Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pet Peeve: Local Food Processed Conventionally

We all already know that I'm a persnickity eater just by virtue of the fact that I'm a locavore, yes? Now don't get me wrong, I have a love affair with fake cheese in all its forms - including spray and powdered - so I'm not a total food snob. But I have a few hypocritical pet peeves that I doubt anyone could ever talk me out of.

One is artificial sweeteners. There has never been a time, in my memory, that I haven't been suspicious of them. There must have been such a time, because I drank a lot of sugar-free soda and stuff as a kid (hyperactivity ahoy!), but I don't remember it. I won't drink diet soda these days, and I'll usually even poke fun of people that do because of the sweeteners involved. Because obviously, none of the other chemicals in it are suspect, no sir. Certainly not the high fructose corn syrup that serves to sweeten regular soda. Oh, no.

Another is new. Because eating local foods is new. This is reading the ingredients on a container you just bought because it is local, and finding that it's loaded with the same ingredients you'd get in a similar product found at Wal-Mart.

There's probably a good reason for this. There are a ton of reasons these ingredients have snuck into Wal-Mart, after all. Some of them give better shelf life. Some produce the textures to which we've all become accustomed. Many customers won't even notice, or will still feel so good about buying from a small or local company that they won't care.

I'm not part of that last group. I'm annoyed when I pick up a jar of preserves at a farmstand, and then notice HFCS in the ingredients when I get home and look closer. It bugs me to read an ice cream container I got at the farmer's market and see carageenan on the label. I've made ice cream. I don't even know where I'd get carageenan to put into it.

Note: google is my friend. Apparently, to get it, I would boil seaweed. Which could be worse. But do I want seaweed in my ice cream? The jury's out. I tend to agree with Daniel B. at Fussy Little Blog - which I'm so going to visiting again - who wrote:

Carrageenan is a food gum. If you read the labels of processed foods, you will see it everywhere. Gums act as thickening agents and stabilizers. It’s safe, but it is in your cream to give it the feeling of being fattier than it actually is. Which is really theft. Because when you are paying a premium for cream, you are paying for expensive milkfat, and not gums derived from seaweed.

Give me milkfat, or give me death!

Or more likely, give me both. At the same time.

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