and orange

This is the problem with food snobs.  They think there’s something wrong with toast and jam.  They’ll kick people out of the way to get at clusters of whole grains held together by God only knows what chemical and turn up their noses at a scrambled egg – which has absolutely every nutrient needed for human survival (cholesterol aside.)  They also don’t realize that just because nobody’s ever heard of something doesn’t always make it better for you.  Sometimes, finding that new fruit or vegetable in the health food store is the result of refrigeration and the global economy.  It’s not an Amazonic cure for cancer.  It’s just an exotic version of the ordinary apple or carrot we all grew up with.