Saturday, March 03, 2007

What's That Thing In My Food ... ??

Recently my wife and I visited with our daughter and her family in Baytown. We intended to go on a picnic at Hermann Park in Houston and take the grandchildren to the zoo. But this was not to be as traffic around the zoo was grid-locked on all sides and all the parking areas surrounding the zoo were closed. Thus we ended up back at my daughter’s house sitting around the dining room table eating sandwiches out of our Igloo Cooler. It was nearly as good as a real picnic although we did miss the ants and outdoor scenery.

I selected an interesting-looking sandwich spread from the cooler. It looked interesting because the label on the cover said, “Rotisserie Chicken Salad.” Anything edible with the word “chicken” connected is interesting to me. Perhaps out of curiosity I looked at the label on the bottom of the salad container to read the ingredients.

Have you ever knowingly eaten “hydrolyzed sodium cacinate”? How about “lecithin or Calcium Disodium EDTA, polysorbate 80 of black pepper with natural smoke flavor” plus about 70 other ingredients? If you have eaten all of these at once then it is likely that you have eaten Rotisserie Chicken Salad. I know because I have been there and done that. I’m not pulling your wishbone. What I am telling you is coming directly from said label.

The questions that first stuck my mind when I read the label were: “Do people actually eat this?” and, “How in the world did someone come up with all this mixture of stuff?” Are these concoctions formulated in a chemistry lab or in bad dreams?

If you were going to come up with a new sandwich spread of some sort would it occur to you to include a bit of “modified food starch and dried vinegar?” How would you know if your food starch was modified or not? And how would you dry vinegar? Vinegar is a liquid. Wouldn’t it evaporate if you tried to dry it?

Would you be inspired to stir in some, “sugar and garlic with partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil?” Can you even think of sugar and garlic in the same thought? And how do you know how to think about “torula yeast with lipolyzed butter oil?”

Let us reason together. Just how many people have read labels on food containers similar to the one I have tried to describe? All I really saw was the word “chicken.” I had no clue that along with the chicken were bits of “modified tapioca starch and pinches of hydrolyzed whey protein mixed with corn syrup solids.” What is a “corn syrup solid” anyway? I thought syrups were liquids. Maybe they freeze it before they mix it in with the chicken.

In my imagination I began to ponder how I would conjure up my own Rotisserie Chicken Salad sandwich spread. Hopefully I could come up with some exotic ingredients. However, following due consideration, the label on my sandwich spread would read something like, “Mashed up Rotisserie Chicken with mayonnaise and other stuff included.” I wouldn’t bother with adding “spice extractives” and I would let the “natural flavors” take care of themselves.

Anyway I have a new fascination and I invite you to join me. Start reading the labels on your food containers. You will be astounded at what you are putting into your body. I leave you with one final example: If you love the taste of Rotisserie Chicken Salad, that means you have a thing for “sodium diacetate and phosphates.”

I know because I have read the label.

Winston Hamby –

The Beaumont Enterprise


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