Thursday, October 9, 2008

All Natural Ingredients

I was cooking dinner (sloppy joes) last night and I read through the list of ingredients before I added it to the meat. I was using dry seasoning rather than the canned stuff, and the ingredients were listed as: sugar, onion, salt, cornstarch, paprika, spices (including chili pepper), red and green bell peppers, garlic, maltodextrin, modified cornstarch, citric acid, vinegar solids, cider vinegar, natural flavors. This bothers me on so many different levels I'm not sure where to start....

In my perfect world, as my perfect self, I would feed my family nothing but local and organic foods. We would own our own cows and chickens, grow much of our own foods, and have local contacts for everything else. Nothing we ate would be of questionable origin, nothing would be chemically fertilized or pumped full of antibiotics. In reality, we are so far from my little fantasy it's laughable. I do buy organically and locally when I can afford to do so, but not nearly as often as I would like.

I push the fruits and veggies on my son - he loves them and isn't a picky eater so he's easy. My husband would live off Taco Bell and Burger King if he could. I, however, go from one extreme to the next - I try to keep my diet pretty healthy, but food and I have a shaky relationship. One day I feel like we're getting along and everything is fine. The next day, I'm needy and clingy, and I can't get enough. And you know, no matter what I do, food is always standoffish and unfeeling. Food just sits there, all 'do what you want with me, take me or leave me, I don't care' and I'm not getting what I need from the relationship. I know it's not healthy, but, I'm not quite in the right place with food yet. I'm working on it.

But I digress...back to the sloppy joe packet. Reread the ingredients if you need to refresh your memory, I'll wait. ........................ Now then...I like being able to identify the ingredients of the food we eat. If (ha!), when I buy processed foods, ideally I like to buy things that have as few ingredients as possible and I want to actually know what said ingredients are. At the very least, a vague idea of what they are is fine.

For whatever reason, I didn't read the packet when I bought it. Let's start at the beginning. Sugar, onion, salt, cornstarch, paprika - all fine. No questions there, recognize all that stuff. Next, we have spices (including chili pepper). 'Eh? First off, is paprika not a spice? What about garlic? I'm not a great cook, but I always thought they were considered spices. Second...what are they leaving out? What do they not want me to know? Why can't they tell me what, besides chili pepper, they're using? Why the evasion? I'm becoming concerned by this, I find it curious, but I'm still OK at this point.

Red and green bell peppers, garlic, maltodextrin...maltodextrin is one of those ingredients I'm not totally sure about - I know it's made from corn, I think it's a starch, and it's pervasive as far as ingredients go. I see it everywhere. I think it's a preservative. I'm trying to weed out those types of things, but it's one that I'm working on. I'm uneasy with maltodextrin, but for now I live with it.

Modified cornstarch...modified how, exactly? And really, more cornstarch? The cornstarch at the beginning wasn't enough? And isn't maltodextrin a starch made from corn? Wow...there's a lot of starch in this.

Citric acid, vinegar solids, cider vinegar, natural flavors....Natural flavors. That, I don't like. Not at all. What, pray tell, are natural flavors? Why can't they be more specific? Why the intrigue? I worry because I recently found out that the "natural flavors" used to make some foods red is crushed beetle shells. Sloppy joe seasoning is reddish. Am I feeding my family bug shells? Natural flavors sort of freak me out. Dirt is natural. Bugs are natural. Guano is natural. (Don't get me started on what they use guano in.)

Why can't they just tell us what they're using? I feel like it's all some big conspiracy, like they don't trust us enough to tell us what they're using...."It's OK, little lady, don't worry your pretty little head about this! You just make your sloppy joes and let us, the more qualified people, worry about the natural flavors! After all, if you knew how to do this properly, you wouldn't be using a seasoning packet anyway, right?"

So I spent a lot of time thinking about this last night. So many of us have weight problems and health issues, and I firmly believe it is because we eat all these chemicals and processed foods. If we would just eat things in their natural forms and cook using whole ingredients, we'd all be so much better off. But instead, we're rushing around using packets of this and boxes of that, and most of us don't even know what exactly we're eating. I sure as hell don't. It's scary. Was it scary enough not to eat? Nope...still fed everyone sloppy joes for dinner. Next time, maybe, I'll make them from scratch. I'm working on it, I really am, but I'm not there yet. But knowing there's a problem is half the battle, right?

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