Posted by: Jamie Hahn | October 18, 2010

Beware: Fake Food

The infamous Krispy Kreme Burger

The State Fair is in town, and it seems that what’s dominating the headlines isn’t the racing pigs or the cake decorating contests — it’s the food. Well, if you can call a bacon cheeseburger stuffed between two Krispy Kreme donuts “food.” Here in North Carolina, we’ve turned deep frying into an art form. Our motto seems to be, “If it’s edible, it’s fryable.” Oreos, Twinkies, Snickers, Chips Ahoy, Coke (yes, they fry the Coke. No, I haven’t tried it).

I don’t mean to single out my fellow North Carolinians. The love of food oddities extends well beyond our state. This weekend McDonald’s announced that they’re bringing back the McRib sandwich nationwide. McRib is a misnomer. An invertebrate has more ribs than this sandwich. Shaped to look like a rack of ribs – fake bones and all – I can’t help but think that this little sandwich represents everything that’s wrong with our food industry.

Fried Twinkies, McRibs…we could call these things “junk food,” but are they even food? I don’t think so. A McRib in all of its processed glory is fake, and why would I want to eat something that’s not even food?

I’m not an evangelist or an expert on the topic of food. I like the occasional donut. I eat mostly what I want, exercise a couple times of week, and am mostly at peace with food. I’m a student of the school of moderation. But I’ve read enough to be disturbed by our food industry and wary of what’s available for our consumption. It’s frightening, and there isn’t one easy or clear solution.

One step toward disentangling the mess is for more of us to open our eyes to what our system of mass produced food has done to our understanding of one of the most fundamental human needs. I know that whatever I do, I’ll never completely eliminate the harmful effects that my eating has on our environment and/or myself, but there are some things that might lessen it. I wanted to share some things that I’ve picked up on my quest to better understand how I can eat to support my health and the health of the world. This is a simple list, but even the simplest things can have a big impact.

1) Eat locally as much as possible. Not only can you shake the hand of the farmer that grew your vegetables, you can also know that the food didn’t travel thousands of miles to get to you (thus reducing the amount of gasoline consumed and emissions spewed).

2) Just say no to high fructose corn syrup. The stuff isn’t natural. It’s a cheap alternative to sugar that’s pumped into just about everything these days. A recent study showed that cancer cells absolutely love high fructose corn syrup. The researchers said, “cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation…efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.”

3) Eat food that doesn’t come from factory farms. This practice limits the places where I can eat or buy meat, but it’s worth it to me. We truly are what we eat, so why would I willingly choose to eat something that has been pumped full of unnatrual and potentially harmful substances? Huge factory farms are also the cause of tons of waste, environmental hazards, and animal abuse. I readily admit that I am a bleeding heart liberal who believes that animals, even if they are destined to be eaten, should be treated humanely. I don’t want to support factory farming. It’s that simple.

4) Eat organic. I understand that the “organic” label isn’t a panacea. I know foods that are labeled “organic” are not 100% organic (I’m not even sure what that means). But when it comes down to it, I don’t want to eat pesticide, antibiotics, or genetically altered food. So, if I can reduce my consumption of it by buying food that’s labeled organic, then that’s what I’m going to do.

5) Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. I can’t take credit for that mantra. It’s Michael Pollan’s. It’ simple yet profound. Eat food. Food – not  food products that are masquerading as food, but food that your great-grandparents would recognize. Not too much. There’s that moderation thing again. Mostly plants. Leafy greens and plant-based food should be the foundations of our diets. This one is tough for me because I would be happy to live on crusty bread and cheese.

I’ve tried to live these choices for the last year, and it’s been hard. It’s also been expensive. It hasn’t escaped me that often the average American just can’t afford to purchase anything but the cheap, factory farmed food. It’s something else that’s wrong with our system, and I do hope we find ways to address that.

There’s so much more out there. I have more reading to do and more listening. I’d love to hear about your relationship with food and how you ensure that what you’re consuming is healthy for you and the environment. Or, I’d love to hear if you disagree with me entirely. If you’re the guy or gal who can’t wait for the McRib’s comeback, let me know…would love to “rib” you about it. Sorry, bad pun.

Here’s a list of books and movies that might be interesting if you want to learn more about the issues surrounding our food:

1) In Defense of Food. Michael Pollan

2) King Corn. A documentary film about two friends, an acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast food nation.

3) Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Daniel Quinn

4) Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan

_________________________________________

References:

1) Photo of the Donut Burger taken by Chris Kuehl.

2) Girl Holding Carrots photo by Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitialPhotos.net.

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Responses

  1. Although I have been seen at the drivethru of a fast food joint in the past (and possibly in the future), the guilt is never worth it. If I were to actually do a cost-benefit anaylsis before I give into my craving for a cheeseburger and fries, I would realize I can wait to get home and make myself something.

    I am currently pregnant and am very careful about what I put in my mouth because I am not only affecting my health and my future. Everything I do right now will possibly predispose my little bambino to a healthy or unhealthy life.

    I admit to eating some ice cream or a bag (MINI!) of Doritos now and then. For the most part though, I try to remain on track and also walk the track a few times a week. I have even finally persuaded my partner to realize he too needs to make better choices. Living off of poptarts for brealfast, deli subs for lunch, and something wholesome for dinner won’t cut it.

    Thanks for an enlightening post and all the resources you provided.

    PS-
    I’ve had a Krispy Kreme, which wasn’t all that I expected. I can’t imagine it would taste any better with a burger between it!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Kunst, Jennifer. Jennifer said: Beware: Fake Food http://bit.ly/cSsH3w #health #nutrition […]

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks so much for your comment, and congratulations on being pregnant! I can see how your food choices have even more significance now.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about making better choices. If we can all try to make wise choices, we’ll all be so much better off. But, I’m also a believer in the joys of life, and I believe eating should be a joy. It makes me sad when people carry around feelings of guilt or restriction when it comes to food. Food should be a pleasure! Wish it was for more people.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

    Jamie

  4. Hello Jamie.

    This is something that I have been working through or discovering more through my own research and choreography. I have this firm feeling that when animals are mistreated that the feelings whatever they might be: fear, anger, confusion get stored in their bodies. If we consumed meat this posses these qualities I feel they would directly assimilate into our own energetic and physical being. Not just that but the hormones and whatever goes into the genetic alterations of plants and animals. Its an interesting concept to really feel into, this question of you are what you eat.

    Food Inc is also another great documentary about the food industry that touches upon many topics that relate to this discussion.

    This is a huge system that has been created, which enables people to live a particular lifestyle but perhaps its time to awaken to our own existence instead of pulling the wool over our eyes.

  5. Jamie:
    I can’t even wrap my mind around the “bacon cheeseburger stuffed between two Krispy Kreme donuts”! ICK! Sorry if I’m shocking your compatriots LOL
    Thank you so much for the post and all the great useful information. Reading it made me want to make a good old veggies soup! 😀 YUMMY

    Jeremy :
    Interesting opinions! I have neevr thought about that. Unfortunately we can’t all have our own gardens and raise our own animals, so we treat them right, can we? My sister does that, but she lives at the country. I live in a building and have to buy everything on the market.
    On a kiding note, they seem to always forget to inform us what the feelings of the chicken were, when they killed it.
    Personally, I am against cruelty with whatever animal. And with more and more people denouncing it, I believe things startv to change.

  6. Heh, McRib…you gotta wonder. Oh, and nice blog, Jamie. Looks great!

  7. Thanks Jer, Cossana, and Rob for your comments on this post!

    Jer, thanks for the reference to Food Inc. That’s a good one too and based on much of Michael Pollan’s writings. I also do think there’s something to the emotions of the animals assimilating into our physical and energetic bodies once we consume them.

    Cossana, I wouldn’t eat one of those krispy kreme burgers either. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Rob, thanks for the compliment on my blog and for stopping by. A McRib’s no lobster roll from New England, is it?!


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