Thursday, August 2, 2012

Food and Politics: Time for a divorce!

Here's the beef: I want to be able to walk into any food establishment without having to "declare" my stance on gay marriage. Don't you?

As a nutritional wellness advocate and food lover, it disturbs me when people label food as "elitist" or "patriotic". Before the Dan Cathy Chick-fil-A vs. Muppet food fight over the rights of gays to marry, there was a small media firestorm over what (then) candidate Barack Obama put on his hamburger. Spicy mustard, what what? How "un-American", his opponents cried. (Ketchup, apparently, was a Republican domain.)

This is ridiculous! The only labels you should ever apply to food fall into these categories:
  1. Health factors
  2. Taste
  3. Freshness
  4. Real or Fake.
Some say you are what you eat, and in a nutritional sense there's some truth to that. But to claim that certain foods make you more or less American, religious, liberal, conservative, elitist or populist is just a bunch of bologna (unhealthy and lacking in taste). Good, healthy whole food and spices are for everyone, and artificial over-salted over-sugared food that clogs your arteries and fogs up your mind are for nobody. Well OK, there are times and places... the Thanksgiving pecan pie, the annual bar-b-que festival... when a little brain fog and indigestion is felicitous.

There's a lot of danger in applying political labels to food. That danger lies in more than our solidarity as a nation: the option of eating lunch with our co-worker without having to worry about the political or religious ramifications of our sandwich condiments. The real danger of politicizing food this way is when it takes away from the message of nutritional health, and causes people to gravitate to different camps. One camp full of "elitist" food like organic strawberries, soymilk, and all sorts of ethnically seasoned delicious fresh food while another "average Joe" group stays in the fast-food and potato-chip camp.

Here, from Chick-fil-A's website, are the ingredients in their signature Chicken Sandwich. You want to label food? Here's a label for you:

Chicken (100% natural whole breast filet, seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika], seasoned coater [enriched bleached flour {bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, spice, soybean oil, color {paprika}], milk wash [water, whole powdered egg and nonfat milk solids], peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness and dimethylpolysiloxane an anti-foaming agent added]), bun (enriched flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, folic acid], water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% or less of each of the following: liquid yeast, soybean oil, nonfat milk, salt, wheat gluten, soy flour, dough conditioners [may contain one or more of the following: mono- and diglycerides, calcium and sodium stearoyl lactylates, calcium peroxide], soy flour, amylase, yeast nutrients [monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate], calcium propionate added to retard spoilage, soy lecithin, cornstarch, butter oil [soybean oil, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, TBHQ and citric acid added as preservatives, and artificial color]), pickle (cucumbers, water, vinegar, salt, lactic acid, calcium chloride, alum, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate [preservatives], natural flavors, polysorbate 80, yellow 5, blue 1).

I defy you to find sodium aluminum phosphate, TBHQ, calcium peroxide, or "yeast nutrients" in your home pantry. But that's a whole nuther blog.

Raise a glass to choosing to feed yourself, your children, and your lovers fresh healthy REAL food, and not having to label yourself in the process.

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