Category Archives: Occasional rants

The ninth day of Christmas, with a carol and a little botanical rant

2016hollyThe holly, just like in the Christmas carol. No ivy here, though. I can’t stand the stuff; it doesn’t know when to stop trying to cover everything in its path. Do you have a tree? Ivy will happily swarm up the trunk and smother the branches. What about a house? Not a problem – ivy will get to work on turning it into a green hill, if you don’t fight back.

Ivy. Bah, humbug.

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With sympathy

Drapeau de la France
To everyone in France after yesterday’s horrifying attacks.

More complicated than that

Or, some slogans are silly.

This is going to be a cranky, grumpy post, an exercise in “yes but” and “did you stop to think about”. I’ve been sorting through books and finding (lots and lots of) oldish ones to give away to a book sale coming up in a couple of weeks. And maybe the hours of sorting, and breathing dust and dealing with the runny nose and headaches it brings, have made me irritable. Don’t care.

Because I was glancing through a diet book yesterday, one of the “fat is EEEEvil” diets that have kind of gone out of style for the moment until people get discouraged with low-carb again, and stumbled over this sentence: “If you can’t be a vegetarian, eat a vegetarian.” That is – at least this is what the author meant to say – people who won’t minimize the fat in their diets by completely giving up animal products should stick to plant-eating animals, which will be low-fat like the plants they eat. But is that true?

Well, what do we meat-eaters usually eat? Beef, lamb, pork, chicken (and similar birds), and fish, right? And what do they eat?

Left to their own devices, cows and sheep are vegetarians, feasting on the great salad bar of grassy fields, filling their bodies with plenty of highly saturated fat. Pigs? Omnivores like us; they’ll eat almost anything. Pork is traditionally fatty, but pork fat isn’t as highly saturated as beef tallow. What about chickens? The flock that roamed around my grandmother’s yard pecked up all the corn she gave them, but they also loved bugs and worms; they’re omnivores like people and pigs, fairly low in fat, and what fat they have isn’t very saturated. And fish, virtuous low-fat fish? Eating machines, and what they eat are smaller fish. A flounder is no more vegetarian than a lion.

Of course, it gets even more complicated…I’m told that “farmed” fish are much higher in saturated fat than wild fish of the same species. But we can pretty much conclude, after looking at the inconvenient facts, that the slogan should be turned upside down: “If you want to eat a minimal-fat diet and won’t be a vegetarian, eat a carnivore.” Um. Just doesn’t have the same virtuous sound, does it?

The world needs better slogans. “If it’s glib, it’s goofy.” Or the good old standby: “It’s more complicated than that.”

Things that make me angry

(Note – to read the label information on the photos below, click on the pictures – you will be shown a larger, readable version.)

Some of the stuff that we habitually eat can easily be classed as “not real food”. Is it highly processed? Does it contain a lot of assorted emulsifiers and preservatives and flavorings and….. Yeah. That kind of stuff. Not food, though not exactly poisonous. But there are different levels –

There I was, innocently shopping for groceries. Now, my husband likes sliced American processed cheese on hamburgers – the standard cheeseburger. And we were nearly out of the stuff.

And then I saw this, in the dairy case, between the sliced American cheese (cheese product, cheese food, and so on) and the regular cheddar. If you were tired or distracted or in a hurry, you could easily grab it assuming it was cheese, or near-cheese.

Let’s look at the nutritional labels:

American processed cheese

“Sandwich slices” (By the way – where did I get these pictures? I was irritated enough to buy a package, one time, to scan the labels to use in this post.)

Notice particularly the protein and calcium values. (Again, click on the pictures to see them in big-enough-to-read size.) Oh, the calcium values. Would you want to feed this to your children assuming it was more or less equivalent to milk? Didn’t think so.

So what the heck is it? Basically, water-and-oil jello, with some cornstarch and potato starch for extra thickening. Remember, the ingredients are listed in order from largest to smallest quantity. It claims to contain “milk”, but the only milk derivative I see in the list of ingredients is “whey”. And what’s whey, anyway? It seems that it’s a by-product of making cheese – a watery liquid that’s drained away while the milk is solidified into cheese.

Clever marketing. Take the leftovers from cheesemaking, add some even cheaper ingredients to thicken the mess until it looks sort of cheese like, put a vague label on it – and then sell it among real or realish cheeses.

True, if you pause to look the label over carefully, you won’t be fooled. So I guess this is legal. It still doesn’t seem very honest.

And that makes me angry.