Preserved Lemons: Dressings and Drinks

Kitchen Counter Culture

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Fermented Preserved Lemons: delicious in dressings; refreshing in drinks. Tart, salty, bitter, tangy, matured in lemon juice and sea salt, Preserved Lemons are a great larder item for the lacto-fermenting cook.  I made a batch several months ago, and they’ve really come into their own. I’ve been playing with them a bit, and getting obsessed with their bold brightness– or is it a bright boldness?–how they refuse to be denied presence, they refuse not to shine.

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Lemon Rosemary Cake with Lemon Curd Filling & Brebis Frosting

I do so love knowing people who are deliciously multitalented. This looks like a wonderful summer cake.

Second Banana Photography

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. For me that problem is cheese. I could eat it at every meal if allowed…which is why I felt an overwhelming urge to incorporate it into a dessert. So I thought to myself, “Hey, if we’re throwing savory ingredients into a cake, why not add some fresh herbs too?”  And that is how the Lemon Rosemary Cake came into being.

Our new rosemary plant has been doing particularly well. Unfortunately for it, I was required to sacrifice some of it’s appendages to the baking gods. I purchased the eggs and cheese from Many Fold Farm, a family owned operation located near my house. Their products are absolutely amazing! The Brebis (a mild sheep’s milk cheese) makes a perfect snack when slathered on crostini with a drizzle of honey, but I digress.

Anyway, I had the perfect…

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The Edible Memory: Feijoada, Fry Bread, and More

A few weeks ago, I was indulging in my latest Netflix addiction, The Layover.  One in a string of Anthony Bourdain’s creations–all of which seem to allow him to travel, eat, and drink as he pleases–this one offers travelers some advice on what to see, do, and eat should they have a day or so in a given city.  In one particular episode, he was actually in Brazil, in a city that was not Rio de Janeiro.  Be amazed.  São Paulo is the seventh most populous city (proper) in the world and the second largest in the Western Hemisphere.  What caught my eye was not the cosmopolitan urban atmosphere or the presence of a bustling fashion industry.

Nope.  It was the Feijoada, touted as Brazil’s signature cuisine or dish.  Mr. Bourdain was rhapsodizing about how delicious it was, and true to the character of his programs attempting to provide a bit of background about it.   But to my distress, that background was actually incorrect.  Feijoada was not created by slaves on Brazilian plantations any more than barbecue was created by slaves on plantations in the American South.  This got me to thinking about how we memorialize cultural suffering through food. Additionally, the ways in which food involves our whole brain and how that helps to cement important cultural events, practices, and ideas is like a small dog biting at my heels.

 

A Cousin to Cassoulet

Feijoada is a thick bean stew rich with pork, the cuts of which may be tougher or less appealing when considered alone–ears, feet, scraps from dressing other portions.  Dismantling a myth that has become a part of the common cultural narrative in any country is a tricky proposition.  While I’m perfectly willing to accept that feijoada 0e5f8580-2353-4a7a-ab04-0d8afe32caa1may have been a popular preparation method by Brazilian slaves, since it does render tougher and less desirable cuts of meat edible, the dish isn’t even Brazilian in origin.  Rather, it has roots in the bean stews popular in Southern Europe–Portugal in particular–much like  cassoulet.  What is a unique innovation in the traditional stew is the use of black beans, something that Europeans didn’t typically have access to, and which replaced the chickpeas, kidney beans, or white beans.

So, why do many Brazilians believe this myth about their national dish?  Some would suggest that there’s a romanticism about the story–slaves, worked to death, sometimes quite literally, and living in inhuman conditions, subsisting on meager rations of rice and beans.  When their cruel overlords tossed them the scraps from their overflowing tables, they created a delicious and sustaining dish that came to be the national pride of Brazil’s culinary offerings.  Yes, that sounds amazing.  Unfortunately, the national dish is more a tribute to the European roots of the national entity of modern-day Brazil than it is an homage to the strength of the human spirit.  This doesn’t make it any less delicious or any less important from a cultural perspective.  But its particular importance is just not what many believe it to be.

Read more about feijoada and follow the cited resources to Brazil’s National Archives and a wonderful book about the history of Brazil’s cuisine.  http://flavorsofbrazil.blogspot.com/2010/03/origins-of-feijoada-another-urban.html

 

Bread to Mark the Long Walk

But not all culturally important foods are surrounded by such misconceptions.  Sometimes, the stories of suffering they tell are very real, as well as the symbols of survival and unity that they become.  Fry bread was first created in 1864 after U.S. troops forcibly relocated the Navajo people onto land that could not support their traditional food ways.  Vegetables and beans required more water and land more arable than this new home could provide.  In order to forestall starvation among the people they had forcibly relocated over 300 miles from their homes, the U.S. government provisioned them with canned goods, processed sugar, and white flour.

Hence, fry bread was born.  While this soft, bubbly bread–dense and filled with reservoirs of warm grease–is today a symbol of their perseverance–it’s also problematic. blog-frybread-1 It has become interwoven with the justifiable pride the Navajo feel in their homes, families, and life way.  It is a central icon, about which popular songs are written, and which is emblematic of the Navajo people.  But it is completely void of any valuable nutrition.  It is starvation food–fat and starch to sustain a dying people. Because it is the symbol of resilience and heritage remembrance, it is consumed regularly.

While the bread requires skill to produce the perfect round, and so is also generally associated with beloved older relatives and members of the community, it may also be responsible for some of the serious health problems widely experienced within the culture.  What is even more distressing is that it is not restricted to the Navajo people.  I remember Indian Taco Thursdays at UNM, where several individuals would produce fresh fry bread with meat,  beans, and other toppings right on the spot.  What began as a hardship food has now been tied to other traditional breads eaten in many regions of the United States and Mexico.

It is found at many gatherings, and is even the State Bread of South Dakota.  It may also be killing the very people who value what it represents.  Both formal statistics and the informal estimates of health workers associated with several Southwestern populations paint a grim picture.  As many as half of the adults among these populations suffer from diabetes–and fry bread is indicated as a primary culprit.  However, as it stands, even members of the cultural groups in question find it difficult to disentangle the dangerous food from its place in intertribal celebration of identity, survival, and creativity.

Further Reading: 

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/frybread-79191/?no-ist

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/11/28/native-american-heritage-month-frybread-dreams-poem-richard-walker-145957

 

Sacred Meals, Soul Food, and Cultural Retention

It occurs to me now that I’m not capable of keeping this short.  I could probably find enough material to write a book about each one of my examples.  However, to keep it from getting to that point in this single blog entry, I will attempt the heretofore unpracticed skill of Brevity.  Occasions like the sacred meal of the Seder are intended to call to mind specific cultural events.  seder-plate-1_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni18col.landscapeThe Jewish tradition is one of the best examples of this type of cultural retention, but there are other practices that also perform a similar, if less ritualized, function.

Soul Food, unlike feijoada, has its roots in slave culture.  Rather than delve into the complex and tangled development of this cuisine, I will–at least for the moment–cut to the chase.  It’s noted that Soul Food originated in the southern U.S. and comprises a portion of other more general southern cuisines.  But it’s something special, in my estimation, because it didn’t stay put.  With some exceptions, if you want actual Southern Food, you have to go to the South. 122111-health-soul-food As well, what that term means may change depending on where in the South you land.  However, Soul Food traveled with the population that commonly prepared it–the African American community.  That is why you can find it all over the country–because it’s cultural as much as it is geographic in its roots and its repetition.

Further Reading:

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/1998/jewish/The-Seder-Plate.htm

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/soul-food-brief-history

 

Memory in the Production, Reaffirmation in the Sharing

The sort of hardship, inequality, or injustice that shaped many of these culinary traditions and specifically valued dishes is something worth remembering.  Recalling these themes reinforces social cohesion and even specific familial solidarity, calling to mind resilience to oppression or a triumph over significant odds.  Food is perhaps the easiest template through which to encourage remembrance, because it can be replicated in most places and times.  It also incorporates all the areas of our brain–from sensory regions to motor functions.  It bridges the barrier between the non-verbal limbic system and our linguistic faculties.

It is edible memory.  It represents a sharing that–even though hearth tongues fade and new ways of being are increasingly accepted within a community–is never forgotten.  Perhaps this is why so many different cultures append complex constellations of meaning to simple food items.  We often have a love-hate relationships with traditional foods that bear our history–pleasurable association and unpleasant alike.  Some traditional foods, like fry bread and Soul Food cooked in Crisco or lard are highly valued for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not they’re good for us.

Further Reading:

http://foodanthro.com/2010/03/11/food-memory-and-cultural-heritage/

http://harvardpress.typepad.com/hup_publicity/2012/05/food-and-memory-john-allen.html

 

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The Stone Soup Initiative: Food Sovereignty and Why It’s Important

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This week has been flooded with other work, so I haven’t had a chance to post in any significant fashion.  The important thing is that I’m here now, with some new thoughts, different aspects of the overall issue, and a couple of problems, which I hope you’ll join me in pondering.  I’ll also be discussing the ticklish subject of social protest of inequality and the sometimes-distressing actions of a small portion of any community that chooses violent means of expression.  There will be those of you who disagree with my assessment; while I welcome your opinions, I will ask that if you choose to share, you remain courteous.

 

Animosity Towards the Poor.

I’ve spoken about the hostile attitude many seem to hold towards those who are impoverished, especially if they are receiving assistance in the form of SNAP or TANF.  This caused me to ask questions about why animosity towards those with less seems to ebb and flow.  To what other social phenomena is it connected, because it certainly seems to be bound to other social attitudes.  After some rather serious discussion with a friend yesterday, the answer is both simple and complex–the attitude is tied to how vast the gap of inequality is at the time.  When more people tend to have an even social situation–jobs are good, the economy is not a limping and wounded animal, food is abundant–there tends to be less vituperative rhetoric aimed at the poor.

Those in poverty are almost always demonized, no matter how fat and happy most of a culture tends to be, but when times are good, it’s a lot less.  America seems to have had it out for the impoverished since its inception, and this has a lot to do with our Parent cultures’ attitudes towards that segment of society.  Work houses, exploitation of the powerless, and the foundations of Dickensian melodrama are all part of that.  For those of you not familiar with American Colonial History, I’ll be happy to recommend several texts that include historical plans of what to do about The Poor.

There is, to a certain extent, some necessity for social inequality within any stratified society.  Someone must be at the bottom, doing the jobs no one else wants to do.  But that we vilify these individuals is unnecessary.  Who picks up your garbage? Who flips your burgers or waits upon you when you dine out? Who performs all the essential functions of a developed society that often go unnoticed?  These jobs are not especially high-paying, and are often done by those you look down upon.  But, what if these people suddenly disappeared? can you see your cities with trash flowing into the streets, restaurants and gas stations closed for business because there was no one there to serve patrons, and any other number of small breakdowns that become incrementally larger with time?

 

What Is Food Sovereignty and How Is It Political?

The acquisition of food is a well-known part of the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but how does it play into sovereignty? This is a term borrowed from agricultural movements and was coined in 1996.  Strictly defined,

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. (Emphasis original)

The biggest problem with programs like SNAP is that they provide limited assistance and allow only partial access to a restricted array of foods.  I know, I can hear the voices of some of you now.  “But we give them money to buy food!  They’re ungrateful!”  I answer these not imagined protests with this:

We all pay into social programs through our taxes, including these people who are presently drawing assistance.  What is this conception that they’ve been living high on the hog on your dime for their entire lives?  Oh, right.  You drew that from a politician’s speech.  Probably the same one that said he’d seen a poor person buying steak with “Food Stamps,” but who hasn’t set foot inside a grocery store in a decade.

The characterization of the poor as lazy, ungrateful, decadent animals is popular, and by no means a new thing.  The elite classes of many cultures have leaned on this caricature in many time periods–including the French Aristocracy prior to the Revolution, politicians vilifying immigrant populations in many countries at many times in the past and present, power-hungry despots.  Now you too can join that club, except you don’t make nearly enough money, and really what you’re doing is contributing to the power base of people who do and simply want to use your fear of losing what little you have to control you.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s move on to explore how food sovereignty can be applied to our current culture.  Choosing what you eat  could be considered an aspect of this larger idea.  Having the right  to purchase some foods that are less healthy along with some that are more nutritious is a major benchmark of autonomy in our society.  You get to decide how to eat in your own home.

Now, given what we know about the limited ways in which SNAP funds can be spent in order to maximize their effectiveness on the family budget, how is food sovereignty directly impacted by these programs?  When the primary provisioner of a household must decide between fresh foods or higher quality products in order to ensure that the members of the family eat for the entire month, the grocery isle calculus can become pretty complex.

To a certain extent, everyone does this, no matter how much money they make.  The difference between those not receiving assistance and those who are is that often, the latter devote a significantly larger portion of their earnings to the realms of food and housing–and they can rarely escape the cycle, even if they are part of a dynamic where all adults work.  While I’ll be the first to admit that this is only a symptom of a larger problem, the symptom is troubling in and of itself.  But let’s leave this for a moment and move on to a different aspect.

 

To Whom is Food Sovereignty Denied?

I’ve already discovered that I’m going to have to cut this segment into several pieces, so I will be revisiting the topic in greater detail.  However, before I sign off, I’d like to put the question above out there for consideration.  In American culture overall, food autonomy has typically been denied to children, prisoners, and slaves.  These are three groups that vary drastically in their makeup, and the reasons for curtailing that nutritional agency varies accordingly.  For children and slaves–yes, we are going there–the idea that they are unable to choose wisely for themselves or adequately care for themselves has been the root of denial.

In both cases, food is also used as a method of control, and whether or not we really want to consider it, when we entertain ideas like revoking the SNAP assistance of those who protest inequality in a way we dislike, we are pulling these concepts firmly back into play.

“I’m going to take away your food until you behave as I think you should.” We are proposing using food as a weapon to ensure compliance and docility in a population we fear.  In particular cases today, I don’t think it’s a strictly ethnic issue, but rather one of social class.  The Haves are terrified of the Have Nots, and want to keep them in line. This is made abundantly clear when certain people start getting bent out of shape over the destruction of property, rather than the human rights violations and depressed social equality that led to the destruction in the first place.

They begin using words like “my community” and “allow.”  First, this didn’t happen in your community, because if it did, you might have a single clue about what actually occurred.  Second, you really don’t have any say in the situation, so stop pretending like these hungry, oppressed people have done you some personal harm–or that you actually think starving hungry, angry people further is a good idea.

Food choice and control over when and where that food is consumed is also denied to prisoners.  As a country with a horrifyingly large prison population, this really can’t be ignored.  And while we do imprison many physical persons for crimes (just or unjust), the philosophy behind imprisonment has a great deal more to do with psychology than it does physicality.  We punish people, not bodies.  Capital punishment is quite rare and much debated, but that’s a subject for another day.

Here’s a link with some interesting statistics you might like to visit.  I’m neither advocating nor disparaging their approach.:

http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/

What I’d like to leave you with are these points.  We deny prisoners autonomy over their food.  We have and do deny slaves and children autonomy over their food.  So when we apply that attitude to those in need of assistance, what does it say?  How does it impact the way we see those who are impoverished?  My thoughts–it creates or reinforces a social divide, and sends a message that the poor are incapable of caring for themselves.  They are either subhuman or dysfunctional children.  They are broken and unmendable.  They are criminals in their very nature, whether they’ve committed a crime or not.  They need to be controlled.   Do those sound like thoughts that should be happening in the 21st century?  And yet, it’s what I see online.  It’s what I hear people I used to respect saying.  And it makes me sad.

Next time of Stirring the Pot and Hemorrhaging Friends: Inadequate Nutrition and Why Hungry People Can’t Work Well, Think Well, Stay Well.

The Stone Soup Initiative: Taking a Moment to Give Thanks

Today is Earth Day–or as I like to call it, Pale Blue Dot Day.  Here in northern Georgia, it’s afternoon.  The day thus far has been one of flawless blue skies, the fluting of birds, and playful breezes.  Before I go back out into the world, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the wonderful support offered by people, both known and unknown to me.  While the project upon which I’ve embarked has drawn limp support from relatives, who greet it with skepticism and negativity or vague, undefined “oh, that’s nice” energy, others have been far more enthusiastic.

Colleagues and friends have come forth with resources, ideas, and thoughts on how I might both educate myself about this endeavor and source funding.  People in my creative community, near and far, have jumped on the bandwagon of their own accord, and helped to begin spreading the word about what my colleague and I seek to accomplish.  I am so thankful for each of you.  While I’m in the midst of researching grants and trying to make contact with some local communities and municipal bodies about protocol and available land, you should know that you–yes, you–have made the difference to me, to this project.

We are each so small, and we occupy a planet that is insignificant from a Universal perspective.  Yet–we are the cosmos seeking to know itself.  I am full of thoughts about the conundrum of our simultaneous insignificance and the vast potential each of us holds within.  I know that I could not begin to make the difference in the world that I desire without each and every one of you.  Again, thank you, and Happy Pale Blue Dot Day.

The Stone Soup Initiative: Tentative Beginnings

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Recently, I’ve been casting about searching for my path.  I wanted to do something important to people, something that helped and offered a bit of positive energy to the world.  You’ll forgive me if I made the error of believing that it had to be some grand and sweeping gesture, a project that took me beyond the borders of this country and to the edge of its sphere of influence.  I think my heart was in the right place, but that was all wrong.  Some of the most important projects have small starts, and big, positive change can begin with a single move in the right direction.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

The topic of a recent post here was nutritional inequality and the modern prestige hierarchy.  A colleague of mine from college read it and was moved to contact me about an idea that had been vaguely swimming in the back of her mind for years–a community garden, the intent of which would be to allow those currently reliant on TANF or SNAP funds for basic life needs to devote more dollars to better quality protein and other foods.  Because they would grow many fresh vegetables themselves, they could then afford to use their federal and state assistance to purchase more nutritious foods.

I’ve been having similar vague thoughts for some time now, but alone, I was uncertain of how to frame them.  Because she was similarly boggled, I thought we might be able to help each other frame the concept more clearly.  Both of us have advanced degrees in anthropology, and yet both of us have struggled to find our place in the past few years.  We have each confronted feelings of purposelessness and failure.  Today, we met and put a more definite shape on the concept, but it’s still in a nascent phase of development.  There will be much to do, many contacts to make, grants for which to apply, and strategies to formulate.  This is only the beginning.

 

Calling on Folklore to Bring About Change

I came up with the name The Stone Soup Initiative, because the old story, once heard in childhood, has remained with me.  I’ll post a link to a Portuguese folktale for those of you interested in revisiting the story:

http://www.dltk-teach.com/fables/stonesoup/mtale.htm

Essentially, the core moral is that a community working together accomplishes goals that are impossible for a single individual.  As well, when people are willing to give even a small, individual contribution to a larger effort, they improve the outcome.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but each part brings a unique attribute to the overall aspect.

The roughed out concept that we settled upon is a community project garden and educational program, centering on reclaiming their nutritional agency, utilizing local or indigenous foods, and the underlying politics of food availability.  The concept is far from new, but we would like to draw upon the wisdom of established programs, as well as improve aspects that may have detracted from success of similar initiatives.

We are both well aware that this plan will need significant investment on our part in terms of research, grant writing, creating partnerships in the local academic and social justice communities, and lots of figuring out stuff we never thought about before.  There’s a lot of road left, but we’ve taken the first step, which is to identify our project.

 

The Broader Scope

We would like to include professionals and students interested in bringing their knowledge to the endeavor.  As well, we both know how valuable partnerships with local social action groups, community service initiatives, and the communities themselves will prove.  The purpose of our plan is to produce a highly replicable template for garden programs that can be adopted and spread wherever there is need for augmented nutrition.  This is not about fame and glory for us, but about using our intelligence and our training to enact positive change.

I don’t think I’m alone in being utterly aghast at the level of inequality I see, nor in making the connection that food is used as a political weapon to reenforce social injustice–unequal opportunity, unequal access to appropriate nutrition, education, and jobs that pay enough to free people from the cycle of social assistance programs.  Nor do I think I am the only one who sees that these programs and the surrounding social structures reinforce a subtle victim psychology in those who are forced by circumstances to apply for them, which feeds the problem, rather than helping them to feel self-sufficient, productive, and worthwhile.

That’s a big part of this project that is slowly coming into focus–instilling a feeling of ownership, the satisfaction of having something to show for effort.  I suggested that we model the community garden after a sort of corporate body–people “invest” through giving time to growing the foods, and receive “shares” in the company.  I’m going to have to do a great deal more research, and figure out precisely what that will entail, but I really like the idea of everyone who benefits from the garden having a stake in it, too.  Children, the elderly, moms, dads, uncles, and aunts–or even youths who might have strayed into dangerous pastimes.  I know how good I feel to see something I’ve planted flourish and bear fruit, and I’d like to pass that on to people everywhere.

 

Over the next year or so, I do plan to post updates, talk about the process, and discuss the challenges I will doubtless come up against in this journey.  What I will ask of everyone who feels strongly that the way things are is not how they should continue to be, is to share these updates with their social and professional circles.  Please offer constructive critique and feedback.  I welcome that.  But don’t tell me, based on this first entry, that I am trying to do the impossible, that I’m idealistic and have no grasp on “reality.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need more than one healthy dose of idealism to survive in this world, body and mind.  Reality is grim because we stamp out the spark of the beautiful and the hopeful.  Stone Soup–together, I believe we can shift the balance of inequality and provide nutrition, hope, and initiative to succeed for many.  We have to begin somewhere.

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What Have They Done to My Ice Cream?: Pointless Additives and Augmentations

No Longer Natural; Real, only in the technical sense.
No Longer Natural; Real, only in the technical sense.

There’s little I love better for dessert than peach ice cream.  After the back of winter is broken and the world has come alive again–in the unfurling and moist warmth of spring or the languid, steeped afternoons of summer–it’s a part of my childhood.  The plush sweetness of peaches and the sharp, sheered cliffs of slowly melting ice cream standing in the glass world of a bowl are something I look forward to.  But something has changed.  It could have been done quite some time ago–it’s been years since I could afford the price of their product.  Still, I find myself disappointed.

Breyers Has Sold Out

I remember eschewing other brands of ice cream because their list of ingredients was cluttered with thickeners–gums and waxes that had no business in my dessert bowl–and gobs of high fructose corn syrup, among other disgusting substances.  I don’t like gummy, sloppy or clumpy ice cream.  I always loved Breyers, because they made a point of using only a few ingredients–milk, cream, sugar, and the flavorings–fruit, vanilla bean, chocolate or what have you.

Tonight, much to my dismay, the joy went out of peach ice cream.  The bowl of sloppy, soft-shouldered, gummy ice cream was nothing that I wanted.  Real ice cream shouldn’t melt like that, and the texture should be much firmer.  I rushed to the freezer and took up the carton, turning it to read the fine print of ingredients.  There, instead of the faithful four or five was a list that included carnauba wax, carageenan gum, high fructose corn syrup–in addition to sugar–and xanthan gum.

I gave an anguished cry and hesitated only a moment before tossing my almost untouched bowl of ice cream down the drain.  This horrible Frankenstein’s Monster was not what I wanted.  It’s not that I have any nutritional objections to most of them–excepting high fructose corn syrup.  But there’s no reason to put them in ice cream which is more delicious without them.  And I won’t have any of that stupid talk about thickening agents and whatnot, because it didn’t used to be in there and now it is.

 

Why Is It Cheaper to Add Crap to Food? 

This defies my grasp of logic.  I walk along the isles of the grocery store and I note the premium price tags appended to the products that aren’t fucked around with.  Why should I have to pay for companies to leave things out of my food?  Perhaps my disgruntlement with Breyers Ice Cream goes a bit deeper.  I understand the downsizing of the carton.  Things cost more these days.  But that I should be expected to pay the same price for this chemical feast as I do the Turkey Hill “All Natural” varieties is a bit tough to take.  If the logic of additives and lower prices applies across the board, they’re in violation.  They added crap, so I shouldn’t have to pay as much for their substandard product.

This is something I notice in a great many foods, and I think we, as consumers, need to put our collective foot down.  In many cases, there might be concern about the health impacts of some additives.  As far as the case of the disappointingly revolting ice cream–I’m simply miffed that they want to overcharge for crap that isn’t any good.  It’s a case of value of my dollars.  Also, I’m mad because I feel that my consumer trust has been violated.  How much more severe might it be if, trusting a brand that has always insisted on its quality reputation, I consume a product without thinking to check the ingredients and suffer some ill effect?

 

When Pointless Additives Aren’t Harmless

Oh, right…I have the perfect example of this.  A friend of mine has Celiac.  She has always used a nutritional supplement product, Ultra Super Mega Awesome Green Max (Insert 16 more words of your choice here) Nutrition.  I make fun of it, but it was one of the things that helped her to maintain an adequate level of nutrition.  Especially just before she discovered she had Celiac Disease, her immune system was quite busy trying to kill her and she wasn’t absorbing the nutrients she needed from food.  The particular company that makes the products she incorporated into a liquid nutrition shake had long been making these products without gluten.

Now, I won’t name the company or the actual products until I’ve thoroughly lambasted their entire customer service department and they’ve made sufficient amends to my friend.  But basically, the story follows a sad and predictable pattern.  My friend has been using these products for about a decade without ill effect.  However, the latest batch she bought was “New and Improved”–which, by the way, is technically impossible.  It has to be one or the other.  They really didn’t specify how they’d altered the ingredients, and certainly didn’t print any visible warning on the package.  It turns out that the “new and improved” ingredients included barley malt, which is a nasty bugger for those with Celiac.

My friend, not thinking to distrust a company that has always produced healthful, reliably high-quality products that were safe for her to use, proceeded to use this speciously “improved” formula.  I’m pretty sure shitting (more) blood and not knowing how you’ve been contaminated with gluten doesn’t feel very “improved.”  I’m pretty sure it feels like dying.  When she called the customer service number to lodge a complaint and see if there was anything they could offer her as a replacement, they were tacitly unhelpful and kind of stupid.  None of her questions were answered, and she never did find out why the malt was added to the ingredients, because it isn’t a large enough amount to serve as a thickener or sweetener.  Just enough to tie her to the bathroom and rob her of the will to live.

 

Now, I understand that we have an industrial food complex.  Our food is bound to the concept of the factory.  I’m not saying that we should veer entirely away from that, but I will shout at the top of my lungs that some of the “logic” that is in play today makes no fucking sense.  My food doesn’t need to be augmented half as much as most of it is.  When I investigate why, I’m often met with a political reason, rather than a rational or nutritional one.  There’s wheat in my lunch meat because…wheat subsidies.  There’s corn syrup in my bread because…corn subsidies.  What ends up happening is that I stop buying certain foods.  I learn to make my own or find an acceptable substitute.

I’m buying an ice cream maker or giving it up altogether, because I’ve had enough of you fucks, you ice cream companies.  I gave up lunch meat, macaroni and cheese, and sliced bread for a variety of reasons, chief among them, utter disgust at the number of stupid and pointless additives.  Will they kill you?  How should I know.  What I do know is I see no reason to eat crap that is hidden behind the ostensible form and function of the food I purchase.  It’s a personal call.  I don’t expect the food industry to change on my account, but I’m managing just as well without them as they are without me.