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Saturday, March 13, 2010

frozen pizza is making me mad

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Ever since I was about five years old, I've made no secret of the fact that pizza is my favourite food. I pretty much like any kind of pizza except hawaiian (pineapple + pizza = all kinds of wrong).

I love the classic thin crust italian pizza, with fresh seasonal toppings, and I also love the local pizzeria special, loaded with toppings on thick doughy crust.

Pizza is good.

Sometimes I make my own pizza. In fact, earlier this week, I made a FABULOUS pizza with whole wheat crust, organic tomato sauce, part-skim mozza, local elk sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms. Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelish. OF course, that night, I didn't eat until 9, because it took that long for the dough to rise.

Sometimes I order in. There's a great spot near me that makes fabulous thin crust pizzas with lots of creative toppings.

And sometimes, frozen pizza is just fast, easy, cost-effective and convenient.

In the last few years, the frozen pizza selection has really broadened. A decade ago, you could purchase cardboard-like discs with a couple of classic toppings - pepperoni, deluxe, cheese.

Don't get me wrong, I've scarfed my fair share.

A few years ago, however, Dr. Oetker frozen pizzas entered the Canadian market and they seemed like such a great alternative - thin crispy crust, delicious cheese and a selection of inspired vegetable toppings - spinach, mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese.

And because of the thin crust, you can indulge a bit, and the calories weren't too bad.

Well, of course, with my latest post about HVP, I was curious. Earlier this week, I was craving pizza and picked up a couple of the Dr. Oetker pizzas (one spinach, one mushroom).

And then I read the label. Read it and weep:

Wheat flour, water, spinach, tomato puree, mozzarella cheese (milk, salt, calcium chloride, bacterial culture, microbial enzyme or rennet), edam cheese (milk, salt, calcium chloride, beta-carotene colour, bacterial culture, microbial enzyme or rennet), vegetable oil preparation (contains modified canola and palm oil, water, citric acid, artificial flavour, beta-carotene colour, mono and diglycerides), canola or sunflower oil, yeast, salt, sugar, modified cornstarch, seasoning (contains salt, hydrolyzed soya protein, autolyzed yeast extract, modified palm oil, caramel colour, dextrose, dried carrots, dried onions, spices), garlic, lactic acid, potato starch, spices

This is pizza that has crust, spinach, cheese and sauce. WHY does it need these chemicals? These ingredients are delicious on their own, and there is absolutely no defence for using these chemicals.

Conversely, though I don't love their pizzas, I do love a new initiative by McCain. Aside from the fact that their vegetarian pizza selection seems to start and end with cheese (seriously lame, guys!!!!), they have eliminated scary chemicals from their frozen pizzas. And they've eliminated nitrates from the pepperoni and sausage that adorn these pizzas. And I love them for that. And if I hadn't sworn off of factory farmed meat, I would fill my freezers with their products to let them know how much I love this movement. (Seriously guys, would it kill you to make a fab veggie pizza????)

As much as I rant about chemicals in processed food, and how easy it is to make your own chemical-free food....the reality is that not everyone has lots of time. Believe me, I REALLY understand this (work full time, commute three hours a day, have small child, devoted hubs, part-time business and try to actually do social stuff once in a while). I'm no paragon of perfection upon which you should model yourselves.

The essence is I think all of these companies that are pushing their chemical-laden crap on us should do like McCain, take a solid look at their ingredient lists and question....WHY am I putting this in food? Is there a NEED for this to be in there? Can I make this food without chemicals?

McCain sure thinks you can.

Dr. Oetker, I'm looking straight at you.

Editing to add - the formatting of this post (and blogger) is making me mental. There are LOTS of links in the text, but you'll have to mouse over to see them. GRRRRRR

Sunday, March 07, 2010

there is no defence for this food

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So, I've been a really, really crappy blogger lately. And I apologize for that.

However, I certainly haven't been idle in terms of food and eating....and especially in terms of reading. It seems to becoming de rigueur these days to read up on food and condemn factory farming practices and supply chain conglomeration and all those things.

So being the diligent little foodie that I am, I've been doing these things. I've read books (The End of Overeating by Dr. David. A. Kessler, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer). I've watched movies (King Corn, Food Inc.). I've read articles (from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, from various other news outlets).

I've been horrified, grossed out, temporarily name it.

But it's honestly hard to grasp just how ridiculous and fragile the North American food supply is. I mean, yes, we've all heard about recalls of ground beef, spinach, lunch meats and all that stuff. But that seems pretty straightforward.

But then you look at the current recall on hydrolyzed vegetable protein. And your first reaction is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and have I eaten it?

To answer the first, HVP (which sounds like a disease, if you ask me) is made by boiling cereals or legumes [like soy, corn or wheat] in hydrochloric [wha?????] acid, and then neutralizing it with sodium hydroxide.

To answer the second, yes, you've probably eaten it.

So.....we are boiling stuff we don't need in a highly corrosive solution and then making it palatable with a caustic metal base.

This totally sounds like something I'd want to eat. You?

Anyway, the resulting HVP is used as a flavour enhancer in processed food. So it's used in things like soup, sauces, chili, stew, hot dogs, gravy, snacks, dips and dressings. And sometimes it's blended with spices to make seasonings. A quick investigation into my own pantry found me four products containing HVP - a salad topping mix, a soup, a burger seasoning mix and a peppercorn sauce. These items are full of sodium and other chemicals and probably had no business entering my house in the first place.

So I've tossed them.

Anyway, what I find interesting about this particular food recall is that it really shows how incredibly fragile the processed food supply is. So you have this one company in Nevada that makes this nasty stuff.

And then they sell it to all kinds of food manufacturers (lots of brands and varieties) that make even more nasty stuff.

And those manufacturers sell to grocery stores all across the continent.

And we buy this crap, mix it with another ingredient or two, and feel like we're actually cooking something.

And so basically anyone in the ENTIRE CONTINENT who has purchased processed food since September 2009 needs to have a good go-through of their cupboard and fridge contents.

All because of one small company in Nevada.

And how many other small companies might there be out there helping to pump our foods with chemicals and "enhancers" that we simply don't need?

I'm just looking at the label of my instant leek soup....on the ingredient list, I see corn starch (okay), wheat flour (okay), modified milk ingredients (hmmm), onion powder (okay...), dried vegetables [potatoes and leeks], corn syrup solids [wtf did they do to it to make it solid?], salt, monosodium glutamate [blech], canola oil, hydrolyzed corn protein [HVP!!!!!], guar gum (huh?), natural flavour (awesome....what is it?), spice, natural colour and sulphites.

Ummm....that doesn't sound like potato leek soup to me. To me, potato leek soup is leeks, potatoes, broth and maybe some cream. And it's not very hard to make.

What this potato leek soup is, is actually a conglomeration of chemicals from a conglomeration of companies that food scientists have discovered tastes a lot like potato leek soup. And it tastes a lot like the potato leek soup that most people want to eat.

And this totally reminds me of a recent experience at work. A while back, we had a chili cook-off. There were ten entries (including mine) and they ran the gamut - there were spicy entries, mild ones, wildly varying ingredients. But when voting time came, there was one particular entry that won by a landslide (it had 10 votes, and the next closest had 3).

And it wasn't my chili, hehe.

It was actually canned chili. I'm happy to say that *I* didn't vote for it....I found it lacking in texture, with a bit of a dog food smell.

But most people DID vote for it (over half!). It was processed, hyper-palatable food that a team of food scientists has spent months perfecting and testing. I.e., it was a representation of what most people felt an ideal chili should taste like.

You can't win against that.

And anyway...I guess this big long entry goes to's time that we cut the chemicals out of our food and start eating tasty, healthy home-made food that isn't going from the chem lab to our tables.

More on this later....thanks for being patient, and now that I'm well and thoroughly riled, hopefully you'll see some more entries from me....

I'd love to hear your comments and insights....

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