Sunday, June 19, 2011

Are you there, Food? It's me, Carrie.

I started really thinking about what I ate and put on my body four years ago when I became pregnant with Liam. Suddenly I was acutely aware that whatever I ate or absorbed not only affected me, but another person, my tiny baby. Not wanting to expose him to unnecessary chemicals, I converted our cleaning products, makeup/hair products and all creams/lotions/potions over to a safer version. There has been no reason to stop this practice since. We are getting along quite well with our 'different' products, organic food and healthy eating habits.  But sometimes, I'm still surprised.

After 4 years of rigorous label reading, we generally know what is in our food and as a result of this awareness we avoid most processed foods (with a few purposely indulgent irrational exceptions - Kraft Dinner I mean you). You would think that after this long I would get used to the fact that companies put total unnecessary garbage ingredients into commercial processed food products yet I'm still amazed (disappointed) each time I read an ingredients list. The shocker of all shockers though was what I found in the salt. I had heard that salt contained sugar and so the next time I went shopping for salt I actually looked at the ingredients on several packages. I didn't consider salt to be a 'processed food', or at the very least I thought it was a minimally processed food (get salt, put in box). What did I think was in salt? SALT. And possibly iodine so we all don't get scurvy or the plague or something (I'm sure there is a reason - oh wait, I just looked it up, it's goiter. Yeah, better have that in there). I was prepared for the ingredients list to be two ingredients maximum. Here are the ingredients I found in the "Table Salt": Salt, Calcium silicate, Invert sugar, Potassium iodide. If you buy the "Household Salt" it contains dextrose instead of sugar, but dextrose is a sugar, so...there is sugar in the salt. Supposedly it is to keep the potassium iodide from evaporating over time, which could occur if the salt was left out fully exposed to the air for months (I know my salt is just lying in a pile on the counter under a breezy window, where do you keep yours? Oh, enclosed in a salt shaker? What a great idea!). Calcium silicate is an 'anti-caking agent', which is also commonly used in insulation. Hmmmmm. I'm not concerned about my 'sugar intake' at all, that's not why I'm shocked at the ingredients list. I'm not even shocked because one of the ingredients is used to fireproof homes. I'm shocked because something I considered to be straightforward, salt, has extra ingredients added. Seriously? "Big Food Producers" have messed with salt? Maybe I'm just tired at always having to look at ingredients lists and being disappointed.

What happened to food? Just food. Where salt was salt and peanut butter was peanuts and raisins were raisins (well they were grapes, but you get my point). Have you looked at the ingredients in your commercial peanut butter lately? Hydrogenated oils. Dr. Andrew Weil would smack you for eating that. There are added (bad) oils to some packages of raisins. These are foods that I had considered to be straightforward and (dare I say) pure. So, I'm simply disappointed to realize that nothing is pure anymore. If it is in a package, somebody somewhere has added some shit to it to make it do something nature did not intend (last longer, not stick together, stick together, flow better, look shiny, etc). Bah! Food! Where did you go? Who did this to you? Why did we let them? I'm sorry. I'll try and find you whenever I can. Fooooooood!

I made a cake last month. I made the cake they way I have made cakes my entire life, using a processed mix. I automatically bought a cake mix off the shelf, without even considering to look at the ingredients - this is simply how one make cakes. It was your typical commercial brand name cake mix. Since I would be serving said cake to someone with allergies before I poured it in the bowl I read the ingredients carefully: "Sugar, Enriched Flour, Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters Of Fats, Monoand Diglycerides), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Wheat Starch, Dextrose, Salt, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Artificial Flavors, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Modified Cornstarch, Colors."   If you count all the ingredients (including what was listed in the enriched flour) there are 26 ingredients (there are more since some things are just listed as plural - eg flavors). Wow. And this is before you add the oil and eggs and milk to the mix. So now we are at 29 ingredients. For a cake. Um, isn't cake just a sugary fluffier version of bread, which is basically flour, water, eggs and something to make it rise? I was so disgusted with the thought of all these crazy things being added to a cake mix, the next time I decided to try and make a cake from scratch. If it turned out ok we would be done with cake mixes forever. The first recipe I came across I tried out. It was for a white cake. Here are the ingredients: "Sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, milk". 7 ingredients. If I made the store bought cake mix I'd be adding three ingredients to the mix myself (oil, eggs, milk) so the difference in the effort between making a cake from a mix vs making it from scratch was that I had to add in the remaining 4 ingredients instead of opening a package. Well, shit, I can do that. 4 ingredients vs a package that contains 26 ingredients. So let me get this straight, cake mixes were invented to save people from the effort of having to mix together sugar, flour, baking powder and a flavour (in this case vanilla)? Really? People had such a hard time doing that? Women in the 60's were falling down from exhaustion of this effort and needed to be saved from the grueling task of portioning out a cup of flour? Come on. Honestly it was super easy to make my 7 ingredient cake and by all accounts (alright, just three people ate it, including me) it was the best damn cake I'd ever made. It was freakin perfect. Fluffy, moist, flavourful and if I do say so myself, pure. It was food. Good food I can feel completely confident to serve my precious family. I will never make a boxed cake again. (PS I highly recommend the recipe)

I've said this before, but what is more important that what goes in your body? I strongly believe "What you eat matters". It matters to your health, it matters to your family, it matters to the environment, it matters to everyone and everything we share the earth with. In this day and age, it is so difficult to find just food. Not frankenfood or processed food but pure food. Why is that so hard to find? Why do they keep sneaking things in? I think it is worth the effort to find the food. I think my family is worth the effort. So, we continue to read our ingredients lists and eliminate the garbage and replace it with actual food. It is an ongoing process, but when we do find it, we are rarely disappointed because really, real food is delicious. Why mess with it?

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