J500 Media and the Environment

Weapons of Mass Construction by Lauren Keith

Photo by ata08, flickr.com

I’ve always been a little picky, but lately my food choices have left a bad taste in my mouth.

I get so bored of eating, cooking and going to the grocery store that I’m on the verge of heading over to the lab to help the scientists invent meal-time in pill form. But I usually get distracted and end up at Chipotle instead.

Over the past 24 hours, this is what I’ve eaten for:

Breakfast: Highly processed corporate yogurt with organic granola and raisins

Lunch: Pizza Hut cheese sticks. Definitely the greasiest decision I’ve made in a while. My stomach lining is still not happy about it.

Dinner: Omelette-turned-scrambled-eggs with organic cheese, eggs and onion and locally grown mushrooms.

I love learning about what ingredients go into food because of this strange obsession with learning about what chemical compounds can do. I’ve been reading a book called “Twinkie, Deconstructed” that exposes the Twinkie’s usually undiscussed innards. Luckily, I’ve worked in a bakery far too long to even have the desire to look at a cake ever again.

But this book, along with numerous articles like the Happy Meal story and a monthly piece in WIRED, unnecessarily magnifies the so-called negatives about ingredients in food.

“Did you know that the iron compound in enriched flour in Twinkies is also used as a common weed killer?” the back of the book asks.

Food ingredient exposés are misleading. You can’t go out and spray Twinkies on your yard this spring to kill pests (but maybe the fish could at least enjoy some better tasting runoff).

Chemical compounds can change ever so slightly and yield a different product. Simply by the addition of a few electrons or even the rearrangement of the atoms can create something new.

The “iron compound” from the quote has a completely different chemical formula depending on which place it’s going. With this logic, could you say that the “hydrogen compound” found in water is also commonly used in nuclear fusion?

We have a finite set of chemicals to work with in this universe, but we can make an infinite set of products from them. There’s going to be some overlap. Everything is made of chemicals, and they aren’t scary things. We consume them all the time.

I’m not praising the shortcuts that industry has taken (read: corn syrup and almost anything ending in –ose), but seemingly “investigative” journalism is trying to spill the beans to the American consumer, but they should just eat their words.

On a completely unrelated note: somehow octopus from Wal-Mart has come to reside in my apartment’s refrigerator. Octopus. From Wal-Mart. In Kansas. From Wal-Mart. Digest that for a bit.



—Lauren Keith

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3 Comments so far
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Lauren, I think there is some middle ground on the chemical front. I know that my palate has become very very accustomed to sugar. I get cranky without it. Life is less sweet. And if someone tries to convince me that I should stick with nature’s candy, I roll my eyes. That was not always the case. I used to be able to taste the sweetness in a carrot and was able to feed my sugar fix with an apple. Not any more.
By the same token, I think we’ve all gotten used to the chems in our diet. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I think we really have gotten to a sad place when we accept chemical versions of real foods (“vanillan” springs to mind) and need artificial colors to make things palatable.

Comment by j500

Is that a tear in the octopus bag? Child, you better seal that up. The last thing you need is spoiled Wal-Mart, shipped in octopi.

I like where you’re headed. While I do think the more natural it is, the better it must be for you, it really is difficult for us non-scientific minded folk to understand the true dangers or non-dangers behind processed foods.

All this talk is making non-organic food sound like cigarettes. Maybe it is, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to tell if a scientist or a porto-potty cleaner dressed as a scientist was telling me so.

It’s easy to misguide people the less they understand. And now that there is more money behind green, I think we need to be more careful about this.

-Travis Brown

Comment by travisjbrown

tears come out when i was reading your blog
All this talk is making non-organic food sound like cigarettes. Maybe it is, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to tell if a scientist or a porto-potty cleaner dressed as a scientist was telling me so.
thanks more information please visit:-http://artimexbakery.com/

Comment by artimexbakery

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