What ever happened to our food?
When I mention that I tend to buy organic ($$$) and/or more natural and unprocessed foods, I get one of two reactions:
- Wow that is EXPENSIVE!!!!!! — You’re telling me!? My purse cries
penniesnickels every time.*
- Oh. You’re one of THOSE people. — Hipster, Hippie, Militant Foodie, whatever you want to call it. I’ll take it, because I am a snob when it comes to eating well.
*Canada no longer has the penny. They came to their senses and decided that spending more than a penny to make a damn penny was just foolishness. This has resulted in folks hoping that their shopping totals round down rather than up, to the the nickel ($0.05 piece).
I eat well and buy expensive groceries for 3 main reasons:
- It tastes better than the cheap stuff — Yes, I CAN taste the difference
- I don’t eat packaged, processed or otherwise mysterious products like Spam
- I have the money to be able to do so, and I choose to spend it on FOOD
Which is why I was just thrilled to read Simple Living in Suffolk’s post on the whole “scandal” in Europe where they’ve been selling minced horse meat in place of minced beef, and in some cases, the “beef” lasagna was 100% horse meat.
(Above image via Ermine’s post — HAH!)
I highly suggest you go and read his post right after you read mine!
Ermine basically lays it out that … no one could even tell or taste the difference!
Someone in the comment was more miffed that he/she was paying the price of minced beef for what was the cheaper substitute of minced horse, rather than the fact that it was horse meat mixed into beef.
Photograph I took of a hardworking horse NOT destined to be eaten in New York City.
I am not going to repeat what he said word for word, but I am going to supplement with my own post ranting about food in general.
(I do bring this up as a topic from time to time when I go to work, and you’d be surprised just how heated this discussion gets!)
LET’S JUST GET IT OUT OF THE WAY THAT REAL FOOD COSTS MONEY
Before I go into my rant of all the things I see wrong with our food today (abroad as well!), I will put it out there that buying real food is expensive.
I get it. I know that real, unprocessed food costs money (sometimes more than the packaged stuff for obvious reasons), and not everyone has the cash to buy it.
However, there are a few things I’d like to point out:
Minced beef? Cheaper than a hunk of beef.
(That is, if you are certain you’re getting beef and not horse meat to begin with.)
Organic _______? More expensive than real _______.
The only things not really worth buying organic are things with thick peels on them like bananas or avocados, where the pesticides don’t really have a chance to get in.
Another “organic” food product I laugh at is honey.
HONEY IS ALREADY ORGANIC.
We humans don’t MAKE honey.
(Eww. I do not want to think about ‘human honey’.)
We force poor honeybees to produce honey in their cute little houses, and then we swoop in like huge aliens in white suits, smoke them out to make them drowsy and sleepy, and steal their stash of sweet, syrupy goodness.
Sometimes, we even take the delicious food that they make for their queen, and eat it.
If I were them, I’d sting me too.
I don’t always buy organic and start parading myself around like some exemplary human being, I buy it when it makes sense for my tastebuds and my wallet.
Otherwise, I don’t always buy organic.
Not an actual honeybee pictured in that flower, but it’s the best photograph I have personally taken that is bee-like.
AS A SIDE TOPIC, PLEASE DON’T KILL ANY BEES!
On top of that, because of our pesticides and I read somewhere our cellphones as well, and we basically cause honeybees to self-destruct due to the toxic chemicals, and also confusion signals (buzzing noises) coming from our cellphone towers.
They noticed that honeybees died in more urban areas where there were more cellphone towers located, than in others.
One out of every 3 bites of our food, comes from honeybee-pollinated fruits and vegetables.
We will NOT survive long if we are unable to eat fruits and vegetables any longer because there won’t be any bees left to help transform that food for us.
CONSUMERS WANT CHEAP FOOD THESE DAYS
With “real” food costing more money, cheap food is something people go for.
The other day I went to go buy a Honeycrisp apple and those damn things cost $3.99 a pound, or $2.11 for ONE. APPLE.
I put it back, and went to go buy a Gala apple instead, coming out at $0.70 for 2 equivalent smaller-sized apples at $1.49 a pound.
I probably won’t enjoy it as much as a Honeycrisp apple, but I am not willing to pay $2 for an apple quite yet.
So is it any wonder that they put horse meat in the ground beef in Europe?
I mean, those grocery stores like ALDI (German, super low-cost No Frills kind of deal), deal in boxed foods for super cheap, which is how they took the market so easily.
We consumers don’t want to spend more money on food if they don’t have to, myself included, but it’s kind of sick to think that our choices may end up being either to eat food we don’t want to eat (modified or otherwise) or pay a lot more money than we want to, to get the real stuff.
(Still thinking about that $2 apple.)
Not all modified food is bad, as it helps ward off disease and more food can be produced, that’s true, but there is a limit to how far we can go before it becomes just the form and flavourless hint of what the former fruit or vegetable used taste like.
EVERYTHING HAS ADDITIVES IN IT THESE DAYS
Ermine gave an example of meat being washed with ammonia because animals are butchered improperly by machines or by humans, and their feces get mixed into the meat and could make people sick.
Here are a few more that you may not have been aware of:
ALL EGGS ARE DOSED WITH ANTIBIOTICS
I was talking to a fellow Foodie Friend the other day, and I learned that eggs are all pumped full with antibiotics.
All eggs. Even organic ones.
The only way you will be able to get an egg without having any antibiotics or hormones injected into it, would be to grow your own chickens, as some farmers we saw in Portugal do.
Photograph I took in Portugal in the countryside. They have lovely fields of pesticide-free food that they share very willingly!
BABY CARROTS ARE JUST BIG CARROTS SHAVED DOWN, OR SO THEY SAY
Ermine mentioned this already, and I’ve said it every time someone asks about baby carrots and how they got so “cute”.
They say it’s just a large carrot shaved down to look like a cute baby one, but I’m not buying it.
How can it tastes so flavourless and watery, in that case?
It tastes faintly like carrot (I’m inclined to believe they spread a little carrot extract on them to give it that flavour, but don’t quote me on that), and is crunchy, but essentially flavourless.
If you’ve ever eaten a real carrot chopped up, and then have a baby carrot right after, you’d notice the difference, as I have.
No sweet flavour, no taste, and I would NOT guess it to be a carrot if I were being forced to eat it blindfolded.
EVER READ THE LABEL ON YOUR YOGHURT OR PUDDING CUPS?
If you have, you will notice that in Canada, Liberté is the only brand that doesn’t use modified corn starch.
WTF is modified corn starch anyway?
(Don’t tell me, I can just Google it. I’m being facetious.)
Of course they use corn starch in some of their products like Frouto (I bought the pear ones to try today), but it is REAL corn starch as a thickener.
In addition to modified corn starch, you may read things like: “flavouring” or “aroma”, which basically means: “not the real stuff”.
If you ever see a yoghurt or pudding cup’s list of ingredients, you may see “vanilla flavouring”.
It doesn’t mean that they added vanilla, as in vanilla beans or you know, anything related to vanilla itself. It means they added something that tastes like vanilla.
Key words to remember: tastes like.
(I used to love those pudding cups in France from Danone, which are now crap because they’re vanilla flavoured, not vanilla.)
Also, yoghurt only tastes good if real milk is used.
That goes for all dairy products, cheese included.
We don’t have decent milk here in Canada, so the yoghurt is “okay”, Liberte being the best of the bunch because they’re more natural than the rest and less of a scam with additives.
However, the best yoghurt is found in Europe where they have AMAZING milk to create dairy products with, and very happy, pasture-fed cows.
ORANGE JUICE HAS CHEMICALS IN IT
100% oranges? What a load of crap.
By the time you get those “freshly squeezed oranges”, that are “not from concentrate”, they have been languishing in a big metal tank, and is a practically flavourless liquid, that we know of as “orange juice”.
They’ve removed all the oxygen from that juice so it can keep for up to a year and when it’s time to sell it, they add aroma, flavouring and colour to orange juice from flavour packs to “re-oxygenate” orange juice and to make it taste like you’re biting into a juicy fresh orange.
Yuck. Chemicals added to orange water. That’s our idea of “freshly squeezed orange juice” these days.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR SALT? DID YOU KNOW THEY ADD STUFF IN THERE?
This shocked me when I started looking at ingredient labels. They add silica and other additives in your salt to stop it from caking.
As a result, you are ingesting what you think is salt… but isn’t.
Once you start reading ingredient labels, it’s hard to go back. It isn’t 100% salt.
LIKE ALMOND MILK? WAIT UNTIL YOU READ THE INGREDIENTS
Almond milk was something I was interested in a while back as something to add to my teas instead of regular milk, until I read the packages. They added OIL TO THE “milk”.
That grossed me out enough to just consider making my own almond milk.
They also add salt so that it enhances the taste, and a whole host of other crap.
BUTTER CAN’T BE SUBSTITUTED
Margarine, soy butter, “I can’t believe it’s not butter”… and all of that stuff is NOT butter.
All this crap that is ‘low-fat’, and presumably out to make you lose weight because it’s better for your heart is all hogwash to me.
Why don’t we just buy the real butter and eat it in moderation?
It’s better than eating a tub of fake butter.
I saw on TV5 (a French channel) of a dairy farmer who said:
Shoot we’re out of butter! Let’s go get some.
The woman (Maeve from Australia’s Food Safari I think), thought they meant going to the store, but the guy laughs and says they’ll do it here on the farm.
A guy goes out, nabs a clear glass bottle, heads over to a cow, milks it, closes the bottle and starts shaking the bottle really, really, really hard.
For 15 minutes or so.
The milk eventually turned into butter. I was drooling watching them eat that freshly made butter slathered on freshly made baguettes.
That’s how they always make butter. They don’t buy it.
OUR FOOD MARKETING NOW REVOLVES AROUND “REAL FOOD” CLAIMS
This annoys me the most.
“Made with REAL strawberries!”
WTF did you put in there before? Fake ones?
Photograph of amazing produce in Paris. 10 EUR for each box of strawberries!
Hershey in Canada is running an ad on commercial I can’t help but watch (it’s on the Food Network), that talks about “real” ingredients going into their milk chocolate bar.
“Real milk”, for instance.
What were you using before?
Oh wait, don’t tell me.
Modified, dried, milk ingredients. I could liken that to ‘chalk’ I think.
It looks like powdered milk to me. Good enough.
Throw that chalk essence into the pot!
Then in soups, talking about “real pieces of chicken”, or “real vegetables”. It kind of makes you do a double take when you hear this kind of marketing happening.
WE AREN’T EATING “REAL” FOOD THESE DAYS
Even if you have the resources and are WILLING to spend your money on real food these days, you can’t bloody find it.
And maybe if you can find it, you may not even taste the difference… or prefer the lower-quality food, because you’re just so used to it.
BLACKBERRIES & BERRIES IN GENERAL
I ate real blackberries in Portugal and was amazed at the flavour, the natural sweetness and the overall: OMG-ness of them.
I was so enamoured, I took many a photo of these wonderful berries:
Photograph I took of the very wild blackberries I stuffed my face with, growing wild, and unchecked in the fields of Portugal. I ate them all for FREE with a big glass of REAL milk (Mimosa brand).
I came back to Canada, bought a pack of blackberries out of nostalgia, and ended up hating every bite I paid $3 for.
They were disgusting.
I have the same sentiment about cherries here — they don’t taste as sweet and don’t get me started on strawberries — I have never tasted a strawberry as good as the ones that I ate from the fields.
I only buy the little Campari tomatoes now, at $6.99 a box because they’re the ONLY ones that taste like real tomatoes to me.
Photograph I took in Paris inside a grocery store of gorgeous vegetables where you are strictly instructed by a stern little sign that you are NOT allowed to touch them — Ne Pas Toucher S.V.P.!!
Potatoes, are a disappointment here.
The potatoes I ate in Portugal, were creamy, yellow, and they were good enough just boiled as is.
Coming back to Canada, I am lucky if I find good potatoes. They taste bland, kind of dry and starchy, no potato flavour, and are frankly borderline edible.
I eat them because I love potatoes and I can’t give them up, but if I could pay double the price for real ones, I would.
CHICKEN AND BEEF
Even meat doesn’t taste like meat here. I’d need to grocery shop in different cities around North America just to find decent food.
In Miami, I had amazing chicken. Their chicken, TASTED LIKE CHICKEN.
In Texas, they had the best beef (at Wal-Mart no less!) I had ever eaten. It was so flavourful, well raised, and it tasted like BEEF.
I have to buy organic chicken from a local farm just to get the real taste of chicken.
That “chicken” you can buy from Costco or Wal-Mart, is not what I call chicken. It shouldn’t taste rubbery, dry, or “fall off the bone” easily. It’s obvious those chickens didn’t run around or grow actual muscles to be able to build actual flavour and texture into their meat.
They’re basically skeletons with meat, growing in a cage.
Real meat, stays on the bone, so whenever I hear people say:
Wow this meat is SO GOOD it falls off the bone!...
I wonder if they’ve had meat that doesn’t fall off the bone, because the flavour is so much better and when it sticks to the bone and you have to gnaw it off like a beaver.
Fast forward to fast food hamburgers (even ones I see on TV), or pizzas.
I am totally, 100% grossed out by these commercials.
It doesn’t look good to me, but then again, I haven’t had a burger since I was a teenager, which is over 10 years ago.
And my pizza looks like this:
(All made from scratch, including the dough. We just didn’t grow the vegetables or the pig to give us the bacon, but we used the best of what we could find.)
MILK IS THE WORST OF ALL
Perhaps the worst of all is milk for me.
I haven’t had real milk since I left Europe (I’ve tried every brand I could find here.)
Portugal (Mimosa) and Le Président (when they made milk as a product) from France, were my staples when I was in Europe.
I would literally buy 1L of milk in a carton, and drink almost the entire liter in a day.
Here? It tastes like water.
The only milk in Canada close to tasting like real milk, is Lactantia, Trutaste, but it’s a pale, faint comparison to what real milk tastes like to me.
I should really be able to taste the cow in the milk, and here, it’s so bland, it’s sad.
OUR FOOD IS NOT WHAT WE USED TO THINK OF IT
Ermine pointed out that we’re to blame for wanting lower and lower prices on food, and perhaps we’re all cheap SOBs who just want price over quality.
In the end, sometimes going to poorer countries that don’t have money for pesticides or crap (like China, some farmers are too poor to buy such chemical pesticides), is a better way to get your paws on some real food (assuming you don’t think too hard about all the environmental toxins that leech into the soil and into the air to contaminate the food being grown).
I read somewhere that a tomato farmer said:
I’d love to grow and have my tomatoes be known for flavour, but the sad truth of the matter is that I get paid for tomatoes that are the SAME size, and red.
Round and perfect. Image matters more than taste, and that’s my bottom line talking.
Can you believe it? Farmers who would like to grow real food, can’t, because we idiotic consumers don’t want ugly looking tomatoes that taste like real tomatoes.
We want perfect, tasteless, bland, red spheres instead because it’s cuter.
Photograph I took of some real heirloom tomatoes in Paris that are the best of the bunch (real tomatoes are sometimes really ugly).
I have so much more to say in regards to food, which is also the reason why I get really frustrated to see that people cut in their Grocery spending because it’s the easiest, most convenient budget for them to slash over Vacation funds or other (in my eyes) less-important funds.
I also understand that money is a problem in buying nicer food, and I wholeheartedly agree with TRYING to buy less processed foods, and making food from scratch instead of buying it in a box.
Anyway, my non-PF related food rant is done.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! 😛
For more real food notes, head over to Simple Living in Suffolk’s post on the whole horsemeat scandal in Europe, plus other great points on food. He has a stronger PF-money view on the whole deal.
Less ranting, and he writes more eloquently than I do.