Making every bite count

27 March 2007

Twinkies, yes, a post about Twinkies and other great health food books

I apologize in advance for climbing up on my soapbox, but it's been a while. I partially do it to keep myself motivated and partially do it to motivate others. I'm reading this fabulous book right now:

along with a bunch of other health food books at a super-duper sale.
I'll blog about the rest as I read them, but for now... the E True Hollywood Story of a Twinkie's sordid past...
Sometimes I feel like eating soy substitutes is just as bad as eating other processed foods. It probably is, but my body (and recently my conscious) feels better when I use a soy substitute for dairy, eggs or meat in a recipe. I've been able to re-create favorite foods using soymilk and some other basic foods, It comes down to spices and other creative flavorings. Food is mostly about smell and texture, not taste. Most of taste is smell; we know this already. For instance, I was trying to re-create the taste of breakfast sausage in a tofu scramble. Not wanting to harm Wilbur's brethren, I broke down the taste of sausage in my mind: salt, black pepper, garlic, sage. Sage was the key. I added those spices to some TVP, added soy milk and voila: soysage!
The same goes for bacon. Much of what we believe to be bacon's appeal lies in the texture, the salty grease or the chewiness smokiness. With a few ingredients, you can re-create that taste.
So much of what we truly believe to be pure and healthful is actually processed, and I try each day to eat a little less of that.
I often eat horribly: Tonight, after 45 minutes of cardio and just as long on the Pilates mat, I pulled some pesto out of the freezer. (Yes, I make my own pesto. I use half the cheese and oil of traditional pesto. Thin it with a bit of water.) I crumbled some frm tofu, added red pepper and 2 cups of spinach and 1 cup soymilk and 1 T plain yogurt. Yum! But I ate it with plain old fettucini, and I had TWO bowls! Oink!)
Here's the story of how a Twinkie led to this great book:
A man took his young children for ice cream on a hot, summer day. Child: "Where does polysorbate 60 come from, Daddy?" Dad, admitting his fallibility: "I don't know."
And so, dear old Dad set out to find out just what all those incomprehensible chemicals in our food are and whence they came!
He chose the Twinkie,

perhaps one of America's most processed snack foods, and tracked down information about each ingredient on the wrapper. I've only just begin the book, but here's what I've learned thus far:
Each chapter is a different ingredient, and even the good -- and boring, healthful -- ingredients have an interesting history. (I'm omitting footnotes, etc., but all citations unless linked come from Steve Ettlinger's book.)
Different kinds=different uses
  • Hard red spring and hard red winter wheats are high in gluten and protein; they come from the northern Great Plains and are used fo bread and pizza flour. That gluten, I've learned, is necessary for elasticity. The yeast produces gas, which stretches the dough.
  • Hard white wheat from Calif. and Kan. makes good bread flour.
  • Soft white flour from northern N.Y. and the Northwest is used for noodles and crackers.
  • Durum is extra hard and made in the northern states. It's used for (anyone, anyone, Bueller?) pasta.
  • Soft red winter wheat from the mid-Atlantic, South, Ohio and Miss. Rover valleys makes the best cake flour. (Cake flour is finely ground, powdery in texture. It's low in protein, and it has little gluten. It works best at a 50-50 sugar ratio.)
  • All-purpose flour is apparently not good for anything, say the experts.
    Twinkies require 7 million pounds of flour a year!

Bleach: We bleach flour.

  • Chlorine is the 10th most common chemical made in the U.S.
  • Apparently, we do this because bleaching flour eliminates the gluten.
  • Cakes the require a lot of sugar need this bleached flour because they can get that coarse, dense texture.
  • Yeah, so bleaching things is dangerous. And complicated.

Enrichment blends (vitamins):
Flour is enriched with vitamins so we don't develop horrible diseases and our kids don't come out deformed. Still, the idea of adding chemicals from odd sources to food seems unnatural.

  • Sulfuric acid (used for make ferrous sulfate) is the world'd most produced chemical.
  • We get it from steel pickling, which involves running steel through sulfuric acid. Yum. Then the liquor (pickling liquor) is used in making ferrous sulfate for food. Double yum.
  • Niacin comes from the Alps.
  • Niacin is B3.
  • It is made of air, water and petroleum. Yep. Black gold.
  • petroleum is cracked, into methane, ethylene and hydrogen. Then, air is liquified, separated into N and O and mixed with H to make NH3. blah blah natural gas blah blah ethlyene and acetylene are mixed... ta-da: niacin, which looks like flour.
  • Our body can make B3, albeit inefficiently. We convert the amino acid tryptophan (hint: gobble, gobble).

B1: Thiamine mononitrate came from brown rice husks.
The manufacturing is a secret, but it involves eye of newt and hair of the dog... oops, I mean: "synthesized from basic petrochemicals derived from that old trusted food source, coal tar." (!)

Riboflavin: B2 comes from leafy green, fish, liver, etc.
A carbo mash (sugar, corn, etc) is made using a laundry list of methods involving yeast, bacteria, leftover beer grain, etc. Without riboflavin, we couldn't easily grow. And if you take a B vitamin supplement, your pee is neon yellow, says the book.
(Losing interest? Me too, for now. Nutrition lesson almost over.)
Folic acid is important. It prevents birth defects. Folic acid is the synthetic version of B9. It's better absorbed in the latter. It's made through fermentation as weel as with petroleum products.
These vitamins add up to: (per pound of flour)
24 mg niacin
20 mg ferrous sulfate
2.9 mg thiamine
1.8 mg riboflavin
.7 mg folic acid
1/10,000th of a pound of enrichment per pound of flour. (says Ettlinger)
I'll leave you for tonight with this food for thought: In each Twinkie, there is 4 3/4 t of sugar. Measure that out, then look at the size of a Twinkie. Then eat a carrot. Or some quinoa. I heart quinoa right now.

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