Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Process Your Own Food!

A friend sent me a link to this video, a short segment on the dishonest health insinuations on the front panels of some foods that pretend to contain blueberries (but don't). Apparently, Kellogg, General Mills, and others have a very nasty habit of tricking the public into buying their products with bogus advertising on their packaging. I vaguely recall a time when this was illegal. The video examines the truth behind the deception, but omits two points which, to me, are glaringly obvious.

One: If you want blueberries, whether because they're supposed to be chock full of antioxidants, fiber, or other health properties, or because you just like the taste of blueberries, then (DUH!) buy and eat blueberries. Same goes for pomegranates, grapes, and every other buzzword food. If you want these to be 100% good for you, buy organic. This way, you won't be poisoning yourself with pesticides and petrochemical residues.

Two: The absence of blueberries in the products making blueberry claims is not the worst offense. Stop and think about the glop surrounding the fake blueberry bits for just a minute. Do you really need highly refined carbs, bad fats and petrochemical food coloring in your diet? The key factor in marketing these products is "value added," a little something that the manufacturers have done to enhance the perception that you're getting something special, when in fact what they've done is to take value out. Food value. Health value. Stripped. Replaced with anti-value.

Question: Why are we allowing manufacturers to essentially pre-digest our food? Why do we spend our money on something that has been chewed up, adulterated, denatured, and polluted with ingredients known to cause diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and cancer? What is it about eating junk that we find so appealing? Is it really all that good, or have we been taken in by advertising and convenience?

Say, for example, that you like the smell, the taste, the texture and the whole ritual that surrounds freshly baked, homemade chocolate chip cookies. I'm not saying that chocolate chip cookies are a health food by any stretch, but at least if you're making them yourself, you know what's in them. And, generally, I'd say that because you've invested about an hour making them, chances are you won't eat a dozen in one sitting; you'll want to savor them, put them in a cookie jar and dole them out sparingly, eating them a couple at a time. This is value added.

Think about this for a moment. You took a few ingredients, most of which were not in themselves good for you (refined flour and sugars, butter), and made something that, although not a healthful product, actually added several dimensions to your experience of joy (which is the whole point of everything, let's face it). There is the immediate sense of accomplishment from having produced something delicious. There is the great pleasure of eating them, and sharing them. Keeping them in a special jar adds to the feeling of owning something precious, something to be preserved and enjoyed at specific moments--not just gobbled up in one sitting--as if they had no real value. Cooking is a labor of love, and you've imbued these pedestrian ingredients with potent intangibles: your time, intention, skill, and love.

Now consider a one-pound bag of commercial chocolate chip cookies, churned out and packaged by machine. None of the intangibles are present; in their place are inferior ingredients (hydrogenated fats, imitation flavors and colors, preservatives and who knows what else). The flavor is flat. The texture is tough and pasty. Even the chocolate is crappy. The real value has been taken away, substituted with harmful counterfeits and only one tawdry, fairly disgraceful benefit: convenience.

Why let some mega-conglomerate take the value out of your food and sell you fake junk to eat? Why not process the food yourself? Why not be your own food manufacturer, so you can choose the best raw materials, exert quality control, and best of all, enjoy the product fresh off the line?

I've said this many times: Save yourself! Learn to cook and eat at home!


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