When it comes to genetic modification, I’m a case-by-case girl. No, I see absolutely no reason to put flounder genes in potatoes or other cross-species splicing projects. That’s just fucking ridiculous. As well, I’m not a fan of systemic pesticides, double-stranded RNA or any of the other freaky styley shenanigans Monsanto is getting up to these days. I like organic whenever possible, but then again, I’m often too broke to support the hard-working farmers in their quest to provide foodstuffs that haven’t been meddled with or poisoned in the flesh. Feel free to imagine me staring very hard at a piece of fruit under the flow of the tap, whispering, “Are you going to poison me?”
No, It’s Not the Same as Sugar…
So, apart from my personal quirks with fruit and systemic pesticides, one thing that really gets me going is the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup in…well…everything. Okay, so, if you have no problems with this engineered sweetener, I’m not here to convert you. I don’t care what you eat. That’s between you and your brain, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, and colon. But one thing I must shout from the mountain top is that high fructose corn syrup is not just the same as sugar.
First, do you know what they have to do to make it?* It’s an industrial grade sweet shot. It’s sugar on steroids. Honey can’t compete. Dixie Crystals bows out of the running. And even the fig won’t touch those odds. It’s not that it’s sweeter than sugar, it’s in how your body processes the grab bag of sugars–glucose, fructose, and others–that result from the bacterial alteration. I can understand that the food politics involved make it cheaper than cane or fruit sugars to market. Corn is subsidized into next Tuesday in this country. Corn is, in one form or another, used in a lot of products on the domestic market.
All or Nothing With Labels
What I cannot understand is why such things need to be included in meat products. I was in the dreaded Walmart the other day to purchase a few things for dinner. There I was, perusing the sausage selections–of which there were many, and yes, get the humor out of your system now. I thought it would be a nice change of pace–pasta in a home-compiled sauce of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and grilled sausage. I had it in my hand–the Johnsonville Italian sausages–and something prompted me to read the label.
This is a dangerous habit to start, y’all. I sincerely advise taking the time to really understand what the more complex names and words are, because they aren’t always bad, but they can be intimidating. Kind of like that sentence. But it really gets dangerous when you are trying to avoid certain things–like gluten, soy, dairy, or unnecessary sugar. Those things seem to be in just about everything, unless you want to shell out the big bucks for the whole meats and raw foods. But once you start reading ingredients labels…it’s hard to stop.
Drop Those Jimmy Deans and Run
So there I was, placidly, unsuspectingly standing in front of the cold case with a neatly wrapped, attractively labeled packet of sausages in my hand. They looked so wholesome, so innocently sausage-like. I read the ingredients under my breath, “Pork, water,” okay so far. “High fructose corn syr–” Stop right there, bub. “Why the fuck is there high fructose corn syrup in my fucking sausages and why is it the third ingredient?” My voice boomed out over the polished concrete floor of the Neighborhood Market. An elderly woman a few feet away dropped the box of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages to the ground and stood staring at me.
I hastily begged her pardon and put the Johnsonville sausage back in its place. But you see, I almost always talk either to myself or to anyone who happens to be nearby when I go out shopping. I don’t have enough social exposure, so I get it where I can. What I was apologetic over was dropping the f-bomb like a 12 pound bright pink bowling ball in the middle of the afternoon. But there was good reason. I’m a diabetic. I don’t want to be eating a sausage that will spike my blood sugar just as sharply as a Happy Hour Special Dark milkshake from Steak and Shake and not understand why.
The Right to Choose My Poison
Moreover, if I’m going to consume something that hits my beta cells like hfcs, I want to do it knowingly, consciously, deliberately–not in the course of having a nice, savory sausage. That’s a stupid waste of a nasty sugar buzz. Perhaps what I really am on about with all this is the unnecessary addition of substances to foods that are perfectly fine, and perhaps better, without them. While I can very well read labels and ingredients lists, it seems that there are more and more brands that include these undesirable substances every time I shop, and a swiftly dwindling number of foods that haven’t been unnecessarily meddled with.
Yes, we could talk about the industrial food structure, but I think we both know that many of the additives that cause puzzlement or consternation in the consumer public are not matters of making a product better. Rather it comes to two things–politics and the artificially buoyed agricultural economy–wheat, corn, and soy to name a few crops that are particularly subsidized.
What I would love to do is to be able to purchase a package of sausage that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it for less than $10. It would seem that avoiding adding an ingredient is an expensive show of integrity for a producer. If I’m going to have a wicked buzz, I’d prefer to spend my indulgence on a bowl of ice cream or a carefully selected sweet. I don’t want to be a snarling jerk–which is an unfortunate personal quirk with high blood glucose–and not understand why. But that’s precisely what would have happened if I hadn’t innocently turned over the package to peruse the ingredients.
I know it’s crazy, but I get the nagging feeling that it shouldn’t be a constant battle to find food that hasn’t been messed with, augmented, changed, or fundamentally ruined. Is the sausage so bad that they simply had to add a sweetener to cover up the fact, or is it a vicious cycle of the American Palate–the need for sweetness at any price, in everything?