While the interior of the grocery store is a scary locale from which to eat, it is interesting fodder for consideration. The freezer section falls into this as well; frozen vegetables and fruits (blanched or raw, with no added anything) are one thing, as are good quality frozen meats and fish, but much of what calls those enormous coolers home is nothing worth consuming. And of course, the refrigerated dairy section is not immune, even if the entire issue of poor quality and pasteurized dairy is left aside.
Food manufacturers are bound by truth in advertising, at least. Edibles (or, if one believes Michael Pollen, edible food facsimiles) such as cheese and ice cream, are fortunately held to certain standards, standards that if not met, prevent the product from being labeled as cheese or ice cream, respectively.
Though hard-as-a-rock butter can be a great tool in some recipes—biscuits and pie crusts come to mind—butter fresh from the fridge is a frustrating implement for a slice of bread. Whether for a sandwich or even just from the balmy environment of the toaster, butter recently liberated from the chill chest is mostly an annoyance for general use. Is there a better way? Fortunately, Virginia, there is.
Nearly every Christmas means a whatsit gift in my family. Several years ago, a strange ceramic white crock arrived from my aunt. Two pieces, one a round cylinder large enough to a white bowl with a strange foot on top. My lack of French knowledge (which still somewhat limited as I prefer German) at that point prevented me from recognizing the phrase on the side: le beurre. This marvelous creation is a butter keeper.
You’d think it would be simple: look on the front of a product, see that it contains no trans fat, and then you’re safe! But nothing is ever that simple, is it? Turn the darn thing over and the truth is revealed, though why exactly it is critical to in any way hydrogenate palm oil is beyond me. (My apologies for the less than spectacular pictures to follow; my camera phone is all I have at work and it is not that technologically advanced.)
At the restaurant where I work, this is what we have. We have no butter in the entire restaurant. I may have brought some with me for one of the rare days I actually bother to enjoy a lunch break, but other than that, it is essentially banned from our miniature universe.
I have come to love fat. Truly, madly, deeply, and all that good jazz. As much as the health experts push the consumption of fiber to maintain satiety, I respectfully disagree. Stuff yourself with vegetables and eggs, and you will still feel hungry. (I remember that feeling quite well.)
Which is not to say that I don’t like vegetables. I adore vegetables. Vegetarianism taught me that, and helped me experiment with a wide variety I had never considered previously. But a vegetable without some sort of fat doesn’t satisfy hunger. A vegetable with fat satisfies both aspects of physiological hunger: the fullness factor and the satiation factor.
Which leads to the chard.
Clearly, the food processor is the first. It’s one of my great woes, that my latest batch of sauerkraut did not have an adventure in the food processor before pickling began. Live and learn, then don’t make the same mistake again. But what is the second? That, I have come to believe, is the slow cooker.
So now we’re going with “corn sugar” instead of high fructose corn syrup (now referred to as HFCS for pure laziness)? That’s just lovely. As the public, for the most part, becomes more aware of the health effects of HFCS, to say nothing of the processing and ungodly number of foods which contain it, the industry which produces it wants to add another layer of confusion.
Sugar is bad for you, period. Any sort of sugar isn’t good for you, per se, but at least sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, dried cane juice, and fruit come with nutrients and, in the case of fruit, fiber to slow down the sugar’s absorption into the bloodstream. HFCS has none of these, but is merely a cheap and concentrated sweetener that has crept into nearly every processed food on the shelf. No one should be eating those foods in the first place, but HFCS just adds insult to injury.
Locavores may sometimes reach the same levels of bloated hysteria as vegans (and I used to be guilty as one of the latter), but is there something to be said for it? Quite often yes, and sometimes no.
My family has always eaten seasonal produce to an extent. We buy potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, salad cucumbers, onions, lettuce, carrots, etc., but there are a few fruits and vegetables we have never really purchased from a grocery store. Okra, “fresh” tomatoes apart from the occasional pint of cherry tomatoes or a pair of Roma tomatoes which will be baked on a chicken breast, strawberries, green beans, asparagus, sweet corn, rhubarb, many fresh herbs, peaches, and grapes never seem to come home from the grocery store.
We’ve basically eaten this way before we–or at least I–heard about the local food movement. We sometimes buy canned tomatoes and frozen corn, but never from the produce department. Why? Because 85.7% of the time, those foods just don’t taste good when they’ve come from the supermarket.
I freely admit, coffee is my biggest vice. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, bread and I have a better relationship than a couple of years ago, and my love of cheese has never gotten (too) out of hand. But coffee is my absolute love. There is lot of truth to the statement that the day can be endured without food so long as you have coffee.
While not nearly so troublesome as fat-free vinaigrette, it always amazes me how food manufacturers come up with these concoctions. While the ratio of oil to vinegar in a dressing is a matter of personal preference, I’m not certain how to make one which is actually low-fat. Even with what is really an unreasonable one-to-one ratio of oil to vinegar, nearly all the calories are from fat.
While we have many dressings at the restaurant where I work (1000 Island, Ranch, Honey Mustard, Sesame Ginger, Blue Cheese, Caesar, etc.), all of the vinaigrette type dressings–Dijon Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Italian–are somehow low-fat. Though I don’t have the ingredients for our dressings on hand, a quick glance some low-fat vinaigrettes yields ingredient lists that begin with water and feature corn syrup solids and xanthan gum. Boy, that sounds appetizing.
I would have thought, by now, the low-fat craze had begun to fade as proper research about fats comes into the mainstream. Why not use a little less? When at home, why not take a real homemade dressing and toss the salad in the dressing, even if it’s just in a plastic container. The salad tossed with full-fat dressing will probably have fewer calories than the salad with low-fat dressing drizzled over top. And that’s the only legitimate purpose of trying to cut fat, to cut calories.
But maybe the US is destined to remain a Snackwells nation. More of less tasty food rather than less of tastier food.