Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Archive for May, 2009

Food News of the Weird

Just for your reading pleasure, here’s some tidbits I unearthed recently about food, industry, and the places they intersect.  In no particular order:

1) Six German states banned Red Bull Cola after the food safety agency in North Rhine-Westphalia (LIGA) found trace amounts of cocaine in the brew.  Austria-based Red Bull claims that no such traces were found in their internal tests, but that if those Rhinelanders thought they found something, well, it was certainly just due to Red Bull’s participation in the common industry practice of including decocainised coca leaf extract to give it that little sumpin’ sumpin’.  Decocainised coca leaf.  Like decaf tea leaves, but with cocaine.  Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has refused to comment on whether it still uses coca leaves in its famous beverage.  Food industry execs, predictably, are trying to quash the concern before it grows.  My favorite quote, from the Time article, is this: “If you start examining lots of other drinks and food so carefully, you’d find a lot of surprising things.”

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Michael Pollan: Food, Ads, and Revolution

Here’s an interesting video that covers quite a bit of ground: swine flu and industrial ag, GMOs and overpopulation, politics and sustainability, and consumer confusion campaigns (including Cheerios). Pollan also mentions Michella Obama’s White House garden, big ag subsidies, and the impact of the Standard American Diet on the health care crisis.

It’s about 20 minutes long, but there’s plenty of good stuff. Pollan is a man who keeps things simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

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Why Communists Hate Cheerios (and Other Tales)

It turns out that communists and their grand poo-bah (read: Barack Obama) hate Cheerios.  So says Ed Anger of the Weekly World News.  Now, I’m not familiar with Anger, and I have no idea if he shoots from the hip as a columnist or if his schtick is parody.  The pseudonym and the whole Weekly Word News medium suggest parody, but the intertubes tell me he has a devout following that embrace his rants as gospel, so what do I know?  That said, you may have noticed that Cheerios cereal has been getting some press lately due to a warning letter the FDA issued to General Mills. Certainly, some people certainly are taking the defense of their breakfast very seriously.

Seeing as she’s a red-blooded, all-American, all-capitalist sort of columnist, the (fortunately) inimitable Michelle Malkin has stepped up to decry the attack on Cheerios.  In the sparse lines of a non-article, Malkin manages to equate the Cheerio dust-up with both Nazi fascism (see the title of her post, an echo of the first line of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem) and socialism (complaining of proposed public funding of health care), an interesting paradox that defies my best attempts at logic.  To wit: based on Niemoller’s poem and Malkin’s clumsy invocation of its first line, somehow the Cheerios actually became the communists in this scenario. I honestly didn’t see that one coming.  (I doubt Malkin did, either.)

So, what’s the problem here, anyway?

According to the FDA, the problem is the liberal sprinkling of overambitious qualified health claims stamped all over every box of Cheerios, particularly this one: “[It can] lower your cholesterol 4 percent in 6 weeks.”

The FDA, being the killjoy that it is, had the gall to point out that a few of these claims are not backed up by  actual science.  Simply, unless GM were to add in some info about fat levels, fruits and veggies, and some other odds and ends in making a truly heart-healthy diet, these claims are misleading.  Naturally, the FDA wants these claims taken off or General Mills to consider reclassifying Cheerios as a drug, seeing as how they are trying to use a claim that “according to federal law, should apply only to drugs designed to cure disease.”  Imagine.  Those little cardboard-flavored oaty-O’s that give thousands of American children weird-tasting burps each day…soon available by prescription only?

Because I like bottom lines, I’m going to give you one.

Ain’t nobody trying to take your Cheerios away.

All the FDA is asking is that companies try not to convince consumers that good health comes in the shape of highly-processed oaty-O’s, wrapped in plastic and sitting in a pretty box.  They don’t have to stop selling them.  They just have to stop bending the truth into funny shapes while trying to sell them.

What’s the problem again?

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Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me

In part to celebrate my birthday and in part because ’tis the season, the Unicyclist and I loaded ourselves into our happy little car this weekend and trekked out to Queen Creek to visit Schnepf Farms.

For $1.75 a pound, you can pick peaches—the earliest ones in the nation, unless I’m mistaken—and eat as many in the field as your stomach can hold, free.  If there is a benefit to triple-digit temperatures the first week of May, this is it.

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This weekend

From Honey Moon Sweets.  Bavarian cream with strawberries, white chocolate, and toasted almonds.  Wowza!

Of course, this was one of two delicious cakes.  The other one was a homemade chocolate raspberry confection that we mutilated (read: devoured) long before I thought to take a picture.

Mmmm….

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About Artichokes

Well, it’s been a busy couple weeks.

I have a new job.  I still have the old job.  (I.e., I work a lot.)  I finished the paper and presentation for the class I was taking on banned books and censorship.  And I have decided to love artichokes.

If you have ever prepared artichokes from their spiny, stiff, pigheaded original state, perhaps you can empathize when I say that they are not necessarily the easiest vegetable to love.  Fortunately, I believe in second chances.  And third ones.  And, in the case of artichokes, fourth ones.

This is something I enjoy about our (my and the Unicyclist’s) attitude toward food: we believe that pretty much anything can be delicious if prepared correctly.  He may not pine for okra, but he sure likes it when I make it sauteed with onion, tomato, cumin, and dried red pepper.  Likewise, up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t a rabid fan of fresh artichokes stuffed or boiled or drenched in butter (the first ways I tried cooking them).  However, I was certain they had to be good somehow.  Living so close to Cali, some of that Golden State artichoke passion has wafted over here.  Basically, it felt nearly criminal to fail to thrill to artichokes after I had seen The Giant Artichoke restaurant in Castroville, CA.  So I kept trying.

Last week, I found the sweet spot.

Hello, grilled ‘chokes.

So how can you join the artichoke fan club?  Read on for full instructions!

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