Tag Archives: nutrition

Bloomberg’s In the Right on Soda Restrictions

8 Jun

Well, I never saw this day coming. I found an issue on which I disagree with Jon Stewart.

I know! But before you throw anything at me, check out his take on NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s recent decision to ban the sale of sodas in sizes larger than 16 oz.

“It combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect!” Stewart joked.

Stewart (and, ok, all of the other critics here) is incorrect in terms of the probable results, and off point in terms of the underlying value of the ban.

First, let’s address the fundamental misconception that this is actually a real ban. By banning the sale of sodas in sizes larger than 16 oz., Bloomberg is actually in no way restricting your right to drink your nine cans of Mountain Dew a day — he’s just making sure you are buying them one at a time. By making it more difficult to obtain the same amount, the hope is that basic levels of human consciousness kick in, and people may start to limit the intake in which they otherwise blindly participate.

Second, evidence predicting the “probable lack of results” doesn’t actually exist, because bans like his have not been widely enacted. But the evidence available does suggest that bans and restrictions work — indeed, that they might be the only thing that does to restrict consumption.

In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, Kelly D. Brownell, a professor at Yale, and Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote that “for each extra can or glass of sugared beverage consumed per day, the likelihood of a child’s becoming obese increases by 60 percent.” Sugary beverages are now the number one source of calories for most Americans, making up about 10% of the caloric intake of children and teenagers. These increased calories lead to record-high rates of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

So, the increased consumption of sugary beverages does likely lead to increased obesity and other health risks. And what’s more, a Yale study of soda in public schools and private institutions found that for every 10% increase in price, consumption of soda dropped by 7.8%, suggesting that deterrents to purchasing sugary beverages actually does help reduce consumption.

You won’t find me arguing that decreasing our consumption of soda is the only thing that’s going to reverse the American obesity crisis. But it sure as hell isn’t going to hurt.

So shall we move on to the accusation of Draconian government overreaching?

Mark Bittman’s column this week addresses the oft-repeated criticism of the nanny state and infringements on civil liberties by reminding us the myriad ways in which we, as a society, accept government restrictions on individual freedoms when they are deemed in the best interest of society as a whole. Smokers may not like smoking bans, and drinks may not like alcohol restrictions — but we deal. Because we all know that it’s bad for kids to breathe second-hand smoke and get hit by drunk drivers.

The ridiculous overburdening of the American food system with sugary and fatty foods is the same thing. Bittman calls it the tobacco of the 21st century, and he’s right (as we’ve discussed with regard to marketing towards children here). Americans consume more than 50 gallons of soda per person per year, and obesity costs the nation’s healthcare system upwards of $147 billion a year.

This is not a coincidence. So while a restriction like the one in New York might not single-handedly solve the issue, and while conservatives (or liberal comedians) might like to accuse this of government overreaching, in (I bet as little as) five years time, we will see this as a logical step, something we can’t imagine ever existing, like smoking on airplanes.

Forks Over Knives Review

23 May

I’ve been catching up so far this summer on my Netflix instant queue, including watching some of my backlog of food-oriented documentaries, so expect occasional reviews in the coming months (and feel free to make a request if there’s a movie you’re thinking about seeing but want to know whether it’s worth your time). Up today? documentary about the vegan diet Forks Over Knives.

The basics

The documentary focuses specifically on the relationship between dietary choices and health — by which I mean both daily levels of comfort, but also chronic illness. In examining the connection between the consumptions of meat and dairy products and serious conditions like cancers, heart disease, and of course, obesity, the film explores and ultimately, advocates for the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet (yes, by which they mean vegan).

What I liked

I particularly enjoyed that, despite the fact that they were refering to a dietary plan with a name — vegan — the doctors and filmmakers refrained from calling it such. This suggests, first, a flexibility on the part of those advocating for this diet. They did mention several times that reducing or minimizing the consumption of animal products was the goal.

And they also were careful to clarify the whole foods part of the dietary plan several times — that is, they were not suggesting a sharp increase in tofu or other meat substitutes, but rather a diet, focused on plants that were cooked but minimally processed, if at all.

What I learned

A lot of the health connections between meat and chronic disease were not a mystery to me (though I know they would be to some audiences) but the research in the film relied on international dietary models to form the basis of comparison, and I hadn’t heard much of that. Since science tends to be (rightly) focused on proving the causal connection between diet and health, American medicine doesn’t often look to other countries to see what might be different elsewhere, both in terms of what we eat and how it supports our body’s functions.

One especially striking statistic was this: the average annual number of prostate cancer — a disease causally linked to overconsumption of red meat — diagnoses in Japan is 18, compared to the American average of 16,000.

I also learned that rat-based studies have found an inverse relationship between diet and cancer tumor growth. That is, rats fed a diet high in red meat protein experienced growth in cancerous tumors. But when those same rats were fed a plant-based diet, they experienced a reduction in tumor size.

All of this is to say that the arguments for fueling our bodies with plant food, rather than animal food, is compelling. Not only in terms of avoiding serious illness, but also in terms of what works best for our bodies. (The film profiled several high-performance vegan athletes including professional triathletes and an MMA fighter!)

What was missing

When the film was over, I went back and checked what year it was released and was surprised to find that it was just 2011. I remembered it being recent, but after viewing the documentary, I wondered if I had been wrong. Because the information — but more than that, the perspective — seems dated.

I kept waiting for the point when the narrator and filmmaker, or the doctors who were at the center of the film, would discuss non-industrially produced animal products, and that moment never came, despite the fact that the ills of animal foods, according to the research, was mostly focused on the presence of hormones and steroids.

The notion of organic dairy and grass-fed meat are addressed on the film’s website, but not in great enough detail for me to be able to discern whether I believe the information is accurate. The registered dietician on that site writes that “Even organically produced dairy contain naturally occurring steroids and hormones, which can promote cancer growth,” but that is the extent of the detail. She goes on to note that there is no significant nutritional difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat (which is true) but doesn’t address the notion that grass-fed meat is absent much of the fat and therefore, cholesterol of grain-fed meat, and is also absent synthetic chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, etc.

If the film addressed these ideas, and had the research to suggest that it would be better to reduce or eliminate meat than to simply eat antibiotic-free, pasture-raised meat, I could accept that. I wouldn’t eat that way, but at least I would know where they stood. But for a film made in 2011 to ignore the alternatives completely seemed strange to me.

The verdict?

Overall, some interesting info, but a pretty snooze-worthy approach to documentary storytelling with not much new for a reasonably-informed food advocate. Watch if you’re interested in learning more about a plant-based diet, and the science therein. But if you want an engaging film about the dangers of the western diet, try Supersize Me instead.

If you’ve seen Forks Over Knives, or have some perspective on the dietary plan, I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.

Eating Less Meat — Kiddie Style

2 May

The other day via Twitter, my friend Lindsey mentioned that her family is trying to eat less meat overall, but having a tough time coming up with recipes that translate well into toddler food. With a growing-like-a-weed nearly-16-month old on their hands, this is a major issue. Gavin needs his protein! So I’ve come  up with a couple of ideas to get them — and anybody else out there with kiddos trying to go meatless every now and then.

Some of these are ideas for how to construct a meal for both adults and toddlers (as a former nanny, I have some experience with this, because I am lazy and don’t like to cook twice at each meal), and others are more veg-centric (which, since I was a vegetarian nanny, I also have some experience with).

1. Eat with Your Hands

This is “think like a toddler” advice. If you can eat it with your hands, chances are good a toddler can eat it. Obviously, anything really tough or crunchy may not work, depending on where your toddler’s teeth development is, but for the most part, anything you can pick up is toddler-edible.

When brainstorming finger foods, really think like a toddler. What do you eat with a utensil that doesn’t really need one? We sometimes forget that all the pieces of a salad, for example, when not drenched in dressing, are finger foods. And how cute would it be to get your toddler obsessed with eating raw spinach leaves, or dried cranberries?

2. Sandwiches & Fritters

Some ideas for great vegetarian recipes that are less flatware centric include sandwiches and fritters (as long as they are served cool enough to handle!). Sandwiches can get pretty gussied up for dinner, going way beyond grilled cheese (though that is also delicious): Cucumber and cream cheese, roasted red pepper and goat cheese, eggs and bacon and gruyere!

I’ve also lately come across lots of yummy veggie fritter recipes that would work similarly. Try these summer corn cakes, mashed potato cakes (a great one for leftovers), or zucchini fritters. You could easily mix in summer squash, carrots, or cabbages into similar recipes, too. Great pick-it-up food that is primarily vegetable, rather than fried grain.

3. Split Your Meals into their Littlest Selves

Toddlers need to eat a lot — but they tend to prefer to do it in more frequent, smaller meals, than we do. So when thinking about what you want to make for dinner, ask yourself what smaller portions you could dole out over the course of cooking, and then eating, to your toddler.

If you have a meat-based dinner, for example, with two or three sides, the little one can snack on tomatoes and avocado cubes while you’re prepping, and then some shredded chicken and tortillas while Mommy and Daddy enjoy their grown-up Chicken & Guacamole Tostadas (probably with a Dos Equis or two…). Pineapple Chicken Satay for you can become pineapple and sugar snap peas for him, with chicken and dipping sauce at dinner.

This allows the grown-ups to get grown-up meals without having to cook something different for Junior — and has the added perk of keeping him occupied while you are cooking!

4. Substitute

You can also take a lot of the meat-based toddler-friendly recipes you may already have in your repetoire and transform them into veggie options with some simply substitutions. Once allergy concerns have passed, tofu is very kid-friendly, as are lentils, seitan, etc. If you’re not big on meat-substitute products, you can also find grain and veggie substitutes, like eggplant in place of meat in Italian recipes like lasagna, or quinoa in place of ground chicken in nuggets.

My very favorite thing about kids — whenever I’m around them — is that they remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. Feeding your young is serious business, but it can also unlock a totally different spirit to our cooking. Enjoy little bites! Eat with your hands! Get messy!

Nothing better than eating with a smile…

What toddler eating advice do you have? Anyone out there raising fully meatless kiddos have some tips I didn’t think of? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Pink Slime Explained

20 Apr

Welcome to another We Meat Again video post — this one dedicated to explaining the great pink scare…

Apologies for the awkward skip in the middle of the video. Our first filming was briefly interrupted due to a doggie seriously needing to get outside.

More information available here:

FDA on Ammonia Hydroxide

Andrew Revkin:“Why I’m OK with ‘Pink Slime’ In Ground Beef

Michael Moss: “Safety of Beef Processing Method Questioned

Marion Nestle “Is It Wrong to Feed Pink Slime to Our Kids?

Tom Philpott explains Why the FDA is Still OK with BPA in Our Food, and Four Things Grosser Than Pink Slime

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment, tweet at us, or drop me an email and let us know what you think about pink slime…

Baked Chicken Flautas

9 Apr

We’re back! Thanks for your patience over the course of that much-needed hiatus. Look for  site upgrades over the next month, including a full recipe index, and hopefully new design elements, but for now, I hope that new recipes and content will keep you coming back.

This one has the We Meat Again trifecta: easy, healthy, and includes alcohol. I found this recipe for baked chicken and spinach flautas via my latest obsession, Pinterest, and couldn’t resist.

I’m a big fan of Mexican food, and always like trying to find ways to make it at home, for both the sake of my wallet and my waistline. Most restaurant food is deep-fried and includes less-than-traceable meat ingredients, and it’s  been my experience that you can find a way to recreate many of these recipes at home, with ingredients whose sourcing you can trace, and with a healthier spin.

Lauren, over at the Healthy. Delicious. blog found a way to make chicken flautas — by baking, instead of frying. I followed the recipe here almost identically. I left out jalapenos, because I didn’t have any, and added a bit more chili pepper to kick up the spiciness, and used chicken breasts rather than thighs (which are identical, but take a bit longer to poach). I also used white cheddar cheese which worked really well.

These flautas get the crispiness of a fried flauta, with the added perks of eating your greens! Welcome back, We Meat Again!

How to Make Your Favorite Recipes Healthier

29 Feb

In Monday’s post on how simple it is to make good ol’ tomato mozzarella pizza at home from scratch, I mentioned that I try as much as possible to make my own versions of recipes, in order to keep them healthy. While pizza is a great example of this — delivery from Domino’s being high not only in calories and fat but in processing and preservatives — the truth is, it’s often easy to make even smaller modifications to recipes you already make at home to transform them into healthier alternatives. Here are a few of my favorite ways…

1. Use whole ingredients

I know this seems like a no-brainer here on We*Meat*Again, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get caught up in the “usual routine” of a recipe and never think to make an easy substitution. Instead of a store-bought jar of tomato sauce (which may contain corn syrup, especially if you’re budget conscious) buy a jar of diced tomatoes or some fresh ones and simmer them into your own.

Really think about the ingredients list on your favorite dishes. Use Velveeta in your homemade baked macaroni and cheese? Canned condensed soups for slow cooker casseroles? You’d be surprised what an easy swap actual cheddar cheese or pureed carrots could be. Play around, think about the texture and consistency of the ingredient you’re substituting, and the treatment it will receive in the recipe (heat, melting point, etc.) and brainstorm a whole ingredient that you can reasonably expect to behave the same way. You might even create an interesting new flavor profile!

2. Find smarter substitutes

When these trade-offs work, it’s not only healthy, it’s exhilerating! You can feel proud to have come up with a clever trick to reform your recipe — and most of these substitutions will not dramatically affect the flavor of the recipe (or will do so in a positive way!) Some of my favorites include applesauce, mashed banana or yogurt for eggs , butter or oil (reduce fat, add nutrition!), crushed walnuts or rolled oats for bread crumbs (an easy high-carbohydrate trap), and vinegars in place of salad dressings.

But smarter substitutions don’t all have to be completely off the wall. Trade-offs as simple as milk for heavy cream, or whole wheat flour for bleached white flour make a difference, too. By subtracting an unhealthy ingredient, you often get the chance to add in some extra nutritional benefit.

3. Reduce the fat content

This is really a subset of the above idea. One of my favorite magazines is Cooking Light, and they are a fantastic recipe resource for healthier versions of things. But the strategy the editors and kitchen testers there follow is to avoid substituting ingredients, and instead find ways to reduce fat or calories.

They usually achieve this by reducing the amount of fat ingredients, such as butter or oil, swapping egg whites for eggs and cutting back the amount of sugar in a recipe. And in doing so, they’ve found that most recipes, including those for baked goods, can be made equally as delicious without any “weird” or vegan ingredients, just by including a little less.

For example, you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half in most baking recipes, and instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.

I tend to prioritize finding other ingredients over using less of an unhealthy ingredient. Partly, this is because I also try to avoid processed foods. I’d rather use cheddar cheese than reduced fat 1/3 all “natural” cheeze product simply because it’s “reduced fat.” I embrace a little fat here and there. But a marriage between tips #2 & #3 can go a long way to overall reforming your diet.

4. Cut out the unnecessary

One of the most flawed aspects of following a recipe you find blindly (especially if that recipe comes from any chef featured on the Food Network) is that you can get caught in a cycle of unnecessary unhealthiness simply because the ingredients make the cooking process a bit easier, a bit fattier in flavor or texture (and therefore more mass-market appealing) or a bit more familiar.

Example: I’m working on reforming a Rachel Ray recipe for shepherd’s pie with a mashed potato/parsnip topping to include buffalo meat. (It’s going to be epic. I promise to post it soon.) But the woman has the following included in the mash: potatoes, parsnips, milk, butter, sour cream AND two whole cups of shredded cheddar cheese.

Now, I have made delicious mashed potatoes many many times, and I can guarantee you don’t need four different ways to make them creamy. In fact, a combination of milk and vegetable stock gets a creamier and flavorful mash pretty easily, and with the least amount of fat possible (and trust me, mashed potatoes are my absolute favorite food). But if you are so freaked out by experimenting with new ingredients, you might just follow the recipe to the letter without questioning such a bizarre overuse of fat.

A few simple steps here and there, and a focus on whole, fresh foods, is an easy way to begin the process of transforming your diet into a whole, healthy, sustainable one. While eating well is a lifestyle commitment, you can take baby steps to get there, and this is a great place to start!

What are your tips and tricks, readers, for transforming the recipes you know and love into better versions of themselves? Leave a comment and share your ideas with the rest of us!

How Far Should Food Industry Regulation Go?

7 Feb

For this week’s dialogue post, I’ve found a recent and particularly controversy-inspiring editorial from Raj Patel, writing in this case for The Atlantic. Patel makes the case we’ve heard before paralleling the food industry with the alcohol and tobacco industries to argue for the regulation of junk foods, but he goes one step further and wonders whether there isn’t a case for fully abolishing the food industry as we know it. If you can make the argument for tobacco, Patel says, food is close behind.

First up for conversation of course, is the validity of a parallel between tobacco and big food, which Patel supports with mounting evidence of the neurological addictive properties of sugar. A study released last week in the journal Nature provides the strongest case yet for significant and severe health consequences from sugar. The authors of the study advocate alcohol-like regulations as a result of their findings.

Second comes the matter for debate of whether tobacco and sugar are marketed in parallel ways. That is, do we have more of a choice when it comes to junk food than tobacco? I’ve discussed in a previous post the resemblances between old-school tobacco marketing towards children, and the food industry’s strategies, and Patel elaborates on this in the editorial. Recent evidence has demonstrated the overly-sugary properties of the foods marketed most heavily towards children.

Third, and finally, we have to ask ourselves whether moderate regulations are not sufficient to counter any of those dangers. We’ve explored here before individual municipal initiatives like the San Francisco Happy Meal toy ban, and cities across the country have tried similar sin-tax approaches to restricting the sale of soda, for example.

Of course, small government proponents aren’t fan of that idea, and economic research suggests the tax might best be targeted towards the producer, rather than the consumer, of the problem product.

For Patel, all of this points in one direction:

The breadth of products controlled by the food industry — amply toxic and less so — is itself a symptom of a deeper problem that has public health symptoms, but a political economic cause. The food industry is an oligopoly that has transformed not only what we eat but how we eat it, and what we think of food.

and thus, we could make a case for completely upending the system as we know it.

What do you think? Do we need complete, from-the-ground up reform, or should we try moderate regulation first (or at all)? Which, if any, of these individual claims would you dispute, or provide an alternate answer for? Leave a comment and join in our conversation!

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat This Week

3 Feb

Quite a variety of happenings in the world of food this week.

The Good

An illuminating new report out by the cooking & nutrition charity Share Our Strength provides concrete evidence that low-income families do cook at home more often than they eat fast food, and would like to be able to do so even more. I like Marion Nestle’s coverage, as she’s not afraid to nod towards some of the corporate influence the report contains. Good news, nonetheless.

Colorado is considering a state-wide ban on trans-fats in school lunch programs. Colorado is also, interestingly, the least-obese state in the nation (you can’t really say “thinnest” in a country where obesity is over 30% across the board). Coincidence?

In more school lunch reform news, the USDA announced this week its new rules (yes, actual rules here) that will increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables, and eliminate some meat requirements in its school lunch program. As Mark Bittman says, imperfect as the new rules may be, 32 million kids are about to start eating better.

Jane Black has a nice piece in The Washington Post discussing the rise in flexible CSA options. While I think her editorial brushes off the consumer benefits of a regular CSA too dismissively, I’ve loved my past flexible CSAs for the access they provided someone who couldn’t afford a full share.

The Bad

This article isn’t bad so much as slightly annoying. A new study out of the Washington State University purports to help reform the beef industry’s image by claiming cattle ranches are significantly more environmentally-friendly than thirty years ago. File under — yes, and…?

I mentioned one lawsuit Monsanto is currently facing. Here is another! A class-action case that claims the company spread toxic substances all over a town in West Virginia in the course of producing a chemical component of Agent Orange. The toxic substances listed are mainly dioxins, which have been linked to cancer.

and the (very) Ugly

The Humane Society of the United States (which has, in the last few years, done a really impressive job ramping up its advocacy of livestock animals along with homeless pets) released a new undercover video documenting standard pork industry practice for raising pigs.

Graphic images included.

Tom Philpott’s analysis cuts to the core:

The remarkable thing…is how banal it is. What we have here is the everyday reality of pigs’ lives on a factory farm, without regulations flouted or spectacular violence committed. It is abuse routinized and regimented, honed into a profitable business model.

The video even got NYTimes sustainability blogger Andrew Revkin interested. He’s got a response from the Oklahoma Pork Council (which suggests that images were “taken out of context,” leaving me to ask — is there a context in which these practices are acceptable?) and takes the opportunity to wonder if this might continue to make the case for test-tube meat. Not if the omnivores here on We*Meat*Again have anything to say about it, right?

Happy Weekend, All!

 

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat This Week (1/19)

20 Jan

Some news from around the world of food this week…

Many of you may have already heard that Paula Deen has (SHOCKINGLY) revealed she has Type II Diabetes. Now, my little sister has been insulin-dependent with Type I Diabetes since just after her ninth birthday, so I will refrain from unleashing my vitriol at obesity-inflicted Type II Diabetes here. But here are some interesting observations about the Deen situation: how conveniently the announcement coincides with (rather than a change of heart or cooking style) Deen’s contract to shill for a new (and dubious) medication, and the mounting evidence correlating meat-eating habits with diabetes.

On a more creative note, my awesome writer-friend Amy Weldon has a really interesting essay up on her blog exploring the connections between food and Southern femininity.

The “Just Label It!” campaign against unknown genetically modified ingredients in our foods officially launched this week with a new video by Robert Kenner (director of Food, Inc.), and Ecocentric has a good blog post covering the basics of GMOs and the labeling campaign for those who want more information.

This is a bit of a food tangent, but some may have heard that Newt Gingrich is gaining ground in South Carolina with a new ad calling President Obama the “food stamp” president (accusing him of putting more people on food stamps — not because the economy has tanked — but because he just looooves government handouts to poor people, is my read). This reminds me of my recent post taking down Rick Santorum for similarly offensive racial/food political slurs.

The Daily Meal released its annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food. If you click through from the bottom up, you’ll spend the first half cheering at the familiar food advocate faces (Bittman! Bourdain! Allen! Mahler!) and then notice a very distinct shift into the corporate world. Here’s hoping 2012 is the year the balance starts to shift

In good news along that front: Food Corps is open for applications for its next cycle, and is expanding this year after a successful pilot program. They need more people in more states, so if you’re interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, nutrition, education, cooking, gardening or advocacy, this is a great way to — literally — get your hands dirty.

Now before you head off for the weekend, make sure to stop by last week’s post and leave a comment to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new, illustrated edition of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, as We*Meat*Again celebrates our 10,000th site visit!

A Twinkie Eulogy

19 Jan

The big news in food this week is that Hostess has (again) filed for bankruptcy. Hostess, the makers of those little sugar bomb cupcakes, the bizarrely pink Sno-Ball, and of course, the Twinkie.

Now, Hostess and their investors suggest that this may not actually mean an end to the production of these baked goods, as they have made it out of bankruptcy once before. But I thought the time seemed apt to take a moment to mourn the passing of the Twinkie. Because think about it — when was the last time you ate a Twinkie (or Sno-Ball or Hostess cupcake)?

All images courtesy of Dwight Eschilman

Ok, so you read food blogs for fun. You aren’t any longer really the Hostess market share. But who do you know who might be? A young child? A teenager with extra cash? A harried mom looking for a quick snack at the 7-11 on her way to soccer practice?

How many of them eat Twinkies?

My point here is that the food movement is the death knell of the Twinkie, and as people who care about good, whole, healthy sustainable foods become more and more the norm in America, the Twinkie starts to become less indulgent treat and more truly horrifying chemical composition. The photos in this post are from a really cool project called “37 or so ingredients” by the photographer Dwight Eschliman to photograph all the ingredients in a Twinkie. As you can see, none are what we would call “real” ingredients.

But I think there’s something more to do here than cheer and declare victory and assume there will be less disgustingly unhealthy snacks for people to grab at convenience stores from here on out. As guest poster Daniel Meyer observed on Mark Bittman’s blog today, the Twinkie has a storied American history. And I think remembering the times we did eat Twinkies is an important part to moving forward into a sustainable food future where we never allow ourselves to go there again.

The last time I ate Hostess treats with any regularity was in high school. Specifically, in the early morning behemouth of a time-waster known at Merrimack High as “cafe study.” For reasons of overflow and understaffing, seniors in my high school were allowed to take up to two study periods a day, and were permitted to have those study halls in the cafeteria, so as not required to be quiet.

What this meant is that for the entire last year of high school, I spent two and a half unobserved hours sitting around in a cafeteria, talking with my friends and eating junk food. We would make daily pilgrimages to the school store or the snack line (which included, in my high school cafeteria, a Taco Bell), where my regular daily purchase was a bag of cool ranch Doritos, a bottle of YooHoo and a cellophane-wrapped package of Hostess cupcakes (eat the bottom first, save the icing crust for last.)

Delicious. But of course, gross.

I recount all this not just as a cautionary tale, or a eww-remember-when memory, but to remember that we didn’t always know better.

We haven’t all been born with a raised food consciousness. A great many people my age (and in generations older and younger) have discovered and developed our food awareness–some very recently. For me, it’s only really been about three and a half years. In the 80s and 90s, we trusted food companies, and convenience was king. As my friend Steve recently reminded me in his (forthcoming) “How I Became a Foodie” essay, anything that could be thrown together out of a package, out of a box, anything frozen or pre-packaged or canned was very much in.

We loved and ate Twinkies because they tasted, in a completely disgusting way, delicious, of course. Their saccarin sweetness appeals to our basest biological desires for food. But we also ate Twinkies because we genuinely didn’t know any better. Because we had no reason to believe a food company might willfully be feeding us something that could hurt us.

We’ve come a long way. babies. And so I give the Twinkie a little middle-finger salute as it goes, hoping I always remember to look back at it, and promise to try my best to think hard about what’s in  my food and where it comes from, from here on out.

Do you harbor any nostalgia for the Twinkie (or some other undead, processed food) from childhood or adulthood? Leave a comment and share your favorite “I can’t believe I ate that!” food memory here!

And make sure to stop by last week’s post and leave a comment to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new, illustrated edition of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, as We*Meat*Again celebrates our 1000th site visit!

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