The Gospel According to Barry, Part 1

I finally picked up Barry Glassner’s The Gospel of Food last night, and I started reading before bed, expecting to get about 10 pages in before I conked out.

I read 174 pages. I have no idea what time it was when I finally forced myself to put it down, but it was no earlier than 2 a.m. And, although I probably could have lasted a bit longer, I deliberately stopped before the “What Made America Fat?” chapter, because I didn’t want to be sleepy for that. (Also, frankly, I didn’t want to have my enjoyment of the rest of it trashed if Glassner isn’t as critical of the “obesity” hysteria as I hope he is — though I have faith that he regards it with a satisfyingly critical eye, at least.)

Can I just TELL YOU how much I love Barry Glassner? I don’t even know what to say about the first 174 pages of this book; I just want to quote them all. In lieu of that, I will encourage you as strongly as possible to buy it. Even if it all goes to hell in the fat chapter, the first 174 pages are worth the money.

What I love about Glassner’s writing — and I devoured The Culture of Fear just as quickly a few years ago, right after I saw him interviewed in Bowling for Columbine — is that he really seems to prize reason above all else. That doesn’t mean he’s unemotional or narrowly focused; he believes, for instance, that it is reasonable to enjoy the sensual pleasure of eating. (And he’s goddamned right.) It just means that his apparent agenda is to advance the cause of critical thinking, not any specific point of view. And that is why I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading him.

So Glassner cops to being a card-carrying member of the Slow Food movement and describes some meals he’s had at ungodly expensive restaurants in utterly porny detail, but he never allows his preferences to give way to snobbery. He refuses to demonize processed food or fast food, choosing instead to take a thorough look at the many pros and cons of both, the real people (often highly trained chefs) who produce the recipes, and the real reasons why people choose them over fresh, whole foods. (Progressives who act as if everyone who makes that choice is an ignorant dupe of Big Food — or even simply too poor to have other options — take a well-deserved licking for their [okay, our] presumptions here.) He also acknowledges that those amazing, memorable meals he’s had at fine restaurants have most often been when he was in the company of a powerful critic the staff spotted — when he’s dined at the same places as an average (albeit monied) Joe, the experience has been far less thrilling. Food can be a mindblowing art form, but even those willing and able pay top dollar don’t necessarily have access to the highest expressions of it. Verrrry interesting.

Glassner also untangles a lot of food mysteries I’ve wondered about — such as the meaning of labels like “organic,” “fresh,” and “natural” (not much, in every case) — without ever taking a gotcha tone one way or another. He acknowledges that, personal health-wise, something marked “organic” is unlikely to be much better for you than its non-organic counterpart (in fact, the best alternative might come from a small farmer who does farm organically but can’t afford to jump through the hoops required to earn an “organic” label), and that the organic movement is infected with a lot of “New Age blather and inferior food.” BUT, he says, even huge suppliers like Organic Valley demonstrate “obvious sincerity about the social and ethical commitments of their company.” An Organic Valley product may not be substantially better for you, but it’s better for the farmers who are protected from price fluctuations, the people who live near those farms and aren’t exposed to pesticides, and the animals who have much better living conditions before, um, being slaughtered. So there are plenty of good reasons to buy organic, even if they’re not the reasons why most consumers actually make that choice.

“Natural” on the other hand, is pretty much a load of crap (which I was just thinking the other night while examining Al’s Sprite can, which simultaneously claimed to contain “all natural flavors” and “no fruit juice”). One example is “natural” vanilla, which comes from the bean, and “artificial” vanillin, which comes from wood pulp. Both come from perfectly natural ingredients and are practically indistinguishable chemically, but only one is allowed the “natural” label. On the other hand, for a food to be labeled “natural,” it only has to have 51 percent “natural” components, and the taste usually comes from the 49% of artificial crap anyway.

As for “fresh,” in addition to finally explaining to me how we came to have supersweet fresh pineapple year-round, starting about 15 years ago (hardcore chilling and the addition of previously stored fruit juice to balance the flavor), Glassner makes a point that occasionally gets some play in the media but is really not said enough:

If these sorts of wordplays and legalistic shenanigans [to earn a "fresh" label] seem absurd, so are the public’s misconceptions that motivate food companies to sell their processed foods as fresh in the first place. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables tend to be at least as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, but most food shoppers imagine otherwise. Consumers are largely unaware of contemporary techniques for flash-freezing and canning that retain micronutrients that are often lost during the packaging and shipping of fresh produce. The levels of many vitamins decrease dramatically in fresh fruits and vegetables within several days after they have been harvested and refrigerated.

And you know, I knew all that, but I still feel mildly guilty when I turn to my trusty bag of (organic!) frozen veggies for dinner or berries for a smoothie, instead of using the real thing. I buy frozen mostly because I inevitably waste fresh stuff; I’d love to be the kind of person who goes to the market every day and buys exactly what I need for dinner that night, but, um, I’m not. So even if I only buy one apple and one green pepper and one zucchini when I go to the store, I can be sure at least one of those will rot before I use it. (And don’t get me started on heads of broccoli/cauliflower/lettuce or, the worst offenders, bunches of herbs. WHO THE HELL CAN USE 50 HANDFULS OF CILANTRO BEFORE IT GOES BAD? I’m not opening a Mexican restaurant here; I’m making six fucking tacos!) Frozen fruits and veggies allow me the freedom to cook what I feel like when I feel like it — and to say “Screw it, let’s go out” without feeling guilty about those peppers that are getting squishy in the crisper. But then, there’s always that niggling guilt about how I’m copping out, compromising my culinary integrity and possibly my health — and above all, being a Bad Fatty. I must earn my right to be unapologetically fat by eating only raw, fresh, organic foods!

That kind of thinking is what Glassner calls “The Gospel of Naught” — the idea that we should all be eating as little as possible, with as little enjoyment (and as much effort) as possible, for optimum health. (He specifically goes after Walter Willett within the first few pages. Heh.) This leads to incredible misconceptions about what kind of nutrients human beings actually need to consume.

For one of his studies, Paul Rozin [a psychologist at UPenn] presented the following scenario to a diverse sample of Americans: “Assume you are alone on a desert island for one year and you can have water and one other food. Pick the food that you think would be best for your health.” Seven choices were offered: corn, alfalfa sprouts, hot dogs, spinach, peaches, bananas, and milk chocolate.

If you guessed that hot dogs and milk chocolate are the closest of those foods to being nutritionally complete, you get a gold star. Fewer than 1 in 10 of Rozin’s subjects picked one of those.

In response to another set of questions, half of Rozin’s respondents said that even very small amounts of salt, cholesterol and fat are unhealthy. More than one in four believed that a diet totally free of those substances is healthiest, when of course, they are crucial nutrients for human health. Without them, we could not survive.

Emphasis mine. The “Gospel of Naught” has trained us to “see pleasurable and healthy eating as mutually exclusive.” And that’s a problem for our health, on a lot of levels. Not only does it keep a shocking number of people from realizing that fat and salt are necessary parts of a healthy diet, but — as Glassner explains on the very first page — some studies have shown that enjoying your food makes you get more nutrients out of it. He talks about one study in which groups of Thai and Swedish women were given Thai food, Swedish food, and some other food “that was high in nutrients but consisted of a sticky, savorless paste.” The Thai women absorbed more iron when eating the Thai food, which the Swedes thought was too spicy; the Swedes absorbed more iron when eating traditional Swedish food the Thai women found unappealingly bland; and neither group absorbed much iron when eating the pasty shit.

How weird is that? And what could it mean, if it were found to be true on a larger scale? Is the “French paradox” really a result of better portion control, or is it a result of the French enjoying their fucking food? Citing another study of Rozin’s, Glassner writes:

Among the findings: the French view food as pleasure, while Americans worry about food. Asked what words they associate with chocolate cake, the French chose “celebration” and the Americans chose “guilt.” Asked about heavy cream, the French selected “whipped”; Americans chose “unhealthy.”

I know which camp I’d rather be in.

All right, I could go on and on, but I don’t want to wreck the whole book for you. Go buy it. Meanwhile, I’m off to read what Glassner has to say about fat. I expect there will be more gushing tomorrow.

52 thoughts on “The Gospel According to Barry, Part 1

  1. Oh, Kate. Al had better watch out. :P If you think you love this guy now, you’ll be ready to marry him after you read the chapter about fat.

    It’s just too bad he had to piss on his fat-friendly rep in a later interview in the LA Times with “a little fat is OK but obesity isnt” rhetoric, which seems to completely contradict everything he wrote. Makes me think maybe someone in The Complex “got to him.”

    LAT interview reproduced here.

    http://www.greatertalent.com/GTNnews.php?articleId=194

  2. OMG the part about you opening a mexican restaurarant made me laugh out loud because i just bought a bushel of cilantro yesterday and thought ‘now how the hell am i going to use the 999 other leaves?’

    I loved this book too, although the chapter on chefs and restaurant bookings seemed endless and overly tedious to me. But I’m honestly just not interested in famous chefs and their famous eateries. Otherwise, the book was great.

    Can i recommend to you Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma? He goes into great detail regarding organic vs. industrial organic vs. local farming, in addition to following a meat cow from his purchase at a stockyard farm until it’s demise at the slaughterhouse. It’s amazing stuff. And he’s a beautiful writer.
    (though let it be noted that i do not agree with all of his views)

  3. Totally agree with Meowser’s take on this. Especially disappointing is that the “obesity isn’t OK” business is offered up out of a clear blue with no explanation whatsoever (“Everybody knows…”), whereas when he’s not in the control of the LipoMonster, Glassner at least presents some data sources and logical anaylsis for what he says.

    I’ll tell ya — we gotta keep checking the basements for pods. These people are possessed.

  4. I just put this on hold at the library, I’m really excited about reading it. I love to eat fresh locally sourced food, but I am also beholden to a fairly small food budget most of the time, so I buy mostly conventional produce. People who try to make me feel guilty for my food choices are invited to buy my groceries, clean my kitchen and cook for me. Or just shut up.

    I love the information about food you like being “better” for you (as far as absorption goes)! I guess I should have taken the extra few minutes and made myself a hot lunch, because that raisin brain wasn’t really what I wanted to eat.

  5. Come payday, I am picking this up. Along with that cookbook. Because it is seriously time for me to consciously campaign against my disordered eating and reclaim some pleasure in food.

  6. (He specifically goes after Walter Willett within the first few pages. Heh.)

    That’s worth the cost of the book all by itself.

  7. the chapter on chefs and restaurant bookings seemed endless and overly tedious to me. But I’m honestly just not interested in famous chefs and their famous eateries.

    Madge, I found that stuff interesting, but then, I’m into both food porn and stuff about how the rich and famous are treated. One thing I loved about all that was that it made me much LESS interested in ever getting into the hottest eateries, since many of those are a lot more about manufactured hype than good food. (Which, you know, one could guess fairly easily, but it’s nice to see it laid out.)

    On the other hand, I also loved his takedown of the Chowhound set for glorifying mediocre food that’s supposedly “authentic” and prizing a restaurant’s obscurity over the quality of its food. Frankly, P.F. Chang’s and even Panda Express have WAY better food than the two hole-in-the-wall Chinese places within a block of my house. (Probably because, as Glassner points out, the families behind them had zero restaurant experience before they got here. They’re businesspeople, not foodies.) Just goes to show how much emotions and preconceptions influence your enjoyment of food, I guess.

  8. Oh my! This sounds like a wonderful book. I’m not surprised at the comparisons between US & France in terms of our enjoyment of food. That is after all a sensual pleasure, and we Americans think that TEH PLEASURE IZ BAD, in most cases.

    As for cilantro, the answer to that dilemma is just not to buy it…I’m one of those minority people for whom cilantro tastes like metal or bitter soap in my mouth.

  9. Re. cilantro.

    Cilantro pesto. Get a decent pesto recipe, but substitute cilantro for the basil. Your call on whether or not to include the pine nuts. Good for all things pestoesque (i.e. on pasta), as well as:
    — an unusually floral not-too-hot green salsa
    — keep in the freezer for instant Thai Chicken stir fry.
    — as a topping for bruscetta made with corn pone (i.e. thin corn bread)
    — as a sauce for grilled halibut

    (Dang. When’s lunch?)

  10. P.S. I also dry my own spices & herbs. Far cheaper than buying them dried, and they are stronger, too. I use dried cilantro all the time in chili, etc. It works.

    (I also freeze my own veggies from fresh. Again, cheaper, and a way to have strange stuff like kale handy. Otherwise, I’m throwing out rotten stuff, too. Vive la freezer!)

  11. Kell, YES, that’s the plan. I just need to pick up some hard parmesan, and then i’ll being making cilantro pesto. THANKS.

    Kate – I love PF Changs.

  12. A few years ago, when I noticed that articles on obesity and how wrong, bad, evil, etc., it was were becoming waaaaaay more commonplace. I said to my husband “Now that they’ve got smokers on the ropes, they’re going after fat people as public health menace No. 1, fat is the new smoking!”

    I was so wrong. Fat isn’t the new smoking, fat is the new SEX! As in, the puritanical ideal that sex is enjoyable and feels good, but it’s wrong, bad, evil, etc. Now we’re getting that message about food. It’s replaced “Gluttony” as the new “Lust” in our most terrible, hated, deadly sin!

    I’ll check out the book, it sounds good. Do any of you watch the Food Network? I swear I can spend an entire Saturday with nothing else on! And I love, love, love those artistic cakes, like the Ace of Cake kind. Is it art? Is it food? It’s both! Ah, I just want to reach through the television and grab me a piece!

  13. The cheapskate in me rebelled at paying $3 for a handful of cilantro that I’d never finish before it went bad anyway. So I got the brilliant idea of growing it myself, from seeds. Blah. The only thing I succeeded in growing were big, weird, lemon-yellow mushrooms. That scared the shit out of me – no telling what’s in my soil/air/water.

  14. Me too Spins! Cilantro makes me gag. If they put it on my food at a restaurant I have to obsessively pick off every spec or the meal is ruined. And yeah, I love fresh herbs but never use them for that reason, I use a little bit and then the rest get thrown out because I have no use for them… it feels like such a waste.

  15. Christine–It’s not you. Cilantro is notoriously difficult to grow because it goes to seed so easily. Even good gardeners usually eschew growing it.

  16. We managed to grow cilantro, I think. It did go to seed quickly, and then a big caterpillar ate on it, but as Kate mentioned, it’s not like you need much cilantro. It is useful for Thai food.

    We pretty much restrict our fresh herbs to what we grow, which right now is mint and basil (the dill got crowded out). You can go pretty far with mint and basil. We’ve had a hard time finding dried fennel, though, so we might have to add fennel to the garden next year and dry it ourselves. (I bought a hunk at the farmer’s market to take home and dry, but it never happened.)

  17. Hmm. I can find dried fennel easily enough, but on the rare occasion when a recipe calls for fresh (damn you, Jamie Oliver), I’m usually SOL.

    And I’d just like to say thank you, Kell, because I just made myself some pasta with chicken, pesto (basil, not cilantro, but I’ll try cilantro next) and (frozen!) peas for lunch, and it was freakin’ awesome. I love pesto so much and always forget to make it when Al goes away.

  18. Oh, also, Meowser, Kell, etc., I remember seeing that LA Times article a while back, and I think that’s exactly why I was wary of Glassner’s take on fat. Nice to know the book’s not like that. (I still haven’t gotten back into it today. That will be happening… now.)

  19. With regard to the herbs – I’ve found the thing which works for me is buying them, chopping them up, and then freezing the chopped herb. That way at least I have something like chopped parsley on hand for when I need it in a dish. It also means I’m not having to scrape runny herbal glop out of the bottom of the crisper drawer in the fridge when I’ve decided not to cook that meal I bought the whatever-it-was for after all. I also grow my own, where possible – things like rosemary are easy enough to grow, and I get a culinary supply just by trimming the tips of the bushes and letting them dry. (Which reminds me – must figure out a way to rig up a herb-drying rack in the cupboard under the stairs…)

    Mint is easy to grow, but keep it in a pot on its own – otherwise you will not have a garden any more, you’ll just have a single mint plant which has taken over all arable areas. I keep mine in the biggest pot I can lay hands on, and it gets the tea leaves from the teapot every so often, as well as any stray rinse water (mint is a bog plant, and therefore it is impossible to water it too much). Once it gets growing strongly, I start picking it for tea, because fresh mint tea is lovely. Parsley is another one to grow – get seedlings from a nursery, pick them for about a year, then let them go to seed themselves. Parsley seed (like parsnip seed) needs to be really fresh to germinate, so self-seeded is best. If you’re going to grow coriander (cilantro), grow it for the seeds or the roots rather than the leaves (it’s a very versatile plant – the seeds are ground as a spice, the root is used in several asian cuisines, and the leaves are used all over the place too… much to my distaste, since to me it tastes like tin) – sow lots, and thin regularly. The trick for basil, I’ve discovered, is to plant lots, and pick regularly and often. Otherwise it just grows into one long stalk, and bolts straight to seed. Thyme is unkillable. Oregano/marjoram is another one to keep in a pot, because if it escapes, it takes over.

    (All gardening advice above is good for Australian conditions. No guarantees made for anywhere else).

  20. Mmm, coriander. (Our downunderan word for cilantro). Make large batches of Thai green curry paste to freeze.

    Coriander, lots
    Green chillis, lots
    Spring onions, lots (I think you might call them green onions? The straight-up-and-down ones, not the ones with a bulb at the bottom.)
    Lemongrass, a couple inches, finely shredded
    a tiny bit of shrimp paste (you now have a giant useless pot of shrimp paste in your fridge instead of a giant useless bunch of coriander)
    Garlic, lots
    Ground coriander and cumin seed
    a little salt
    Oil
    Fish sauce, a tiny tad
    soy sauce, a dash
    Palm sugar, a little
    Galangal, if you can get some; otherwise, ginger
    Kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded (sub: lime zest)

    Squoodge the whole lot up in a blender. Chuck on fried chicken, beef, vegies, or fish, with green veg (beans, sugar snap peas, green capsicum (peppers), spring onions, whatever you like. Add coconut milk or coconut cream.

  21. Cilantro is notoriously difficult to grow because it goes to seed so easily. Even good gardeners usually eschew growing it.

    If you sow a few seeds each week, you can have a steady supply of the leaf – and an even steadier supply of coriander seed!

  22. I read this book a bit ago, so forgive my extreme paraphrasing – but i also love how Glassner goes into detail regarding the next new cure-all food, and how marketing and food companies jump on it wholeheartedly. – often when there are only small slivers of evidence to suggest that X food does anything positive for humans.
    I think the whole ‘soy isoflavones’ hype is a great case in point. Food manufacturers were putting that shit in everything, from vitamins and soymilk (duh) to cereal, yogurt, fruit fucking rollups ( i exaggerate, but it’s possible…). Was it Glassner or Pollan who noted that REAL whole food gets squeezed out by marketing teams, because you can’t inject a banana with ‘soy isoflavones’, or print “fresh, natural, low fat’ on it, yet, it’s STILL and always will be one of the healthier things you can eat.
    It’s hard not to become a pawn of marketers, and it does take focus and constant critical thinking NOT to. Because we’re slammed with it from every direction.
    On a different note – but i wanted to get this in, since i’m so outraged by it – has anyone seen that new Heineken commercial with the robot woman, who essentially becomes a keg to serve beer from? and then she replicates into other robot women who also serve beer? I don’t even drink Heinken and i’m writing a letter.

  23. An Organic Valley product may not be substantially better for you, but it’s better for the farmers who are protected from price fluctuations, the people who live near those farms and aren’t exposed to pesticides, and the animals who have much better living conditions before, um, being slaughtered. So there are plenty of good reasons to buy organic, even if they’re not the reasons why most consumers actually make that choice.

    Actually that *is* why I buy organic food whenever possible, not because I think it’s necessarily healthier for me. (though I do notice lots less ‘hormonal” stuff going on when use organic dairy products from cows not given growth hormones).

  24. Oh, and the cilantro pesto sounds wonderful. I LOCE cilantro, but like the rest of you can never use the whole bunch before it goes bad. I’m going to try that one!

  25. Actually that *is* why I buy organic food whenever possible,

    Deja Pseu, me too. (I’d read a similar argument to Glassner’s elsewhere a while back.) But I don’t think we’re most consumers. :)

  26. I’m with you guys, I also buy “organic” meat, dairy, and eggs for reasons other than believing they are healthier–In my case, animal welfare and environmental reasons (I feel the same way, environmentally speaking, about organic produce but haven’t made the leap yet… I am testing my husband’s patience and frugality enough by insisting that we spend so much more for organic meat, eggs, and dairy). I feel reasonably reassured that Whole Foods actually does have good standards for how their meat is raised, and even though I am sure some egg companies lie about how their chickens are housed, I have a much better shot at getting something not raised in those horrible “battery cages” by buying cage free. Plus most organic producers, even the huge ones, are smaller than their conventional equivalents, which usually helps keep things more humane and environmentally friendly. At least, I hope.

    We’ll see, as the organic craze grows, whether it doesn’t start causing problems of its own, but I think as a society we are moving somewhat in the right direction with the organic/locally grown trends.

  27. A couple of things: Yes, salt and fat are awesome, necessary, and delicious! I eat them! A lot. But our own bodies make cholesterol, so we don’t need to get it from animal sources.

    And unless you know the farmer who is selling the “cage-free” eggs, they are very likely produced in conditions only marginally less cruel than battery eggs. And Horizon organic milk is a joke. I used to by cage free and Horizon before I found out it really didn’t make much difference in how the animals were treated:

    http://goveg.com/organic_products.asp

    Sad, but true.

  28. Yeah, Devery, he’s talking specifically about Organic Valley there, apropos of a conversation he had with some of their reps. I’ve heard what you’re saying about Horizon before. (Was that in Fast Food Nation?)

    As for cholesterol, I’ve never quite understood the deal there, because yeah, as I understand it, you don’t “get” cholesterol from food; certain foods can just raise or lower the different kinds our bodies already make. So I think Glassner phrased that poorly, as do all the marketers who claim their products are “low in cholesterol.”

  29. I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I really wonder if there isn’t some connection between weight and all of the growth hormones that are fed to the animals whose milk we drink and whose eggs and selves we eat. If we’re putting stuff into these animals to make THEM bigger and more productive, is it really that much of a leap to wonder whether eating them would have a similar impact on US?

    I’m sure I’ve got to be wrong about this, but the thought keeps crossing my mind that perhaps part of the reason that I’m fat and my sister is thin is that I drank milk by the quart as a kid while she seldom touched the stuff.

  30. I don’t know, Jmars, i think there is something to that theory, however, you’d be hardpressed to find a scientist or university willing to take that experiment on, being that it challenges the dairy and beef industries. Remember what happened to Oprah when she spoke out against the cattle industry?
    i don’t think it’s just coincidence that with the advent of hormone treated meat, girls experience their first period (and breasts ) much younger than they did a few decades ago. And it’s NOT due to teh fat, as the media is so quick to point out.

    Horizon Organic is owned by Dean. That was their attempt to make money off of the organic craze. Companies like Dean, ADM and ConAgra aren’t about to lose out on new markets, so instead they just create their own little industrial organic venture. It’s not all that different from the regular food they produce, and is often handled in the same facilities as the non organic. TRULY organic ventures – like polyface farm and organic valley often times can’t even afford to buy the organic status from the federal govt, and so they remain ‘just a farm’, when they’re 100x more ‘organic’ than a name like Horizon. If you just google any one of these companies – kashi, morning star and, cascadian farms, etc, you’ll find a few listings down that they are actually owned by Kelloggs and General Mills respectively.

  31. Oh, and better late than never… Lauredhel, that recipe sounds awesome. Is the shrimp paste crucial? Since I REALLY don’t know what I’d do with a giant useless pot of shrimp paste?

    Oh, and yes, spring onions = green onions or scallions here. And we do call the seed coriander, just not the leaf.

  32. On a different note – but i wanted to get this in, since i’m so outraged by it – has anyone seen that new Heineken commercial with the robot woman

    OMG! I thought I was going to throw up the first time I saw that commercial. For one thing, she’s cadaverously thin and it doesn’t really look healthy to me. For a second, WHAT THE HELL MEN’S FANTASIES NO. A woman, who’s actually a robot, whose whole torso is a beer keg, who can replicate into triplets? Well, there goes the last 35 years. OK, yes, men are still allowed to fantasize about this, but . . . NOT ON MY TV.

    Horrible commercial.

  33. Well, animal bodies (including ours) produce their own cholesterol because mammalian cells require it in their membranes for normal cell function. This is why external sources of cholesterol are all animal fats, and why you don’t get cholesterol from plant foods. If you are eating an animal’s body or its fatty secretions, you are eating some of the cholesterol that body manufactured in order to function.

  34. but he never allows his preferences to give way to snobbery

    I really like The Gospel of Food, but I differ from you on this point. I think Glassner is a huge food snob.

  35. Oh, Stef, don’t get me wrong. I think he’s as snobby as they come in terms of his personal tastes. But in terms of his analysis of the way people eat? I thought the book was refreshingly free of “OMG, McDonald’s is so disgusting! Why would anyone eat there?” crap.

  36. Stephanie, i’m glad you share my outrage, because that commercial makes me want to punch and kick things. And i can so easily see it fitting into Jean Kilbourne’s next version of Killing us Softly. Seriously, do NO women work on the Heineken marketing team? or are they so programmed to defer to their male colleagues that they thought this commercial was a great idea?

    and yes, Glassner is a food snob, in that he likes great restaurants and amazing food. But i like that he’s not so quick to jump on the “whole food = good” (which seems to imply, makes you thin) and “fast food = bad” (makes you fat) schtick.

  37. Of course it matters who the giant organic farms are owned by, but I still think that notwithstanding the possibly preferable use of small local suppliers, these companies are a step in the right direction if they are forced to meet any standards at all to earn the “organic” label. And the ingredients in most Kashi snacks, for example, are more “nutritious” (at least in terms of what I am looking for in a snack bar… lack of high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, some fiber, a degree of sweetness low enough that it doesn’t make my teeth ache, an ingredient list somewhat shorter than my arm) than any other equivalent products I can find on my local grocery store shelves. Would it be better to make my own snack bars at home, or not eat them at all? Sure. But the reality is I’m strapped for time and often end up grabbing a granola bar or something for breakfast, and again, Kashi is a step in the right direction IMO.

    I take the goveg.com link with a grain of salt because PETA doesn’t want people to eat meat or animal products at all, so of course they are going to turn a much more critical eye toward any producer of those foods. That doesn’t mean that the information in the link is wrong, just that I need to do more research on this issue. YMMV.

    I do hope we get more local options as time goes by (for all the reasons given in this thread and because the food tends to just plain taste better), and I’m confident that we will. We have a CSA nearby and although it is not run that well and my friend had a fairly unsatisfactory experience with it… so I have been hesitant to join… it was probably not that long ago that even having one around here would have been unheard of. So that’s a positive thing.

  38. Would it be better to make my own snack bars at home, or not eat them at all? Sure. But the reality is I’m strapped for time and often end up grabbing a granola bar or something for breakfast, and again, Kashi is a step in the right direction IMO.

    Totally, spacedcowgirl. I mean, I love all the suggestions in this thread, but the reality is, I’m never going to dry or grow my own herbs. I’m never going to make my own trail mix, let alone granola bars, if I can buy one bag that already has everything in it.

    I’m one of those people who weighs my time into considerations of what the “cheaper” option is. Even setting aside the hourly rate I could make if I were actively editing right now, the fact is, I don’t enjoy cooking that much (I like it some, but only some), and I really don’t like fussy, time-consuming cooking that makes a big mess. So my quality of life is substantially improved if I buy a jar of Thai curry paste instead of following Lauredhel’s awesome recipe up there. (Following that recipe is something I’d do, like, once a year, for the novelty of making something with a lot of ingredients. Most nights? No way. And yes, I know, many of the people here will not think that counts as “a lot” of ingredients, but it’s all relative. I am all about this. )

    In fact, I think maybe this topic needs a whole post.

  39. Ah, but that’s what batch-cooking is all about. (And yes, I consider that a pretty simple recipe!) You chop a bunch o’ stuff, and you don’t have to chop it particularly fussily because the blender or food processor is going to do the work. Whizz it all together, a couple or three blendersful, and freeze batches in ziplocks. Then you’ve got a whole pile of green curry paste ready for when the mood takes you, probably a year’s worth unless you’re really hooked. The only other ingredients you need are some sort of protein food, some sort of vegetable (which is optional in itself, and frozen mixed veg or a can of bamboo shoots and water chestnuts is fine too), and a can of coconut goo, and the whole thing takes maybe ten or fifteen minutes, as long as it takes to microwave the rice. This is convenience cooking, for me.

    But then, I confess that I do my own stock, too – chuck all the chicken bones and scraps back in the crockpot with whatever’s leftover (sweet potato skins, parsnip ends, whatever), maybe add a leek top or an onion if there’s one lying around, cover with water, and crock overnight. (The original chicken recipe? Buy pre-seasoned, pre-stuffed chicken if possible. If a non-prepped chook, shove a slashed lemon up its jacksie. Put in the crockpot, turn it on, walk away. Come back when it’s done.)

    Both of these are minimal overall efforts for a dramatically taste-superior product (especially the curry paste, I’m surprised it’s even called the same food). It’s all about ROI.

  40. Totally, spacedcowgirl. I mean, I love all the suggestions in this thread, but the reality is, I’m never going to dry or grow my own herbs. I’m never going to make my own trail mix, let alone granola bars, if I can buy one bag that already has everything in it.

    I’m one of those people who weighs my time into considerations of what the “cheaper” option is. Even setting aside the hourly rate I could make if I were actively editing right now, the fact is, I don’t enjoy cooking that much (I like it some, but only some), and I really don’t like fussy, time-consuming cooking that makes a big mess.

    I agree, and I’m glad I’m not the only one! I do enjoy cooking but “Cook’s Illustrated” type cooking where it takes you 2-3 hours from start to finish is too much for me most of the time. I love the food that results but the additional time required to clean up the mess, in particular, makes it too daunting for me except on rare occasions.

    That 1-2-3 cookbook is really interesting. Minimal-ingredient, streamlined cooking that doesn’t appear to rely solely on a bunch of strange and expensive convenience foods. I might have to check that one out!

    What I really need to read, though, is Glassner’s book. The descriptions here are really intriguing. People are so quick to scapegoat fast food (disclaimer, I am not praising fast food here, but I think the premise of Super Size Me, for example, is pretty much pretentious and absurd and just gives people who don’t eat fast food very often one more opportunity to feel self-righteous).

    I remember once I got in an argument with someone on Salon Table Talk who seriously thought that eating a McDonald’s burger ONE TIME in your LIFE could impact your health (although to be fair, she didn’t specify how) in the long term. I asked her again to make sure I was reading right, and she confirmed that was what she was saying. I think if our health and lives were that fragile we would have died out a long time ago. Not, again, that it’s probably optimal to eat fast food every day… but there is such hysteria surrounding it.

    lauredhel, that does sound delicious… and I love “shove a slashed lemon up its jacksie,” it sounds adorable and sort of violent at the same time. :)

  41. Sounds pretty good, and that bit about the enjoyment of food possibly having an effect on how you put it down (What you said about the nutrients working better with the body) sounded very intreresting. Does he go in depth with that concept? Or does he just brush over it? If I can get some good research on it: It’d be another attack point for me. :D (Which I think would put me at… uhhhh…. carry the two…. about four or five attack points against fat hatred? [And a couple against thin hatred too] :P)

    Thanks for the use of Orthorexic (Wherever you said it… :P) too. I had no idea about the disorder.

    But anyway: Thanks for another display of your eloquence. :)

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