Last week I bought myself a frozen raspberry lemonade. It tasted good; a sweet, lemony slushie. But as I sipped it, I wondered what on earth I was drinking. The raspberry flavour was completely artificial while the lemon had "lemon flavouring" (along with other unspecified natural flavours and a host of other ingredients). The slushie mixture was made of water and a sugar syrup with even more ingredients. I thought how much better that lemonade would have been with real raspberries, lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and ice.
A few days later I got my daughter a can of iced tea. The front of the can bragged about how it's made from "the best stuff on earth" with real tea and natural flavours. As we were walking along, she turned the can around and started reading the ingredients.
"Sodium hexametaphosphate?" she read with some confusion. "I know sodium is salt but what is hexametaphosphate?"
I had to admit I had no idea. Google has subsequently informed me it's used primarily in laboratories, detergents, paints, and photography applications to keep particles from clumping or settling. Why is it in her tea? Is it that hard to shake the can before drinking?
A hundred years ago, if someone had a glass of iced tea, they had tea, cold water, and sugar with maybe some mint or lemon thrown in for flavour. My daughter's can had 11 ingredients (including water) and six of them were not identifiable as food (mmm... calcium disodium edta anyone?). Even though it was lemon iced tea, there was no mention of lemon in the ingredient list.
The following day I was on a forum where someone asked for healthy meal ideas. One person offered a dessert suggestion that consisted of a ready made pie crust, filled with instant pudding and topped with artificial whipped topping. That was when it hit me. We can go all day, eating food, and manage to eat nothing that isn't crammed full of additives and modified ingredients. And many people do. Why does a package of muffins contain xanthan gum and monoglycerides? Why is the milk in my cream cheese modified? How is it modified?
We move in just under a week. Right now our cupboards are almost empty and most of my cooking supplies have been packed. When I restock our fridge and cupboards in our new home, I am restocking with real foods. If I don't recognize an ingredient, that food is not coming into our house. If the ingredients are modified, same thing.
Right now, what I've been doing is finding recipes for the basic ingredients I usually buy ready made. Things like gravy mix and soup stock. I've also been reading ingredient lists at the grocery store. Next Friday I'll be picking up a paper wrapped package of cream cheese, for example, instead of a tub.
This is how I explained our upcoming diet change to my son. "Remember the time I was tired and didn't feel like chopping the potatoes for poutine and we just went out and bought a package of frozen fries? It was a bit quicker but it didn't taste as good as when we usually make it. Now, instead of using powdered gravy mix, I'm going to make my own and it'll taste even better."
I'm wracking my brains for a conclusion but am too tired. I got kept up last night by a bunch of kids skateboarding under my bedroom window. Then, when I tried to take a small nap this afternoon, people outside my building started operating a power washer, a jack hammer, and some piece of heavy machinery that alternated between ramming into something metal and backing up while beeping. Oh, and someone's car horn got stuck and was constantly honking. ALL AT ONCE! That nap didn't happen. My son's due home in 10 minutes. It's totally quiet now. So, in conclusion, here's a gratuitous shot of the teeny bit of the solar eclipse I saw this weekend (taken from a friend's van window)...