Judge Food by the Packaging

Packaged Food Puzzle: What’s the Smart Choice?

I thought they would actually have smart choices on here. Instead they compare crappy food with maybe-not-so-crappy food. The test becomes difficult cause they don’t give the most important part: the ingredients lists. Here’s why each number on the quiz is a loaded question:

  1. Surprising, but the numbers are pretty close and what else is in either of them?
  2. Probably more calories because the nutrients have been squeezed out of it. Fat and real cheese and other calorie-filled things also known as food.
  3. -
  4. Type of sugar matters! Fruit sugar in figs is different from just the refined sugar in Oreos. Plus, everything else with the sugar is what matters.
  5. These differences in sodium don’t matter! Now gluten-free? Were you contaminating it before? Fruit snacks shouldn’t ever have had gluten in them so it’s vacuous to say that. (Although certified GF might matter for some severe Celiac’s, but still wouldn’t matter for the worst.) Made with real fruit is always better!
  6. Amount of calories says nothing about nutrients. Real food can tend to have more calories because it’s not reduced with wacky ingredients.
  7. What kind of sugar? There’s so many! If there’s a lot of sugar alcohols instead, then that has whole other intestinal implications.
  8. Less fat and more calories means more carbs! Not good.
  9. Ugh, please talk about different types of sugars. There’s not only one!
  10. These aren’t the issue on the table. CW says less fat is good so Kashi would win. Would CW take more fat to have less sodium? The world may never know!
  11. There’s bigger pieces of celery and carrots and no corn on the Chunky. Easy

Needless to say I got 6 out of 11 because I don’t buy any of these things. (OK, my wife buys Naked juice occasionally, but there’s so many different great vegetables there’s no way, when adjusted for sugar type, that your body gets more out of Welch’s.)

Shoulda looked at the title closer. The smart choice? Don’t buy packaged food.

Busting the Purveyors of Myths

UCR Magazine: Busting GMO Myths

By making a list of 10 beliefs about GMOs and giving their response, UC Riverside scientists Norm Ellstrand and Alan McHughen ignore the biggest myth about GMOs—and directly keep it going. I do appreciate the design of the article and the information that they are spreading, but it needs some unraveling.

I believe that it’s possible for instances of genetic engineering—aka plant sex in a laboratory (or more precisely, artificially selected third-party genetic recombination, but that sounds too kinky)—to be perfectly safe. It’s important that we don’t take or leave the whole technology, but rather be gravely cautious about each gene we pick for anything more ecologically significant that GloFish in Walmart. We need to look at every possible implication of making a (very) non-evolutionary change to a organism (cf. hybridizing, which still uses reproduction). We may get immunity to malaria, which is the single goal we had in mind, but then we get sickle cell anemia. We have to be aware of the trade offs if we’re going to take to the frontlines of evolution’s game.

That covers number 1 on the list, except for that process create or release things, so separating them is a little ignorant. You cook an ingredient one way, it creates one flavor, cook it another way, it creates another flavor, but all the “things” are the same except maybe at a very small scale, say, different chemicals are being released. So I think it’s OK for the public to think in processes, but to not accept or reject such a general process like I indicated above. Doing that with genetic engineering would be like discussing whether baking was safe or not. (A debate which may have happened at the rise of agriculture.) It all depends on what you’re doing it with and what all the products of that process are.

The logic for number 2 is messy. IT’S NO BIG DEAL THAT CROP GENES GET INTO WILD POPULATIONS. Gosh, this almost has to be a post on my linguistics blog. Let’s see… It is not a problem when GMO genes get into wild populations. This one I agree with! It can cause big problems, especially when people try to patent genes like manor lords withholding fishing and hunting rights for rivers and forests. “Excuse me, kind sir, your plants have naturally reproduced with mine so you owe me money.” You can kill of the bees, but until then, you can stop pollen from gettin’ around. So then the conclusion in the list is that because non-GMO genes can cause problems that GMO genes are no more of a threat. The issue people have with this is that the genes selected may be for bioluminescence or spider silk proteins, which are complete foreign to the organism, so the consequences could potentially be greater than one kind of beet genetically invading another.

Number 3. We don’t know that yet. That’s the point. We just aren’t sure enough of all the implications yet. The Romans loved their lead (even though people then did see warning signs about it),  we sprayed crops with DDT,  and we still used lead in paint up until the 70s. What’s this generation’s DDT going to be? PVC, BPA, Roundup Ready corn? Something we’re sitting on or licking or eating right now that we haven’t thought of yet? Hopefully not, but we’re not immune to that kind of ignorance. We haven’t evolved into some special generation of scientific progress that knows what every substance we manufacture may be doing to us. We’re not there yet and we need to humble ourselves to that fact. We just wanna be sure about what each technology or major change will do long-term.

For number 4, ho hum. Number 5 and 6, straw men. Statements so alarmist they’re easy to dismiss. The could mess things up. What does “drought-resistant” mean? What was changed about the plant? What’s everything those new genes do? Any sickle cell? Any difference in what it does to the soil? These problems need to be expanded for people so the crowd of critiques, observations, analyses, and myriad angles on the problem can be applied. “It’s drought-resistant, so it’s good” is too much presupposition for me to be comfortable with.

I do like the point in number 7 that if it’s not organic an it’s one of the big American crops, then it’s probably GMO. Buy organic and you’ll know for sure that it’s not. But for organic practice farms that can’t afford the organic certification that would be a present an issue. And as the list of GMOs grows, simple labeling would help the public keep up with list; even now it would help people learn what the current list is. I don’t see how a simple indication of honesty on the back of the box—with everybody grandfathered in so that packaging already out there or in production doesn’t have to be pulled—is such a big thing to ask of the industry. We already have a long list of allergens, additives, organicness and other features which are indicated so adding GMO to that sounds like a natural step in knowing what’s in our food.

Number 8. Genes transferred by bacteria between taxonomic kingdoms means swapping whatever genes we need in test tubes is exempt from questioning. That’s like saying because some kids do get into guilty-looking situations, but aren’t actually doing anything irresponsible, that kids should be exempt from all questions from your parents. EllstrandMcHughen Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “False. Some kids may be further questioned by their parents if they reveal what they’re up to and quick descriptions can on occasion sound incriminating, even though it’s fine, so you can’t make me answer you. Read the internet, dad.” Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “Up to Dairy Queen.” “Oh cool.” [The example family is not paleo.] Now the dad and son have related—and as a bonus, if Timmy doesn’t show up for 8 hours the family can compare that with the usual length of a trip to Dairy Queen and get worried. It’s just passing information between parts of the network. We need to do a lot more of that with genetic engineering. Just because there are some rare gene transfers that do happen, it’s possible they’re rare because they may be going though some kind of ecological “filter”—not just any gene could get passed on. This just sounds like an oversimplification of the process. I don’t even know enough about it to form an intelligent-sounding hypothetical scenario for the counter argument. So clearly that’s not enough of a reason—without further explanation—to say that genetic engineering is already proven to be completely natural.

I was surprised by number 9. The word on the street is that the EU banned GMOs. But I guess that just means most places in the EU don’t grow it themselves, a few places grow some GMO corn, but they all still import American food that’s GMO. Interesting. The freedom to import is good, though I think they should keep the ban on growing it so they can be the control group in this experiment.

And number 10 is absolutely false. They must be Wizard of Oz fans because there’s another straw man! Which brings me to the ultimate point: this article ignores the main concern with GMOs. It’s not technology. I’m typing this on a MacBook, while showing my wife an article on an iPad. Technology’s awesome! The main concern with GMOs is not cancer by association. The main concern with GMOs is pesticides.

Everyone always talk about how altering the genes of our food crops will make frankensteins that will march down our digestive systems, most likely giving us cancer. That’s not very likely. If evidence of that emerged, I wouldn’t be surprised and would have a sense of I-told-you-so, but we haven’t seen that yet. The real issue with GMOs is why they’re genetically modifying them in the first place. The most common reason is to make the plants resistant to pesticides so they can spray more on them. That translates to more pesticides in the end product. Hopefully you can wash it all off—and hopefully it’s not in the plant. Some crops, like potatoes, are particularly absorbent and suck up all that industrial chemical goodness. So really the GMO debate is about the overall pesticide load for humans and the environment. “If we make it about technology, then we’ll easily win the debate. Let’s take the focus off the pesticides.” GMOs aren’t a new debate. It isn’t luddites vs. science. It’s the pesticide debate and I think we know who’s winning that one. The list doesn’t mention pesticides at all, so I guess belief number 11 is THE DANGER OF GMOS COMES FROM THE PESTICIDES THEY ARE DESIGNED TO WORK WITH. TRUE.

We need to be more mindful of this powerful tool than Ellstrand and McHughen suggest us to be.

Reblog: An Intriguing Use for Beeswax | the Kitchn

An Intriguing Use for Beeswax

It’s totally edible. So what else could be done with it…?

Re: Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

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All the recipes we followed this year were from PaleOMG’s Thanksgiving . Thanks, Juli, all of the recipe’s were wonderful!

We made a turkey with giblet gravy and FODMAPless Sausage Stuffing and we added oysters, the turkey’s liver, some white wine. By far my favorite part of the meal!

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It didn’t last long – we finished it off for breakfast!

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We made the Bacon and Chive Sweet Potato Biscuits, but used Japanese sweet potatoes (the purple Ipomoea batatas) instead because their so bready already. They turned out really mushy, somewhere between bread and mashed potatoes. We just peeled, boiled, and mashed them rather than follow the strange ritual the recipe described, but maybe we should have…

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We made mashed sweet potatoes and I attempted to make marshmallow cream, but that didn’t turn out so well. (It turned into the thickest jello I’ve ever seen.

The greatest success of the meal, though, was the Pumpkin Cheesecake. I didn’t dare put 3 tbsps of lemon juice and I’m so glad I didn’t cause 1 was plenty. I used maple syrup instead of honey. Maranatha No-Stir Crunchy Almond Butter tastes like Reese’s peanut butter, making the crust even more amazing.

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I’ve never eaten so much food at Thanksgiving and not felt tired and woozy. I was tingly stuffed, but none of the grain-carb-induced coma. So thankful for that!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pain Perdu sans Pain (French Toast without Toast)

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Toastless French Toast
Eggs
Palm oil shortening
Silk vanilla coconut milk

Glaze
Palm oil shortening
Silk vanilla coconut milk
Arrowroot powder
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Heat a ton of the shortening in a pan. You can try using just coconut oil, but the shortening works beautifully. We just discovered this and we’ve gone through half a tub in 2 days.

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Pour a good amount of coconut milk into the eggs. There was this Silk stuff in the house, and I’m not quite sure of its paleo status (it is sweetened with cane sugar), but it’s here and gave a great flavor. You can use canned or homemade coconut milk and vanilla extract. I know it sounds crazy to put this in to scrambled eggs with no toast or powdered sugar on the horizon, but trust me.

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Beat the eggs – a hand mixer works wonders – and get them really frothy; you’re gonna need that to keep them light and yummy.

Pour a thin layer of egg into the thick pool of shortening. Think crêpes here. Light, thin, fluffy. If it hits the side of the pan it may not fry up quite right, but don’t sweat it too much. Thinness and flipping will make it great anyway. It should look something kinda like this:

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When you think the egg has thickened up enough in the bottom, try to flip it over. It’ll probably not flip too well and ooze out everywhere, but that’s just fine as long as it’s thin. If so, it turn out something like this:

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For the glaze, melt some shortening and and stir the coconut milk, arrowroot, and spices. The colder it gets, the more it’ll thicken. You’ll be surprised how much this tastes like french toast. A great Thanksgiving morning breakfast!

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Paleo Pork Steaks

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For the pig:
Pork Butt Blade Steaks
Tbsp Coconut Oil
Cap of Apple Cider Vinegar
Paprika (Hungarian)
Cayenne Pepper
Asafoetida
Fenugreek
Mustard Powder
Bay Leaf
Black Pepper
Sea Salt

For the rice:
Basmati rice (White)
Lemon
Sea Salt
Cilantro
Ghee

Start boiling the rice. Any white rice will do. I don’t know what quinoa would taste like with it, but you could try that instead. To keep it strict paleo, you can just skip to the meat!

Mix all the spices in the ratio of the most paprika and cayenne, a decent amount of asafoetida and fenugreek, then crush a generous amount of bay and throw in dashes of salt and pepper. Rub it on the meat or set it aside.

Melt the coconut oil in a skillet. Turn the heat off or add the meat to the pan right away. Keep on low heat and covered. If you haven’t added the spices pour half on. Periodically add just a tad of water to keep the pork steaks moist. When you flip them for the first time add the rest of the spices to the other side. When they’re about halfway done, add the cap of apple cider vinegar. This will help the outside of the meat caramelize.

Fluff the finished rice with a fork. Put a little bit of ghee in the middle to make sure it melts. Add a generous amount of salt (coarse, if you can). Squeeze in fresh lemon or lime. (Do you see where this is going?) Pluck fresh cilantro leaves into the rice and stir all the flavors in, making sure the ghee melts. This tastes just like Chipotle’s rice, only fattier.

Just wait till you eat it with the pork steaks and their grease. SAFA, LC heaven.

The story
My mother-in-law and I made these while caring for Erika after her surgery and I was blown away by how great they turned out. I threw the spice mix together on a whim, flavor associations with pork, and memories of typical pork recipes (those might all be the same intuitive thing). I had happen to find 2 pork steaks (note: only 2 rice-plus-lots of-fat portions) at Giant Eagle for $2.65. Not sure if normal pork chops would work, but take any thin slice of pork and give it a try.

The basmati rice is not a norm. I personally eat white rice once every 10 days or so when eating out, with Chipotle or heavy-protein Chinese, because I’m trying to gain weight. Erika needed a saltine cracker replacement – the “light”, “easy on your stomach” food they say is good for you when you’re not feeling well – as a bridge between drinking homemade chicken broth and eating pork belly. I recently got just meat and rice in a bowl at Chipotle and we discovered how amazing their rice tastes just by itself. This was my recreation of it at home. Now if I can only recreate the walk-in-when-you’re-hungry-and-find-plenty-of-hot-and-ready-to-eat-protein part.

I use Asafoetida powder as an onion substitute because I’m testing out FODMAP-free’s effect on my gut. I happened to come across it in our local co-op and discovered in the description that it was eerily oniony and a essential ingredient in authentic curry. Another of the Twelve Trials in my quest for Indian cooking down. Sometimes you want a lot of fenugreek (another essential curry spice), other times you don’t want much. This was I time I wanted a lot and, man, was it the right decision. This dish could take a generous helping of bay leaf crushed right in. It’ll become softer. Remember Red Lobster’s cheddar bay biscuits? They do it. Bay is edible and delicious this way.

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Mayo Clinic Fail on Canola

I came across this article and couldn’t help but notice the dubious wording they use and how their answer goes logically wrong:

I read an article on the Internet that said Canola oil contains toxins that are harmful to humans. Is this true?

First off, the inclusion of phrases like “on the Internet” is meant to discredit the idea before it’s even mentioned and note that Mayo Clinic article itself is “on the Internet”. The phrase “toxins that are harmful to humans” is also suspect. Does that mean it has toxins but they claim they aren’t harmful to us? Does that mean it wasn’t good for the rats but they think this is one the time our anatomies are not analogous? Regardless, they’re trying to make it wordy. The best way to phrase the question would be: “Does Canola oil really contain toxins?”. They use that question as the title, so they should have left it at that. They should also cite the sources of the rumor and confront them explicitly.

The post then goes on to deny this (big surprise) without supporting its claims. Ms. Zeratsky takes out the straw man of erucic acid but neglects to mention the real problem people have with Canola oil. The problem with Canola oil is not directly related to its contents: it’s the problem of rancidity. If it’s highly prone to go rancid and consuming rancid oils is harmful to your health, then Canola oil is not a healthier option, especially for cooking (but isn’t that all you do with it because it doesn’t taste good enough to garnish/drizzle with?).

I know Canola is a brand name that people invested in it want to protect, but in a free market economy if your product isn’t good, your business fails. We’ve chosen in this country to operate that way, to allow competition and uncertainty to drive us after quality. We really need to stop protecting bad ideas and unhealthy food. Even if it is logistically difficult to abandon them, it will be worth it to us in the long run.

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RE: The Apex of Cuisine: When Too Far Isn’t Far Enough

The Apex of Cuisine: When Too Far Isn’t Far Enough.

This post was Freshly Pressed today. Posky’s observations on America’s food love affair are hilarious, but also thought provoking. By itself, properly processed hot dogs from properly raised pigs  aren’t bad and neither is bacon, even on a sundae (be wise with the ice cream choice though). Stuffed inside a pizza though… I found the article he likely read. As usual, it laments an increase in fatty foods. But if we would drop the bread, then we could enjoy tons of greasy meat, vegetables, and cheese. And bacon sundaes, occasionally.

So, interestingly, our love of fat is fine, but the novelty of dare food might still be a little much. Replacing bread with chicken, even if itself is breaded, would be less bread and more protein so that’d be good. Baconator? Good idea. If the ingredients were all organic and fresh from the land, then this “vice” could be green-lighted. Though “fast food” restaurants with farms outback are probably too far off in the future to get your hopes up. Back to the Oreo pizza—again maybe you could freshify and realify it. The propensity to smash tons of crap together and then pile more crap on it and then try to eat it, though, is not a healthy habit. Americans are brilliant at it but we should really point our big fat-loving, all-American ingenuity in another direction.

I understand food as an experience and that something like fried frozen Coke is a one-time experience. And things like poi and 홍어 (fermented skate). A habit of one-time experiences though is self-destructive. Food as experience (existential gastronomy?) can get in the way of the practicals of obtaining food and nutrition. I haven’t checked out The Splendid Table to see if it’s really as graphic as Posky’s humorous depiction of it. I’m sure psychologists could make a case for enjoying food being good and anthropologists could probably do the same from an evolutionary perspective. You really can find tiny, appreciable details in food, even bread (if you choose to eat it). That’s just the expert effect. But if you make up stuff that isn’t there, create your own “meaning” and detail in food, if it becomes orthorexic and gets in the way of eating for survival, or if it’s wasteful or blatantly unethical food, then you’ve gotta calm down and just eat to live, and give up living to eat.

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On the Hunt

We were inspired to start this blog as a place to easily access information about good food and healthy living. It will be about a few things, all surrounding what we should and shouldn’t be doing to our bodies.

We’ll be sharing the recipes we concoct on the fly and good recipes we find that aren’t hard to implement. We’ll be sharing our exploration of healthy diet, drawing from various traditions, though we’ve been most inspired to test the claims of the primal diet. We’ll share ideas on how to stay active and live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We will also share the great restaurants that we find, which will mostly be in our hometown Columbus, Ohio.

So we have health and great food. The goal is for those to be the same, but that won’t always be the case. You’ve gotta live a little.

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