Yogurt – Still Full of Lies

Am I beating a dead horse if I link to yet another article pointing out that health claims on packaged food are (intentionally) misleading?

This NY Times article doesn’t really reveal anything new if you’ve been following the whole story over the past few years, but it speaks to the stretches of truth advertisers will make and the overall gullibility of consumers when you consider that people are still buying these products.

It just feels like a battle food advocates can never win. Between advertisers and media willing to repeat any study that touts a “superfood”, or an ingredient with nutritional properties, the people standing up and saying, “hey now, wait a minute, do more research” are the ones made to look like kooks.

But how sad is it that we’re willing to buy yogurt, or juice or cereal because of false promises of restored health? I’m angry that people don’t take more time to inform themselves about what they’re buying and putting into their bodies, but I’m also a little shocked at the desperation of people willing to try anything that offers any kind of promise of improvement, be it weight loss, digestive health or, scariest of all, cancer prevention.

I don’t agree with everything said by author Michael Pollan, but “don’t buy food with health claims on the package” has to be one of the wisest things I’ve ever read.

The Special Treatment – Just For Girls

I’m not sure who to blame for my outrage. The subject line in my RSS feed says “France’s Anne-Sophie Pic Named World’s Best Chef”. And the post it represents says the same thing. But the website The Food Section really only aggregates posts from other places, and clicking through to the full article at The Independent makes for a very different story. Anne-Sophie Pic is, according to the bottled water company that decided the contest, the world’s best FEMALE chef.

And what pisses me off is – why should there be a distinction? Why are we still separating our chefs by gender?

Sure there are fewer female chefs, for a whole variety of reasons ranging from family choices (men can’t have the babies) to history (hundreds of years ago, because men were always paid more, male chefs were seen as status symbols), but it doesn’t mean that the female chefs who are working and running kitchens and restaurants aren’t every bit as good as the men.

Is the gender segregation meant with good intentions – to level out the playing field? Or is it misogyny, pure and simple?

Pic, like her father and grandfather before her, holds 3 Michelin stars. To my knowledge, Michelin doesn’t have a separate set of stars or awards for restaurants run by female chefs versus male chefs. So why the segregation for this contest?

Image: Anne-Sophie Pic photo: Jeff Nalin/Maison Pic

The Mania For Meat

In yesterday’s Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad questions the recent frenzy trend towards gorging on meat. As usual, the comment section of the piece devolved into the same old tired arguments of carnivore types ranting about how we were meant to eat meat and vegetarian types talking about how horrible it is.

Having been both a vegetarian and now an omnivore, I’ve see and heard all of these tired old arguments before. They’re particularly annoying in this case because not one of the commenters seem to get Onstad’s point, which is not a rant about how meat is bad, but rather to question why it is so trendy and more importantly, how folks in the sustainable food scene hide behind artisanal meat as an excuse for our own gluttony.

Certainly, if we’re going to eat meat, happy cows, chickens, pigs and goats are a good place to start as opposed to the factory-farmed stuff shot full of antibiotics, living their short lives without ever seeing the light of day. No one is arguing the fact that happy animals are better, not only in terms of animal husbandry but also in terms of taste.

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This Shit Is Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Who among us hasn’t stolen a look at another shopper’s cart in the grocery store line-up and passed judgment? And if you happen upon a lost grocery list, why, it’s as much of a vicarious thrill as reading someone’s diary. You can tell a lot about a person by what they put in their grocery cart, after all.

This grocery list, found at a Wal-Mart store, has been making the rounds online for the past week or so. The spelling, as has been noted everywhere, is atrocious. The list itself, while including some fruits and vegetables and cooking basics, also calls for a lot of ready-meals, dump and stir mixes, or outright junkified prepared foods.

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Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah – The Downside to Anti-Oxidants

In case you needed any further proof that antioxidants don’t work, that food companies are scamming consumers and that governments need to do more to restrict both the use of “functional” additives and the promotion if them in ads and on packaging.

Newsweek explains the Downside of Antioxidants.

Aren’t we all smarter than to fall for the “magic cure” spiel??

Well, Now We’re Screwed

This is the letter I just sent to the Minister of State for Agriculture regarding the announcement that the Conservatives are considering loosening the restrictions on functional foods. If you care about the fact that food companies are allowed claim their foods are healthy because they’ve added extra vitamins, or “healthy bacteria”, please contact the Agriculture Minister and the Minister of State, as well as the shadow cabinet ministers from the opposition parties and your own member of parliament and let them know that you want these restrictions tightened, not loosened.

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of State (Agriculture)

cc: Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture,
Wayne Easter, Liberal Agriculture Critic,
Alex Atamanenko, NDP Agriculture Critic,
Olivia Chow, Member of Parliament, Trinity-Spadina

Dear Mr. Blackburn,

I am writing to you regarding the announcement that the government is considering easing federal restrictions on “functional foods”, as detailed in today’s Toronto Sun: <http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2011/01/24/17017606.html>.

Given the overwhelming research indicating that function foods are merely advertising ploys; that the addition of vitamins and minerals serve only to help sell products; and that front of package nutritional claims are intentionally misleading, why would our government be so foolish and naive as to consider loosening these restrictions instead of tightening them?

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White as the Driven Snow

Thank you, Morgan Clendaniel, for using the phrase I was recently too afraid to use for fear of pissing people off. I’m not sure why I was afraid of pissing people off, I tend to live my life assuming that most people are pissed off by something about me, and undoubtedly my Loca-Bores piece (despite all of the positive comments it got) pissed people off. Because that’s how I roll. And I’m okay with that, as long as it gets people thinking about stuff.

But in employing fancy words like xenophobic and elitist, I really wanted to just rant about “white people food”, and the subtle undercurrent (that would undoubtedly be denied if you pointed fingers at specific people or groups) of racism (another word I wanted to use in that piece but was afraid to).

But seriously folks… white people food. Not that it isn’t good. And tasty. And ethical. And local. But. But, but but… It makes us shoves our heads up own own asses, really. It means we wear blinders to the other delights around us. It means we treat people who make non-white people food as second class citizens.

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So… MacLean’s magazine reported last week that the Hamilton Farmer’s Market had plans to oust a number of long-time vendors because they didn’t fit the market’s new image of upscale, focusing on “local” ingredients grown within a 100-mile radius. Regular readers of this site will know just how much utter bullshit I believe the 100-mile diet to be. It’s elitist in its time demands (only people with a lot of money and enough free time to source local ingredients are able to eat this way); it makes huge assumptions about food miles, something that is almost impossible to calculate accurately; and it creates what is essentially a two-tier food system, with those of us with free time and free money being able to congratulate ourselves on helping the poor, downtrodden local farmer, while those with no time and little money having to shop at the oh-so-frowned-upon supermarket.

Andrew Potter, the author of the piece, makes allegations not only of elitism but of xenophobia. This undoubtedly will get people’s hackles up. But in the case of Hamilton, the majority of the long-time vendors given the boot were not white, but Vietnamese, Colombian and Middle Eastern. And when you think of “local” food, when it is featured on menus or touted in magazines or books… it’s pretty much old skool white people food. Sorry, immigrants, you don’t fit our elitist ideal.

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Hell Is Other People

So we seem to mostly be dealing with the chaos that life has handed us these past couple of months. I think we’re actually over the hump. I can look at a picture of Bowie without crying; that’s something at least.

And in trying to make some sense out of it all, to accept all that has happened, I keep playing various scenarios over in my mind. Particularly ones with other people. That is, remembering who stepped up and who got in the way. None of the “getting in the way” folks did so intentionally, I don’t think, but there’s a real social cluelessness that seems amplified when it comes to death. I don’t know if it’s simply that I am/was more sensitive to it, or if it’s because people are just uncomfortable dealing with grief in general.

But some of the things people said or did with regards to our situation are just mind-boggling.

The worst had to be the questions. Bowie was a neighbourhood fixture. And when he was gone, people noticed. Some people noticed and said nothing, aware that the answer to what they were thinking was none of their business, and using their brains to conclude that if the lady with two dogs is now seen with only one dog, that it might not be the best time to ask her where he had gone.

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Patio, No

I have a question for restaurant owners everywhere.

If your restaurant has a patio (or even if it doesn’t), why is it necessary to have your front windows and doors open on a hot day? Is it because you assume that everyone loves sitting on the patio, and by opening doors or installing big garage-style windows that open to the street that customers seated indoors will feel like they’re on that patio? Or is it just a way to get around running the air conditioning?

Because not everyone wants to sit outside.

Greg and I went out for lunch today. We arrived at our destination to find that the place had all the windows and doors open, and that it was actually hotter inside than outside on the patio, where there was at least a breeze.

I’m currently balancing on a very thin precipice with my allergies. Six weeks in and having tried three different medications, I’m finally at a point where I can actually go outside to get from point A to point B, but sitting for an hour or more in air full of astronomical amounts of mold spores is really not fun.

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