Things I don’t understand

I don’t understand why we (this country) criminalize marijuana and why we demonize people who are addicted to drugs but we continue to put High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything.

Marijuana is allegedly a gateway drug.  And of course, people who abuse drugs are sometimes desperate souls who will do anything, even commit murder, to get their next high.  So smoking pot, even recreationally** is treated as a serious crime requiring probation, incarceration and intensive treatment.

Actually I do understand why and its pretty messed up.  Thanks to the food industry and pressure on the government from mega corporations like Archer Daniels Midland and Coca-Cola, foreign sugar has high tariffs slapped on it when its imported for straight sale on the grocery shelf or added to all the processed food/junk we eat here.

Americans pay over twice as much for sugar as other countries because of these tariffs.  HFCS has also come to be loved by corporations because its easier to move around.

Here is the part I really don’t get: why is High Fructose Corn Syrup in some products at all. For instance, the chicken from the other night- I used bread crumbs from a cannister.  Didn’t even occur to me to check for HFCS. But there it was, along with corn syrup and sugar.  Come on! Its bread crumbs for pete’s sake!  Today, I dumped them out and bought some Panko crumbs.  They do still have “less than 2% of the the following: sugar, ….” but no HFCS.  Next time I need regular bread crumbs, I’ll just make them- lightly toast (or let it dry out for a few hours) a couple slices of bread, tear in to pieces and whirl around in the blender or food processer to desired consistency.  And yes, I do make sure my bread is free of HFCS.

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked, by numerous studies, to the increase in obesity in this country.  And this country is getting fatter and more unhealthy all the time.  Of course we should exercise more and probably eat less in general.  But what to do about this insidious addiction?  Because studies are showing that even the use of artificial sugar substitutes does nothing to stop your body’s craving for sweeter and sweetest.  In fact it can make things worse!  And if you are now putting HFCS in everything, even not sweet foods what does that do to our inherent sweet tooth?  You needed that sweet-loving sensitivity back in caveman days when sweet tasting plants were probably safer to eat than bitter or hot ones. But now?

Vernors was originally sweetened with stevia from 1866 to 1991. Then the FDA banned stevia in 1991 and the company replaced stevia in their drinks with HFCS.  I’m not a huge Vernors fan unless I have a stomach ache but this really saddens me. Vernors is the oldest soft drink in America and it was invented right here in Michigan!  If you aren’t familiar: Vernors is ginger ale.

I didn’t know stevia had been banned, since I recently bought some.  Apparently it must be marketed as a dietary supplement. Odd that I found it in the baking aisle, hmm.  It seems there was an anonymous complaint made to the FDA in 1991 and they tagged the product as an “unsafe food additive.”  Despite numerous requests the FDA has never divulged the source of the complaint.
Especially interesting is the fact that Coca-Cola and Cargill have worked together on a stevia-derived sugar substitute and are in the process of getting FDA approval for that (as of 2007).   This patented chemically-derived substitute could be seen in your supermarket soon, filling your sodas and your twinkies and your breadcrumbs (probably).

But Stevia, the all-natural, naturally occuring (i.e. no patent necessary), grown and used for centuries in South America without ill effect, found to be not harmful by a massive World Health Organization comparative study, might actually improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of diabetes stevia?   Oh that is still banned in food.

I should probably point out that I’m on page 3 (yes, page three) of Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I’m already pissed off.  Its going to be a fun week reading this one, while also reading about defamation to help my law-school boy.  When I’m done, I should pretty much know exactly what I can and can’t say on this blog!

**um, something I don’t actually do- smoking in general just brings back some bad childhood memories no matter what leafy substance we are talking about.

Links, comments and miscellaneous things

I’ve got a bunch of little things that don’t really add up to full posts so I decided to lump them all together.

Cool website:

Cook’s Thesarus – lists 1000s of ingredients and kitchen equipment with pictures, suggested substitutions and links to make your own. I really like that the listings included synonyms and alternate spellings.

And I learned that asafetida, a gum resin used in Indian dishes with a strong onion-garlic flavor, is also known as both devil’s dung and food of the gods. Huh.


Local Produce Advertising

On the way in to work this morning I heard a new radio commercial from Kroger espousing the greatness of local produce. The ad was an “interview” with a local farmer and at the end, the announcer reminded you that lots of local fresh produce was available at your Kroger including yellow squash and zuchinni from the featured farm.  You can read Kroger’s statement on locally sourced produce here. I haven’t paid close attention but I don’t think Kroger is putting up signs to flag the local produce, unlike Meijer. You can read Meijer’s local growers statement here. Bonus points to Meijer for the growing chart that displays the typical season for most locally grown crops. Minus points to Meijer for their claim that they won’t buy local unless it meets or exceeds what they can get elsewhere. I have two issues with this statement:

A. I have seen some ridiculously bad looking produce at Meijer that should not have been bought from anyone; or if it showed up at the store that way, never put on the shelf. Kroger has this issue too but Meijer is the only place where I’ve seen black and white molds growing on the same tomato in a guacamole kit (on the same visit, they had a sign up where bananas normally are to inform customers that they had no bananas due to quality problems and flooding near their sources).

B. Meets or exceeds other produce how? Michigan grown strawberries will never stand up in looks and size to California strawberries. And of course California strawberries are available mostly year-round versus the short 2 month season for local berries. But to pass on offering Michigan strawberries during that short time frame seems unfair to the local growers who producing the best-tasting strawberries, albeit distinctly smaller berries. I know that consumer bias plays a role here so I’m not going to be too hard on Meijer (or Kroger) but they could boost advertising to showcase local produce and maybe change a few minds too (in particular, the mind of a certain boyfriend who turned his nose up at Michigan berries in the Farmer’s Market then came home with a box of “Product of USA” berries from Kroger).

Worcestershire Sauce

After dinner last night, I happened to look at the back of the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce that I used. I’ve never really used it before and didn’t know much about it except that it has anchovies in it. I only know that because a few months ago, my mom sent me on a quest to find vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce (they had it at Foods for Living in Okemos- 2 brands to choose from!). 

The brand we have is Lea & Perrins which might be the only brand.  The label says something about “Since 1835” and its made in England.  Then I looked at the ingredients and what do I see??!?  High Fructose Corn Syrup! I don’t know when that stuff was first created in a lab but I’m pretty sure it was way after 1835.

SO I did a little research today. ANd it turns out that the recipe in England (and Canada) is made with sugar but the US version is made with High Fructose Corn Syrup.  What is that about?

Blog Template and Such

I have been fiddling with my template and I think I’m going to change it to a different theme.  Eventually, I hope to get my own site setup and switch over to; I’ve already reserved my domain: so its just a matter of getting server space somewhere. 

In the meantime though, its here I’ll be.  As I do the new theme, I’m going to create a blogroll specifically for local blogs and food/cooking sites. So, if you know of any, leave a comment below.  Gratzi! (new theme here now, what do you think? I’m not in love with it yet….