American Cuisine

I am proud to be an American. Because an American can eat anything on the face of this earth as long as he has two pieces of bread.

-Bill Cosby

On my vacation in America, I have learned some very important things. This is my second time to really observe Americans in the wild since eating differently, and here’s some of what I gleaned:

1. Four weeks is way too long for a vacation. Probably some of you already knew this, and frankly when you’ve gotten an international plane ticket it just makes sense to use all the time you can. It’s not like you can just spring for another one and hop back over for a week in the fall. But still. One week is awesome. Two weeks is still ok. But after at that, you just want to get back to work.

2. American food is garbage. I’m sorry, but it just is. People eat appalling, appalling things. And by appalling, I mean horrifying. And by horrifying, I mean things that aren’t food.

Seriously. Maybe it’s impossible to see this unless you stand outside the situation a bit. Maybe it’s hard to taste this unless you don’t taste it for long periods and then are suddenly thrown back into it. But this is the kind of garbage I saw people putting into their mouths, without any thought that it might be toxic to them:

I Dare Say it's Not Ice Cream!
Chocolate Velvet flavor; because who doesn’t want to eat velvet?

 

NO NO NO NO NO NO, people. No. Put it back. This is disgusting. Here’s what’s in it:

Ingredients: Organic soymilk (water, organic soybeans), organic dried cane syrup, organic tapioca syrup, organic cocoa powder processed with alkali, organic soybean oil, tapioca dextrose, locust bean gum, natural flavor, guar gum, carrageenan.

First of all, soy is not good for you at all. But what about the Chinese! I hear you shrieking. Well, what about them? Are YOU Chinese? Have your ancestors been eating enormous quantities of this food for thousands of years? No. And how do the Chinese eat soy? Do you really think that the way the Chinese naturally ferment their soybeans (a process which drastically changes the digestibility of a food, increasing our ability to absorb nutrition and decreasing the effects of anti-nutrients along the way) is the same as when you eat scoopfuls of this stuff? And not just the soy in your soy ice cream, but the soy in your regular ice cream, and in your cream, and in your gum, and in your candy bars, and in your snacks, and in nearly every processed food you put in your mouth.

And what about the amount of soy the Chinese eat? Soy is eaten in enormous quantities today, but that is a new thing. You’ve been told a tale by the soy industry concerning this “sacred” part of the Asian diet. The tale is simply not true. Not to mention that the soy you’re eating is not at all the same as the soy Wang was eating 1,000 years ago.

Second, just think of the amount of sugar you’re ingesting here. 14g in a half a cup and hardly any fat. Recipe for disaster.

Third, locust bean gum, guar gum and carrageenan are junk. Yes, they’re all “natural.”  But in “nature” neither you nor any animal eat a ton of dried, ground up locust bean gum. The Japanese don’t sit around extracting the carrageenan from their seaweed and drinking big jugs of it. No one can actually tell you the effect of eating this extracted food, divorced from the other things it naturally comes with, in huge quantities as it is added to everything you eat. All of them are associated with gastrointestinal problems of one kind or another.

Finally, what is the “natural flavor” in this stuff? That’s what I’d like to know. Is that “natural” in the way the carrageenan is natural? If you’ve already got cocoa in there, what other “natural” flavor could you possibly be using in your chocolate frozen non-dairy dessert?

When I make chocolate anything, know what I use? Chocolate.

 

It's very squishy

Oh, here we go. Want to know what’s in that?

Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Barley Malt, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oil With Tbhq To Preserve Flavor, Dextrose, Water, Cocoa, Palm And Palm Kernel Oil. Contains 2% Or Less Of Each Of The Following: Whey (Milk), Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Colors (Caramel Color, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Blue 2 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake), Salt, Emulsifiers (Sorbitan Monostearate, Polysorbate 60, Mono- And Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Hydroxylated Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 80, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids), Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (To Retain Freshness), Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Egg Whites, Nonfat Dry Milk, Fructose, Modified Corn Starch, Pectin, Citric Acid.

Do I even have to say that this isn’t food? It’s chemicals lightly flavored with food-like items. I just…I’m appalled that people would eat this. Some of the same people who, if you showed them some hagis or a kidney pie or any other thing that was made from organ meat, but was actually FOOD, would be all ohgrossthat’sdisgusting.

 

Yoplait_Light_Boston_Cream_Pie

Ugh. 10g of sugar and no fat at all. Then they have to stick corn starch and gelatin in there to make it thick. You know, because it’s not actually yogurt. And then there’s all the artificial sweeteners. Acesulfame potassium, for example, which was discovered by accident when two chemists made a mistake making something else in the lab. Yum yum. Nothing like a laboratory experiment gone wrong to flavor your breakfast!

I know I’ve said this before, but I feel like it isn’t doing any good. If I brought some rocks I found on the ground to the FDA and said, Here, test this and see if it’ll kill anyone so I can grind it up and add it to something that we already make perfectly fine without it, like canned green beans I would hope that someone with a brain would say, We aren’t testing this, you idiot. Rocks aren’t food.

But the “garbage’ I’m talking about isn’t limited to the kinds of things I’ve illustrated above. Even the “good” food isn’t good. After eating American meat, dairy, eggs, and everything else for a month, I do not feel good. Everything affordable (at least to someone traveling constantly and unable to source a good farm or a buy a half a cow) is highly processed and from sick, factory-farm raised animals stuffed with an unnatural grain and sugar based diet. All the vegetables taste bland and sad.

What can be done about this? I honestly don’t know. I just know that it frightens me a little that people no longer seem to know what real food tastes like. Part of the reason they don’t know is that no one’s ever tasted real food. No one knows what a real chicken, or a real cow, or a real egg. or a real cheese is supposed to taste like. And the other part of the problem is that when the $7 lunch special sirloin comes, people are so busy snarfing down rolls with vegetable oil spread that they barely notice the taste of their meat.

3. Self-control comes into it more than I thought. When I first started doing this, on one level I was doing nothing differently. I had always eaten what I thought was good for me: it was just that I now realized what I’d thought was good for me–whole grains, fruit, ridiculous amounts of vegetables, and low-fat junk–was not. Once I learned what was good for me, I started eating that instead. So I can honestly say that Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits are not tempting. I wouldn’t eat them for money. A big piece of cake is not a treat. It’ll make me feel terrible. I’m so accustomed to not eating sugar that relatively small amounts make my heart race. I don’t LIKE that. I like to feel at my best all the time, so I don’t think of jelly beans with longing.

What does this have to do with anything? What it has to do with is that I’m having some trouble relating to people who know very well that food Y makes them sick and fat, yet can’t stop finding excuses to eat it. When all this happened to me, I assumed that what happened to me would happen to anyone. Get the information, and that’s all you need. Stop eating it all for a few months, and you’ll break whatever addiction you have to that stuff and no longer crave them.

But now I’m starting to think that while it’s true that they are addictive to a degree, there’s a bigger degree of self-control involved here than I originally thought. I keep seeing people who really have experienced enhanced health by cutting all the enormous amounts of sugarflour out for extended periods of time; who know and talk about how awful they’ll feel if they eat lots of sugarflour; just go right ahead and do it anyway upon the slightest of possible provocations.

It’s like that old Andy Griffith episode, “Alcohol and Old Lace.” Two seemingly nice old ladies come to tell Andy about someone operating a moonshine still, and they are careful to explain: We believe a body has a right to a nip, now and then. But it should always be for an occasion, is what we believe.

Of course once all the other moonshiners are out of business, the ladies’ own still is the only place for the town drunks to get their liquor. The ladies justify this by saying, They sell moonshine for drinking purposes, and that is wrong. We sell elixir for celebrations. The drunks keep coming up with “occasions” to satisfy the old biddies. Happy Sir Walter Raleigh Landing Day! National Potato Week! Possibly the most famous line in the show occurs when one drunk bows himself out like a Muslim and, as the ladies wish him happy Muhammad’s birthday, one of the ladies says: I had no idea there were so many Moslems in Mayberry. I could have sworn Lars Hansen was a Lutheran.

That’s how I feel sometimes in America with food. It’s particularly bad after someone proceeds to explain how they “tried” eating without lots of sugar and starch, and they just aren’t ___________________. (Fill in the blank with whatever you want. Losing weight. Feeling better. Whatever.)

Then they proceed to say Oh, it’s National Chocolate Chip Day you know. So I’ll need to have some chocolate chip cookies today. I’m not going to tell you it’s morally wrong to eat a cookie. But I am going to go out on a limb here and say it this way: If you eat something and it makes you grumpy; if it makes you more likely to scream at your kids; if it leaves you exhausted and unfit to do your work; if it interferes with your sleep; if it makes you pack on pounds when you know you need to lose weight; if it makes your heart race; if it brings you another step closer to full on diabetes…

Just a thought.

(Just FYI, it actually is National Chocolate Chip Day today. They were invented in 1941. But you know what? You actually don’t need a cookie. If you eat one, you won’t feel good.)

Don’t get me wrong. I have my areas in my life where I am just as easily tempted to do what I feel like rather than what I should, just like anyone else. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Sunday morning glut of doughnuts at your church prior to the service doesn’t actually help you participate better in worship, and it probably does contribute to your frantic need to dash out and get lunch the first instant you can.

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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4 thoughts on “American Cuisine

  1. Very interesting observations and thoughts on the American diet experiment, as it seems to be. The chemistry list on labels of ingredients is appalling. One of the things I’ve gotten good at is calculating the percent of sugar that is in things. It is scary. People have no idea that they are eating 20-30% sugar, in everything they eat through the day! Unbelievable!
    http://blog.fooducate.com/2009/02/13/so-whats-inside-yoplait-yogurt-anyway/

    Anyway, glad you made it back, hope roommate survived without you. We’ll talk to you later.

    1. Wow. I should have guessed it would be that high, but then math has never been my strong suit. Roommate is ok. She’ll be doing her own American diet experiment for two weeks starting this weekend.

  2. I love your posts and have been encouraged beyond belief. My life and health has changed so dramatically and I agree with the self-control comments. I know what I lust after even knowing the harmful effects. Press on, dear friend and sister to His glory.

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