21 May 2009

How Sweet It Is

Try as they might, the Corn Refiners Association's campaign on the virtues of High Fructose Corn Syrup have been unconvincing. There has been enough evidence and commentary to persuade me to believe that it's not the same as sugar. How can it be? It's altered, just like modified food starch, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and myriad other results of "better living through chemistry."

The association's idea of improving the quality of life seems skewed more toward the almighty dollar rather than consumer health. A site I recently joined, GoodGuide, rates and compares products based upon their impact on the planet, nutrition and social awareness, shares good, basic information here.

Ever since we watched "Super Size Me" I've been paying better attention to what I bring home from the grocery. I've try to avoid buying anything that contains HFCS. It's a difficult proposition when one considers how ubiquitous the stuff is. Look at the labels. Nearly every packaged food contains it. I made my own ketchup until I found organic Heinz. I make my own salad dressings. I bake cakes from scratch. I use fresh fruit in my pies. I'm making my own bread about 25% of the time and I expect to increase that percentage over the coming months.

If it's processed, it usually has no place in my pantry. Of course, the definition of "processed" includes words like pasteurized or frozen, but, I'm talking about processed convenience foods like dinner "kits" and junk food. there are very, very few exceptions. Like processed American cheese food (Kraft American cheese). Sometimes, I have to have a plain, old grilled cheese with Campbell's Tomato Soup. I can justify stocking these because they rarely end up on a tray for dinner. And, this stuff is a great substitute for the nights I don't feel like fussing over three or four varieties of "real" cheese, and homemade tomato soup with diced tomatoes and fresh, snipped basil.

Because unsweetened tea brewed here at home gets tiresome I sometimes buy Mexican Coke, made with cane sugar, at the Vietnamese market on Cleveland. I prefer to drink them ice cold, out of the bottle (as they were intended). But, there is often a foul, metallic odor on the glass that ruins the experience unless the bottle opening is cleaned after removing the crown. Ultimately, they taste like a real Coca-Cola, but, keeping a supply can get pricy at a buck-fifty each.

For some time, Cameron and I have been buying Jones Soda. Though they are made with pure cane sugar we still treat them as something special so we don't overindulge, but lately, they're getting difficult to find. After trip to Target the other day, "where to buy" conspicuously became "where not to buy." My expectations were that the newest bullseye in town would have everything stocked to the gills. Not so. I remembered that the butthole was also listed as a "where to buy" location. So, out of frustration I bolstered myself and pulled into Walmart. After walking the aisles and scanning the end caps I once again came up empty handed. Eventually, though, I found this. I read the label in amazement and bought a 12-pack. At home, I excitedly told Cameron what I'd found and quickly got online to find out more. I learned that not only was Pepsi producing it's cane sugar cola version, but Mountain Dew Throwback would soon appear on the shelves, too.

Since then, I've found both of these at Kroger. They taste like I remember them. The sickening, throat-coating, syrupy quality that carbonated drinks have today wasn't there. They reminded me of times when my grandmother would successfully extract us from behind the sofa, (our usual hiding place after being scolded). Her bribes most often were a longneck, glass, 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi and an ice cream cup (Meadow Gold chocolate, vanilla, or vanilla with a swirl in either chocolate or strawberry -- the kind sold ten to a bag, in plastic cups with paperboard lids and enough wooden "spoons" to go around).

The other day I heard someone mention that she thought Pepsi Throwback tasted flat. I suppose if you're a younger than 35 (and a know-it-all), sickeningly, syrupy sweet is the way you think sodas should taste. Too bad. You don't know what you're missing, or for that matter, what you're getting.

Disclaimer: I have a friend who has a great job at WalMart. I'm proud of his success. But, I can't reconcile the havoc they've wreaked on small business owners in small communities with benefits they provide.


ZenDenizen said...

It's uncanny, I had the same thought the other day regarding corn syrup and sugar. Most of the huge bread aisle at our local Shop-rite is obsolete to me since nearly every variety contains sugar (even the supposedly healthy whole wheat or multi-grain kinds). But it doesn't end there - mustard, pickles, salad dressings, etc. all contain sugar when there's absolutely no reason for them, too. I'm considering making my own ketchup one of these days as well.

As far as soda, I kicked the habit a long time ago because I read it takes 32 glasses of water to rid your body of the toxins in one can. This may or may not be true but it's an effective deterrant :)

David said...

Wow. Whether it's true or not, the prospect of drinking 32 glasses of water to clear out the toxins from one can of soda is reason enough to avoid the stuff.

I was telling a friend the other day that avoiding HFCS is nearly impossible. And if it's not that it's hydrogenated oils, modified starches, and many other ingredients in altered state from what we should be eating.