The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food
February 20, 2013 5:36 AM   Subscribe

“If anyone in the food industry ever doubted there was a slippery slope out there, I imagine they are beginning to experience a distinct sliding sensation right about now.”
posted by Kitteh (169 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
14 goddamn pages that must be clicked through. Is that some kind of NYT record?
posted by indubitable at 5:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


try this single-page view then (warning: minimum required CPU 486 33MHz; minimum required video card 256 colors)
posted by jepler at 5:47 AM on February 20, 2013 [22 favorites]



    salt + fat2
------------------- x pleasing mouth feel = a food designed to addict
satisifying crunch


Putting the satisfying crunch in the denominator is unconventional but probably par for the course for yogurt-loving libruls at the NYT.
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on February 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


“Lots of things are trade-offs,” he said. “And I do believe it’s easy to rationalize anything. In the end, I wish that the nutritional profile of the thing could have been better, but I don’t view [Lunchables] as anything but a positive contribution to people’s lives.”

Having paved the road to Hell, we can at least stop to admire the landscaping in the median.
posted by jquinby at 6:04 AM on February 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


(Readability made it manageable for me) This is a great article. I live, sadly, in a medium-size suburban sprawl neighborhood. We have a group of neighbors that formed a coupon club and I hang out with them at their meetings mostly for the free food and wine while they argue over coupons and binders. They tend to post pictures of their amazing savings and when I look at what they're buying, I'm usually freaked out by all the processed foods in their photos. I'm not saying we don't buy ANY processed food, but we keep it at a minimum. We still may all die slowly from tumors of unknown origin, but at least I can say I tried to avoid the worst contaminants that big food has to offer. But if you're buying shit like this because your kids "just love them", then you get what you deserve as far as I'm concerned. When my kids gripe that we don't have some of the convenience foods their friends have, I tell them we like to be able to spell what we're eating.
posted by PuppyCat at 6:07 AM on February 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Having paved the road to Hell, we can at least stop to admire the landscaping in the median.
Indeed. Like this, perhaps.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:08 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I clicked on that first page, such a satisfying snap to my mouse button that soon I was wanting more, this crazy sweet article written with so much tang and verve and yet with a hint of brine. The second page, the same wild gustatory thrill and yet my taste buds were unsated...
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:12 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Really good article. I look forward to the conversation to come once more people have actually read it.

I found this to be extraordinary:

Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.

I mean, really, I had absolutely no idea that research goes on this extent. I thought crunchy was crunchy. That's a level of detail that is just astonishing.
posted by jbickers at 6:19 AM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


All to make something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike food.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:26 AM on February 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


See also: this recent thread on how your tongue perceives fat. Mmmmmm...fat.
posted by amanda at 6:29 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do find Doritos, etc. quite remarkable in how well they short-circuit my self control. I will be eating them, thinking "these don't actually taste very good", and yet unless I physically remove them from my presence I can easily crunch through an entire bag at a sitting. They are basically my kryptonite.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:31 AM on February 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


C.E.O.'s

This makes me hurt inside.
posted by phunniemee at 6:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


That's a level of detail that is just astonishing.

And yet, a plate of fresh home-made chips with a side of remoulade for dipping tastes and feels infinitely better in the mouth.

It's the convenience - buy your frito-lay chips anywhere, eat it anywhere, toss the package when you're done. I think the single-serving snack package needs to go.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the single-serving snack package needs to go.

The problem with a lot of snack food in our household is that the packages are all single-serving, no matter how big they are... :(
posted by Slothrup at 6:34 AM on February 20, 2013 [45 favorites]


‘Are you telling me that one-third of Americans crave extra-chunky spaghetti sauce, and yet no one is servicing their needs?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And Prego then went back and completely reformulated their spaghetti sauce and came out with a line of extra-chunky that immediately and completely took over the spaghetti-sauce business in this country

Pardon me while I stand on a chair and start screaming.

There are canned, diced tomatoes on the same aisle! THE SAME AISLE!
posted by gimonca at 6:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


This is the point in my life, apparently, when I complain about how all of the chip bags have recently gotten larger. Proudly.

Dangit, I don't need 450 calories worth in a single bag. The old sizes were fine! GRAR!

...sigh...
posted by aramaic at 6:36 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eating this stuff would be fine if people actually did something all day other than sit at desks, couches and behind the wheel. The reason our bodies like these foods is because they contain necessary nutrients for a high exertion, feast/famine lifestyle. But, uh, that's not how we live.

Arguably we'd be healthier if we ate all the junkfood we liked while performing physically demanding work, rather than just eating carrots and sushi and sitting on our asses. Our bodies would also crave vegetables and protein far more often, also, if we were physically active.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:40 AM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Not a lot of surprises in that article. Food companies are doing what cooks/bakers have been doing for centuries - tinkering with recipes to make them as pleasing as possible. They are just doing so far more effectively and scientifically.

I also appreciated how they threw in scare lines like embedded with four kinds of sugars without ever explaining why anyone should care about that. The implication is that it is bad (or why even mention it), but from my perspective, what I care about is the total amount of sugar. Not whether they added dextrose, honey and corn syrup as well as sugar to the product.
posted by nolnacs at 6:41 AM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


So that's where all the psychologists are hanging out! (No, I am not really surprised.) It's sad that professionals who are supposed to help people are instead making big bucks finding more and more ways to hurt people.
posted by mareli at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


“We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.”

It is instructive to note what it takes to get a business's attention.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


Pardon me while I stand on a chair and start screaming.

There are canned, diced tomatoes on the same aisle! THE SAME AISLE!


You are correct. But after WWII came a deluge of products to "liberate" people out of the kitchen, ostensibly to spend more time with their families. Ever since, it's been a race to the bottom to not have to actually make things so easy like spaghetti sauce.

Despite the rise of Food Network tv stars and a veritable flood of books/shows/anything involving the eating and preparation of food, I'd like to know how many average Americans--not gonna count Mefites because once a food thread starts people trip over themselves to prove their kitchen bona fides (myself included!)--spend time in the kitchen preparing things that this article says they throw money at to buy.

And yes, I know no one is making Doritos at home. Or are you?
posted by Kitteh at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought using actual sugar meant you were virtually an artisan product these days.
posted by Segundus at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Water? Like from the toilet?

It's interesting that, in a certain sense, they're striving to make food "better," which is to say more desirable. On the other hand, of course, it's actually worse by most other metrics. No, Mr. Lunchables-inventing Guy, you didn't improve anybody's life. (Well, maybe shareholders; depends on how they value an impoverished world.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


And yes, I know no one is making Doritos at home. Or are you?

I tried. I think I got the recipe wrong though - equal parts spray tanned women and cocaine led to the same eventual feeling of regret and shame but didn't quite have the right crunch.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


Today is day 10 for me without consuming a diet soda. The last time I went more than a day or 2 without a diet soda was in high school in the 80s. The last time I went 10 days without a soda of any kind I was probably 8 years old in the 70s. I've already noticed a decrease in my desire to eat the sugary stuff. I'm convinced the diet drinks are a Trojan horse. Maybe not be design originally, but they've gotten so good at mimicking the taste of sugar that your body can't tell the difference. There may be no calories in the drink, but it still triggers the more sugar craving, so you enjoy your Coke Zero with a bag of Doritos. And because you are drinking a diet soda, you feel less guilty about the sugary salty snack accompanying it.
posted by COD at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm a big fan of self-determination, personal freedom (including the freedom to hurt yourself if you choose), and reducing overpopulation, so giving weak-willed people the power to happily eat themselves into an early grave hits my mental "bliss point." That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us. If people want to commit suicide-by-coronary, that's their own personal choice, but why should the rest of us have to subsidize it?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


When Shepherd and I went on a whole grains/fruit/vegetable/no processed foods cleanse for the first of the year, what shocked me during that month was how much I missed sugar in foods that shouldn't have sugar in them. I mean, I'm an avid food-label reader, but it stunned me at how many things on the shelves either have sugar (or a varient thereof) as the 2nd ingredient on their labels. I didn't realize how well my modern palate had been trained for that degree of false satiety in processed foods, though I haven't eaten a lot of them in a long time.
posted by Kitteh at 7:00 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


> Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items.

Not that my job is changing the world or anything, but every time I read a story like this I wonder how it must feel to have gone through years and years of the best schooling money can buy to get a job conducting research on the ideal mouth feel of potato chips.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:01 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not that my job is changing the world or anything, but every time I read a story like this I wonder how it must feel to have gone through years and years of the best schooling money can buy to get a job conducting research on the ideal mouth feel of potato chips.

Surprisingly financially secure?
posted by jaduncan at 7:02 AM on February 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


Not that my job is changing the world or anything, but every time I read a story like this I wonder how it must feel to have gone through years and years of the best schooling money can buy to get a job conducting research on the ideal mouth feel of potato chips.



Like Phil and Lem from Better Off Ted, I should imagine.
posted by Kitteh at 7:02 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


From a research point of view, it's amazing and impressive. From a point of view of dollars spent/goal of selling snacks it's...amazing and depressing.

And it does clear up some of my particular food addictions, though. I don't know if that will help me avoid them or make me more resigned. I'll have to wait till lunch to see.
posted by emjaybee at 7:02 AM on February 20, 2013


Not that my job is changing the world or anything, but every time I read a story like this I wonder how it must feel to have gone through years and years of the best schooling money can buy to get a job conducting research on the ideal mouth feel of potato chips.

Those jobs probably start at 60K for kids straight out of college, along with a nice corporate benefits package, and all the Doritos you can eat. It probably feels just fine.
posted by COD at 7:03 AM on February 20, 2013


Yeah, a gig's a gig.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:03 AM on February 20, 2013


Junk food exists everywhere in the developed world, and yet some countries get to dodge the bullet. Whatever it is they are doing everyone else should copy them.
posted by Summer at 7:06 AM on February 20, 2013


Such a good article! Also, Psychology PhDs need all the jobs they can get!
posted by zscore at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2013


You are correct. But after WWII came a deluge of products to "liberate" people out of the kitchen, ostensibly to spend more time with their families. Ever since, it's been a race to the bottom to not have to actually make things so easy like spaghetti sauce.

You spend 9-10 hours a day at work, with a 1-1.5 hour commute on either end and suddenly you come to understand why people don't want to spend more time cooking - which also means more time cleaning.

There is much about american life that sucks, and our work culture is most of it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:08 AM on February 20, 2013 [87 favorites]


Despite the rise of Food Network tv stars and a veritable flood of books/shows/anything involving the eating and preparation of food, I'd like to know how many average Americans--not gonna count Mefites because once a food thread starts people trip over themselves to prove their kitchen bona fides (myself included!)--spend time in the kitchen preparing things that this article says they throw money at to buy.

I am right square in the target market, really hate to cook, and my kid loves Lunchables and Gogurt. I buy them rarely because they seem like a bad idea, but is the wheat bread with no HFCS plus organic peanut butter plus low-sugar jelly all that much better? He eats lots of regular fruit. He refuses to touch most vegetables, to the point that I'm contemplating buying a blender and sneaking them into some smoothies. He takes a vitamin, and we don't keep cookies or ice cream or sugar cereal in the house. He actually isn't that big on candy. He also refuses almost all meat, any spreads other than PB&J, most sauces. This severely taxes my limited cooking skills. We are trying to get him to try stuff, and hope it will get better with age. But as I said, it's a real effort to make myself cook, or try things, especially as I worry I will either do them wrong or he will reject them anyway and now I get to eat it alone.

Did I mention my husband's food allergies mean he has to make and eat meals separately and cook in separate pans? He takes care of himself, but essentially we make three meals at suppertime.

So, it's difficult, and they aren't kidding about the time crunch.
posted by emjaybee at 7:14 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine listed all the things her daughters wouldn't eat, all the things her husband wouldn't eat, along with a couple of allergies.

Let's just say I was floored by the length of it (and also wondering what the hell her family DID eat). She too, emjaybee, ends up making more than one meal at dinnertime to satisfy everyone. It wears her out as well.
posted by Kitteh at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Arguably we'd be healthier if we ate all the junkfood we liked while performing physically demanding work, rather than just eating carrots and sushi and sitting on our asses.

You can't work off extra salt though, can you? The article gives the example of Finland, which over the last 30 years reduced salt consumption by a third, accompanied by a "75 percent to 80 percent decline in the number of deaths from strokes and heart disease."

And I'm not so sold for fat and sugar. This article estimates that a desk job burns 820 calories a day and a high-activity job burns 1,400 calories a day. The 600-calorie difference equals about half a bag of potato chips or one "venti White Chocolate Mocha." Their estimate is probably low, but double or triple it and it's still not hard to make up the difference.

Food companies are doing what cooks/bakers have been doing for centuries - tinkering with recipes to make them as pleasing as possible. They are just doing so far more effectively and scientifically.

More effectively and scientifically ... and in a context where the products are heavily advertised ... and where the advertising is calculated, after extensive research, to confuse people about the fact that their yogurt has more sugar per serving than Lucky Charms ... and where exercise habits are very different than they used to be ... and where semi-addictive, dangerous-in-large-quantities food is not only readily-obtainable-in-large-quantities for most people, but is actually more affordable than less dangerous alternatives ...

The food supply system isn't like anything that's been seen before. In a lot of ways that's a great thing -- but it's hardly an unmitigated triumph. And specifically, if you run a globally dominant food company and you push to more effectively and scientifically craft and market products that you know will lead to more people dying younger, that is on your hands like chunky tomato sauce. You might claim with pride that you brought people happier, shorter lives, but either way it's on your hands.
posted by jhc at 7:23 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually, after WWII, American women, especially white ones, were encouraged (and sometimes forced) to leave the workforce to stay home, have babies, and bake cookies.
posted by mareli at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


...people don't want to spend more time cooking - which also means more time cleaning.

There are plenty of things wrong with work culture, but the above is just piffle. If you make stuff ahead when you can, you can basically eat with the convenience of processed food but you processed it yourself. I made batches of beans, pizza dough and marinara sauce last weekend *and I spent the whole day away from the house*. Slow cooker, bread machine and 10 minutes at the stove and I have 3-4 weeks of food.
posted by DU at 7:27 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I went to school to become one of the scientists in the article. I have a BSc and MSc in Food Science from one of the top food science schools in the US. I've been to food industry conferences, met famous food scientists, competed in food product development competitions. When I started graduate school I wanted to focus on the nutritional aspects of food with the hope of one day improving the quality of convenience foods. Eventually you start to realize that you're going to be at the mercy of the marketing department throughout your career as a food scientist. There is a lot of fascinating science going on that relates to food, but so much has been perverted in the quest to sell more product and to add more value. I left a PhD program in part because I couldn't see myself doing that. If anyone has any questions about food science, feel free to ask.
posted by Lord Force Crater at 7:28 AM on February 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I teach in a very affluent area, and almost none of those kids are overweight. They bring snacks that consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, because most of them have moms who don't work, or nannies. We have a couple students whose moms cook them lunch and bring it to the school at lunchtime every day. I only have three kids who eat lunch in the cafeteria. We have a mom who comes to school every Tuesday and runs a fruit/vegetable cart... it's free, paid for by the parents. Almost all of my kids go.

The kids in my class who are overweight are usually from the apartments next door, where there are families who are not affluent but not really hurting, and lots of single moms. One of these girls brings, I kid you not, a cup-o-noodles for snack and eats it dry, with the flavor packet sprinkled over the top.

The countries that don't have as big a problem with junk food/obesity seem to be the ones that have governments that aren't afraid to regulate business, or maybe just don't let corporations write all the laws. The article mentions Finland's salt legislation, and there's also Denmark's fat tax.

It's a very damning article, and the optimist in me would like to think that it could make a difference, but...
posted by Huck500 at 7:28 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's the story of the sad inevitable blubbernaut of the food-industrial complex; I can't see how it will stop in our glorious free market.
posted by Red Loop at 7:28 AM on February 20, 2013


But that's the problem, DU, you are correct in that you can do it yourself for less cleaning and prep time than you imagine, yet we've been ingrained that doing anything like that is more trouble than it's worth. I have been trying to teach my folks how to meal plan, do easy prep, etc for years and yet when I come to visit, I open up the fridge to see the very items the article talks about.
posted by Kitteh at 7:30 AM on February 20, 2013


" I know no one is making Doritos at home. Or are you?"

I do make home-made poptart equivalents. Does that count? (I've also made homemade peeps. Which, frankly, are not worth the effort.)

I totally would make homemade chips (I've made my own Bagels!), at least once or twice, if I had a big enough kitchen to easily store and use a deep fryer.
posted by oddman at 7:36 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle.

“We act like a snack, not a vegetable,” he told the investors. “We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.”


Yeah. Good luck with that.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:37 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You gotta love the scientists at the start of the article, and their ill-fated 1999 meeting of snack food potentates. "Your products are causing serious health problems. You need to do something about it." How sweet. How deeply fucking stupid.

Did they, for even a microsecond, expect that to influence the food companies? The nature of the business world is that companies will sell deep-fried orphan meat (now flavored with kitten livers!) if it'd make them large profits. They'll twist their psyches into whatever shape it takes to make themselves okay with it, too. Any organization of sufficient size will let the world burn to the ground before it changes a profitable behavior. The only way to change their behavior is to make it unprofitable. Which requires market regulations and taxes, which clashes with MURICA!'s principles of "regulation is bad, because SOCIALIZM", which means extra chins for everyone!

What I need to do is figure out a product targeted at second (and third and fourth) chins, then create a need that the product solves, then get filthy rich as millions seek to fill their hitherto unknown need at Target, K-Mart, and other fine retailers near you. Maybe after retirement, I can, like the food execs in the article, feel bad about it and ineffectually call for change and corporate responsibility. While resting on my hillock of krugerrands.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:37 AM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I always feel so left out with stuff like this. I don't like crunchy snacks. Their equation doesn't work for me. :(

But get me within ten yards of some chocolate or gummies or a loaf of bread and oh holy hell watch out.
posted by phunniemee at 7:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The equation works all too well. Crunchiness is inverse to addiction, which is typically wrong.

Showing NYT is bad at math.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:41 AM on February 20, 2013


America's Test Kitchen just put out a recipe for deep fried frozen pizza rolls.

Plot that data point.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


But that's the problem, DU, you are correct in that you can do it yourself for less cleaning and prep time than you imagine, yet we've been ingrained that doing anything like that is more trouble than it's worth.

I was toying with starting a food blog (not so sure about it now), but one of the things I was thinking of looking at was a side-by-side comparison on how long it took to cook Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff vs. beef stroganoff from scratch. Because I think this supposed "timesaver" takes the same damn amount of time as the real thing.

That's the thing that floored me when I was easing into cooking in my 20's - there were all these different dishes that I'd been hearing about all my life that I'd always thought were all fancy and complicated, but when I tried making them and read the recipe my reaction was, "you mean....this is it?"

I also think I was one of the last few grades in my junior high for whom home ec was available, though. That may be a big factor there. In addition to teaching kids how to eat healthy, we need to teach them how to COOK healthy, and that may involve teaching some of them how to cook period.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


The Cook's Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipe book is great for those who don't have time to cook every day.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Those baby carrot packs are extremely popular at my school. They're bred to contain more sugar, though, according to Snopes.
posted by Huck500 at 7:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What happened next was not written down. But according to three participants, when Mudd stopped talking, the one C.E.O. whose recent exploits in the grocery store had awed the rest of the industry stood up to speak. His name was Stephen Sanger, and he was also the person — as head of General Mills — who had the most to lose when it came to dealing with obesity. Under his leadership, General Mills had overtaken not just the cereal aisle but other sections of the grocery store. The company’s Yoplait brand had transformed traditional unsweetened breakfast yogurt into a veritable dessert. It now had twice as much sugar per serving as General Mills’ marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms. And yet, because of yogurt’s well-tended image as a wholesome snack, sales of Yoplait were soaring, with annual revenue topping $500 million. Emboldened by the success, the company’s development wing pushed even harder, inventing a Yoplait variation that came in a squeezable tube — perfect for kids. They called it Go-Gurt and rolled it out nationally in the weeks before the C.E.O. meeting. (By year’s end, it would hit $100 million in sales.)

I think this infuriated me more than anything else in the article. Because one of my daughters is super concerned about nutrition and watches what she eats and on her limited budget buys Go-gurt for my grandchildren under the impression it is healthy.

That and what Yoplait did to adult yogurt. And by the way their greek yogurt is an abomination from hell that tastes like yougurty chalk.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm so annoyed that even in this age where probably a quarter of dieters are on some form of low-carb diet, most "Greek" yogurts are no-fat and loaded with sugary jam.

You can hardly even make no-fat yogurt at home. It never sets up right for me without a little fat. And it's just not that good or satisfying in the long term without a little fat.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I will also admit, though, that I'm feeling a tiny bit of smug "we artisinal DIY foodies don't look so obsessive now, do we?" self-satisfaction.

(Recently tried making my own instant oatmeal. Dead easy.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


...how long it took to cook Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff vs. beef stroganoff from scratch. Because I think this supposed "timesaver" takes the same damn amount of time as the real thing.

This is how I got into 100% homemade pizza.

1) Frozen pizza.
2) Not enough cheese. Just sprinkle some on there.
3) Not enough pepperoni either. Just stick some on there.
4) Why am I buying a pizza and then adding a pizza to it? Just make it from scratch.

The only "hard" part is dough, which is literally just flour, water and yeast and the amount of the latter really doesn't matter much. You can even get a bread machine for about as much as a pizza or two (or less, via Freecycle) and it takes about 2 minutes to dump the ingredients in. 1.5 hours later, you have pizza dough.
posted by DU at 7:52 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Actually, DU, I don't even let the dough rise for homemade pizza when I make it. (I do prefer thin crust, though, which may make a difference.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I feel I should clarify - by "making my own instant oatmeal," I mean "making the mix itself that you 'just add water' to".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, homemade pizza with dough from a bread machine is a complete winner in my household. As a bonus my six-year old loves to help cook and this is the sort of meal that she can totally help with.
posted by oddman at 7:57 AM on February 20, 2013


You know, maybe it's just because I've dropped a ton of weight in the last year, but I'm actually kind of optimistic about this. Left to our own devices, sure, we're gerbils pounding that sugar pill button until our paws bleed. But we also have incredible capacities to control our instincts given the right tools. What really started to change things for me was the realization that my wife, who is German, thought about food and food consumption in a totally different way than I did. For me, it was an endless cycle of furious self-restraint followed by catastrophic (usually late-night) indulgence. Wash, rinse, repeat. For her, there was a running tally in her head, constantly, of the calories she'd consumed over the course of a day. She'd learned in her childhood and adolescence to pace herself over the course of her waking hours. I'd learned to sprint and then pant, puking, on the side of the road.

The key, I realized, was mindfulness. The inculcation of habits of mind that could override momentary cravings. And the way to do it (said with full awareness that this involves the replacement of one addiction for another) was the smartphone and the wifi scale. Having the smartphone there as a way to put myself into the frame of mind that my wife lives in all the time was the key element. Having a ton of data, where I could correlate one day's indulgence with the next day's alarming spike in weight, allowed me to understand clearly what the link was between daily caloric intake and weight. I had never realized that shaving 250 calories off my baseline, maintained over the course of months, could completely reverse my gradual weight gain. It was an astonishing realization. It's totally changed my life.

Potato chips, soda and cookies are always going to be addictive. But adding more to the discourse of shame and indulgence that surrounds them is not going to prevent people from eating them. And hoping that food industry executives are going to en masse have a come-to-Jesus moment is a total waste of time. The key to reversing the obesity epidemic in this country is the mass-cultivation of techniques of mindfulness as regards eating. Have your potato chips. But realize that, once you've eaten them, it's half a chicken breast and broccoli for dinner or else your weight is going to spike over the next couple of days. It won't happen overnight. But as we start adding computing power and data aggregation to our pockets, and as our consciousness is increasingly augmented by these technical tools, habits will change.

If I were an entrepreneur, I'd invent a biometric device that would sit, like a pendant, on a chain around your neck. It would register every time you have an episode of chewing and swallowing. After that, it would prompt you, via your cellphone, to record what you just ate and in what basic amount. A dead simple graphical interface. The computer would do the rest, calculating estimated caloric content and maintaining a running tally that it could push back to you in a simple bar graph overlaid with a line graph tracking weight. Over time, people would learn how to anticipate the prompt and start journaling their own food intake.

If I were the Obama administration, I'd give up on the dream of urban gardening and jumping jacks. I'd heavily subsidize the natural food sector and work with producers to set up distribution networks. Make it possible to get good, healthy food anywhere in the country. Then start pushing the calorie tracker app. Make it possible for anyone to get a smartphone and to track their calorie intake.

Nobody wants to be fat. They just think it's hard not to be. The reason for this is that the processed food industry has a 50 year head start on the language of convenience. Close that gap and the world will change.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:58 AM on February 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


True fact: I proposed to my wife by writing "marry me" in pepperoni on a pizza.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


The regular lunch crowd at work tends to chat about food, though none of them cook or have particularly adventurous palettes - these are (relatively young!) guys who extol the idea of having girlfriend who cook dinner for them. They're also trying to eat healthier, so it's interesting to go have lunch with them and see what new trend is on the table.

The other week it was almonds and almond butter. Everyone went out and bought almond butter, and no one liked it, so back to Jiffy peanut butter on Wonderbread. Last week involved a loud conversation wondering just where, exactly, mayonnaise came from. When I explained it, and mentioned that it's relatively easy to make at home, everyone looked at me like I had two heads.

The confluence of "health" and "convenience" is interesting, since it seems everyone there just wants someone to say to them, "eat this thing out of this particular box and you will be Healthy." It doesn't occur that maybe picking up some simple cooking skills could help them out.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:00 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interesting that the chosen "slippery slope" quote is from 1999. :|

I'm only surprised we didn't get the word "hyperpalatable." This stuff writes itself.

...people don't want to spend more time cooking - which also means more time cleaning.

There are plenty of things wrong with work culture, but the above is just piffle


As someone who cooks dinner every night, let me say that more cooking means more cleaning. There's no way around that. When I don't want to clean, I order food.

Today is day 10 for me without consuming a diet soda.

Good on ya, COD. Keep it up!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:01 AM on February 20, 2013


The other week it was almonds and almond butter.

It's a paleo thing. Paleo continues its path of domination.

I'm not a paleo person, but I do prefer almond butter as well. A LOT. Going back to peanut butter is like going from the Rolls to the Gremlin. (I only wish the organic stuff wasn't 5x the cost.)

You know, maybe it's just because I've dropped a ton of weight in the last year, but I'm actually kind of optimistic about this.

I'm very optimistic about it. It's one of those things that the Internet has enabled--the mass improvement of public health through better information.

I'm kind of amazed at how good the food my kids get is compared to what I got as a kid, and I'm pretty amazed that an Administration would take on Big Food ... but not so surprised at the end results.

I'm not optimistic about much, but I do think people will start eating more healthily in general, as they learn.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I started eating better because one of my first tangible physical signs of aging was a more direct correlation between what I eat and how I feel. If I even *tried* to eat the way I did when I was a student I'd be dead in a month, and I'd spend that month feeling like shit. Most of the junk food I loved when I was younger (with the exception of pizza; please don't ever turn on me, pizza) doesn't taste as good as it used to anyway, so it hasn't been much of a sacrifice.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:16 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Speaking as someone else who dropped a lot of weight with a lifestyle change, it's also about choosing nutrient-dense foods. When dieticians and nutritionists talk about things that have empty calories, they're not just whistling Dixie. Things that purport to be low-fat/calorie are that technically, but they're also beefed up with artificial sugars to make up for it.

I've not completely broken the urge for bad things yet, but the urge to have them becomes less and less a factor in my daily eating as I look at my health and body to realize that came from changing how and why I eat rather than eating mindlessly.
posted by Kitteh at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2013


If you're over 40 and you want to feel 20 years younger, stop eating gluten.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like the article danced around the class aspect to fast food without actually addressing it head on:

Monica Drane had three of her own children by the time we spoke, ages 10, 14 and 17. “I don’t think my kids have ever eaten a Lunchable,” she told me. “They know they exist and that Grandpa Bob invented them. But we eat very healthfully.”

If you have enough money and enough time, your kids can eat "very healthfully". Otherwise, it's Lunchables for you?
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My kids loved raw vegetables and good bread until they got their first taste of junk food. I suppose it is like a dog; you give 'em dog food from puppyhood and they're happy, but give 'em chicken once and they'll beg for it every time. THat's the art and science of junk food right there: create something unnatural that creates unrealistic expectations, then feed those expectations.
posted by davejay at 8:27 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


seanmpuckett, please say more ... you have personal experience with this?

It's very tantalizing, but also very intimidating.
posted by jbickers at 8:30 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced. Starting my diet right now.
posted by notreally at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're over 40 and you want to feel 20 years younger, stop eating gluten.

Can you elaborate on this?
posted by MarvinTheCat at 8:40 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: is there a Trader Joes near you? Good almond butter for barely more than the price of peanut butter. I'm not sure how they do it.
posted by aspo at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2013


The article is totally reasonable, it makes sense how and why food companies would make their food as appealing as possible, but the discussion here seems strange to me.

Plenty of people really *don't* have a lot of time to cook and clean every day, but this doesn't mean your only options are potato chips and lunchables. This morning I made quaker instant oatmeal for breakfast. I mix one packet of "plain" with one of the flavored ones, because the flavored ones are too sweet. this takes two minutes and gets a single bowl dirty. I can pack my daughter a lunch by throwing an avocado, some cubed tofu, and a graham cracker into a bag. This is not actually a ton of effort. You can skip eating pretty much everything mentioned in this article and *still* have fast prep times and low mess. The reason you're eating potato chips instead of an apple isn't because it's faster or easier or cheaper. It's because it tastes like potato chips instead of apple, which is sort of the whole point of the article.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The book Neurogastronomy (which is excellent) posits that we sense flavor (via smell) much like our visual system, i.e. through detection of contrast. I think there's a connection between that contrast and picky eating; we get used to the incredibly "loud" flavors of soda (which also stimulates the mouth via carbonation), chips, and ketchup (which I've seen described as the perfect food due to its sweetness, saltiness, and bright acidity). In contrast, vegetables are boring, perhaps even repulsive if one has sugar with every meal.

I wonder if the physical structure of taste buds is affected by one's diet. Would an increase in consumption of soda lead to an increase of sugar receptors?
posted by Turkey Glue at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today is day 10 for me without consuming a diet soda. The last time I went more than a day or 2 without a diet soda was in high school in the 80s. The last time I went 10 days without a soda of any kind I was probably 8 years old in the 70s. I've already noticed a decrease in my desire to eat the sugary stuff. I'm convinced the diet drinks are a Trojan horse. Maybe not be design originally, but they've gotten so good at mimicking the taste of sugar that your body can't tell the difference. There may be no calories in the drink, but it still triggers the more sugar craving, so you enjoy your Coke Zero with a bag of Doritos. And because you are drinking a diet soda, you feel less guilty about the sugary salty snack accompanying it.


You are absolutely, postitively right on the mark. And go, you! You can totally do this. If I, a Diet Coke fiend in the extreme, could drop sodas like a hot rock, so can you (in my case, my last one was November '11.) I promise you you won't even want a soda any more if you stay on the wagon.

Somebody needs to start a blog about quick, real food. This can be done, and for all our health, this needs to be done (and to confess, it feels good to stick it to The Man by eating real instead of opening a box. I take my motivation where I can get it.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:44 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of the junk food I loved when I was younger (with the exception of pizza; please don't ever turn on me, pizza) doesn't taste as good as it used to anyway, so it hasn't been much of a sacrifice.

Man, ain't this the truth. I'm daydreaming about kale and brussels sprouts.
posted by gauche at 8:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


C.E.O.'s

This makes me hurt inside.


The first time it hurt my insides; the second time it made me want to hurt someone else's insides.

Speaking of, I never want to eat again after reading this article. It's like a diet aid.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


jbickers, it's all anecdata but everyone I know including myself who has stopped eating gluten for whatever reason reports one or more of: reduction or elimination of typical "age-related" aches and pains especially joint pain, return of the same night vision you had in your 20s, reduction or elimination of chronic sniffles, better portion control ability (fewer wheat/bread cravings), reduction or elimination of chronic skin conditions eg eczema/psoriasis, and reversal/reduction of insulin resistance (no shit).

Yes, wheat seems to be in everything tasty, and even grain products wheat isn't in, gluten is often in, so it's not easy to get rid of it, but the older you are the more significant the difference will be.

This isn't really the thread for this discussion but there's a lot more out there on the 'net that isn't woo. Google for "gluten inflammation" and check out the non-woo websites and journal articles.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Somebody needs to start a blog about quick, real food. This can be done, and for all our health, this needs to be done (and to confess, it feels good to stick it to The Man by eating real instead of opening a box. I take my motivation where I can get it.)

Actually, I think Nigel Slater's website fits the bill. He tweets these great simple dishes once or twice a week with often less than four ingredients. I made the one that involved fried onion, mashed carrot, and black beans a couple of weeks ago and was floored by the levels of flavor involved in something so simple.
posted by Kitteh at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I went to the Nigel Slater site, and while this looks tasty, it is NOT a tortilla.
posted by emjaybee at 8:52 AM on February 20, 2013


Actually, embjaybee, that IS a tortilla in Spain (or a variation on it). It's not the same as what they have in North America.
posted by Kitteh at 8:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I signed up to myfitnesspal for a little bit of biodata collection and was surprised at how easy it was to exceed my daily recommended sugar intake (25 g). Seriously, I can hit it by breakfast if I have extra raisins in my oatmeal and half a banana. If you're interested in measuring the nutritional value of what you eat, myfitnesspal is a pretty good way to do it. There's even a MeFi group there.
posted by smuna at 8:57 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much of the benefit of going gluten free is that it involves scrutinizing your food choices, so a lot of other problematic stuff goes by the wayside, too.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


We use Lose It! and it's proved to be helpful for the past couple of years. It's also scary how your sodium intake can creep up on you, too.
posted by Kitteh at 8:59 AM on February 20, 2013


since elizardbits is on hiatus or something, I have to say this for her:

DORITO REGRETS
posted by ninjew at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much of the benefit of going gluten free is that it involves scrutinizing your food choices, so a lot of other problematic stuff goes by the wayside, too.

Actually, from what I've seen in proximity to someone who is gluten-free, it may be more becuase you also have to cut out a lot of things that you wouldn't expect. A friend's girlfriend is GF, and has found that even salad dressings and mustards are things she has to ask about. I've also tried to plan ahead with her in mind and gotten caught up in unexpected places ("Hey, I know, gumbo for my Mardi Gras party, because that's a stew over rice and - oh, waaaaaaaait. The roux. Dammit, gumbo isn't gluten-free.") So it may be more a case of "it isn't as simple as just cutting out bread."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I do find Doritos, etc. quite remarkable in how well they short-circuit my self control. I will be eating them, thinking "these don't actually taste very good", and yet unless I physically remove them from my presence I can easily crunch through an entire bag at a sitting. They are basically my kryptonite.

Have you tried them (original flavor Doritos) with plain sour cream as dip?
(I shoudn't have said anything)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:06 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of self-determination, personal freedom (including the freedom to hurt yourself if you choose), and reducing overpopulation, so giving weak-willed people the power to happily eat themselves into an early grave hits my mental "bliss point." That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us. If people want to commit suicide-by-coronary, that's their own personal choice, but why should the rest of us have to subsidize it?

Yeah, OK, so how does that work? Do you have to do an official weigh-in? Does the doctor just get to look at you and decide if you look fat? What if you're a frat boy and you eat 5 cheeseburgers a day but you still have that lucky early-20's metabolism? What if you're skinny but you have high cholesterol? What if 2 people each weigh 200 pounds but one of them has a family history of heart disease and one doesn't? Is one of them more culpable if they eat a Snickers?
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:08 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


The gluten-free craze makes me roll my eyes a bit, honestly. It's one thing if you have celiac or a genuine sensitivity to gluten, but the majority of folks I've seen embracing it have neither, and are just latching on to it as the latest fad. It's sort of like the low-carb mania of the early 2000s: some good principles there that are carried to the extreme by people looking for a quick-fix solution. And, much like the low-carb fad had people guzzling bacon and pork rinds thinking they were healthy since they didn't have any carbohydrates, so too a lot of gluten-free foods replace that which has been taken away with all sorts of undesirable junk.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:14 AM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think there's a connection between that contrast and picky eating; we get used to the incredibly "loud" flavors of soda (which also stimulates the mouth via carbonation), chips, and ketchup (which I've seen described as the perfect food due to its sweetness, saltiness, and bright acidity).

I lost my craving for sweets three years ago, and haven't had candy or soda (or really much of anything sweet) in that time... and besides losing 40 lbs. or so I also suddenly liked all the foods I didn't like in the past.

It started by eating some mushrooms because I didn't want to insult the cook, and I loved them, after hating them for my whole life. I worked through all the things I didn't use to like and discovered I liked all of them. The most striking difference was squash... cooked with nothing on it, it's so amazing, and I had hated it since I was a kid.

I don't know of any (non-processed) food that I don't like now.
posted by Huck500 at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The snack that Dunn was proposing to sell: carrots. Plain, fresh carrots. No added sugar. No creamy sauce or dips. No salt. Just baby carrots, washed, bagged, then sold into the deadly dull produce aisle.

“We act like a snack, not a vegetable,” he told the investors. “We exploit the rules of junk food to fuel the baby-carrot conversation. We are pro-junk-food behavior but anti-junk-food establishment.”

Yeah. Good luck with that.


Cuties. (previously)
posted by Etrigan at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2013


That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us.

That's the point of health-insurance. Averaged out over the population helps everyone to be more healthy.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If people want to commit suicide-by-coronary, that's their own personal choice, but why should the rest of us have to subsidize it?

It's about living in a society; either they should be expected to keep themselves healthy in order to not place undue strain on society, or everyone else will be expected to contribute to keeping them "healthy" and alive. Imagine the slippery slope otherwise.
posted by Huck500 at 9:26 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know a guy who use to be a food scientist at Frito-Lay. If there is a hell he will spend eternity there being force-fed Cool Ranch Doritos and Crystal Pepsi.
posted by Mick at 9:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well this thread just inspired me to make my own salsa for the first time ever, and dammit it is tasty. So thanks muchly for that.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:41 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


*applauds Faintdreams *

Fun, innit? Now try more stuff!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us. If people want to commit suicide-by-coronary, that's their own personal choice, but why should the rest of us have to subsidize it?

Since people don't have control over how much self-control they have, it isn't fair to penalize them for that.
posted by leopard at 10:19 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, really, I had absolutely no idea that research goes on this extent. I thought crunchy was crunchy. That's a level of detail that is just astonishing.

The worst (best?) part is when your tastes are just far enough outside the mainstream that all the research and optimizing seems to drag everything in the wrong direction. Every time the junk food industry accidentally invents a cookie or snack that I really like it either fails and is discontinued or gets tweaked back in line with all the other junk food that is that is almost but not quite tasty.

I guess I should be grateful that the industry is failing to get it's hooks into me. But it sucks to have a list of things I crave that don't exist anymore.
posted by straight at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2013


Well this thread just inspired me to make my own salsa for the first time ever, and dammit it is tasty. So thanks muchly for that.

I'd like to do this, but it's so hard to find a good tomato this time of year (I'm in New Hampshire). I don't even bother with the ones at the grocery store; even at the nicer stores they're pretty tasteless. Do I need to grow the darn things indoors myself?
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:02 AM on February 20, 2013


It's always easier to exercise self-restraint in the grocery store than at home after a long day. If you don't buy a bag of chips or cookies in your weekly or daily shop, you can't eat it.

If people could learn to buy healthily, they'd have a lot easier time eating healthily.
posted by modernnomad at 11:02 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The gluten-free craze makes me roll my eyes a bit, honestly. It's one thing if you have celiac or a genuine sensitivity to gluten, but the majority of folks I've seen embracing it have neither, and are just latching on to it as the latest fad. It's sort of like the low-carb mania of the early 2000s: some good principles there that are carried to the extreme by people looking for a quick-fix solution. And, much like the low-carb fad had people guzzling bacon and pork rinds thinking they were healthy since they didn't have any carbohydrates, so too a lot of gluten-free foods replace that which has been taken away with all sorts of undesirable junk.

I have to second this. Everywhere I go, g/f is the "low-cal/no carb" option I saw on all the menus and grocery stores nearly a decade ago. I understand completely for those who suffer from celiac or gluten-sensitivity--it's nice for you to have options--but a lot of people I encounter have neither of those things and are latching onto it as another quick fix way to lose weight.

Also, gluten-free is not the same thing as vegan, restaurants. Don't make me come back there.
posted by Kitteh at 11:03 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Plenty of people really *don't* have a lot of time to cook and clean every day, but this doesn't mean your only options are potato chips and lunchables. This morning I made quaker instant oatmeal for breakfast. I mix one packet of "plain" with one of the flavored ones, because the flavored ones are too sweet.

This is a great idea, but you had to come up with that idea. In other words, dealing with prepackaged food so that it's even remotely nutritionally sound requires a fair number of hacks, which is supposed to be one of the reasons why people allegedly avoid preparation from scratch. It's like steering through a very clever obstacle course.

A friend of mine had gastric bypass surgery recently; she has a lot of company. I totally get why she opted for that, and she'd tried other means before she went for the surgery, but I still think on some level that it's tragic that some of us have to mutilate ourselves largely to outwit the food industry and our own genetic programming. Sometimes the problem really is in our stars and not ourselves.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's so hard to find a good tomato this time of year (I'm in New Hampshire). I don't even bother with the ones at the grocery store; even at the nicer stores they're pretty tasteless. Do I need to grow the darn things indoors myself?

This is why I learned how to can things. I stock up in the summer, when they're good and they're cheap, and I have flavorful tomatoes year-round now. (I also haven't had to buy a canned tomato from a supermarket since 2008.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well this thread just inspired me to make my own salsa for the first time ever, and dammit it is tasty. So thanks muchly for that.

I'm about to take you way down the rabbit hole: No Knead Bread.
posted by jquinby at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


After many years of trying to fight it, I finally have admitted to myself that I hate cooking.* I do, however, prefer to eat real food.

I just bought a slow cooker and a bread maker. I HOPE YOU'RE ALL HAPPY.

*Though I will happily spend many, many hours fussing over baking something, because cookies and cake > everything.
posted by phunniemee at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just want to clarify that I barely eat processed food and I cook with fresh ingredients every day, but, uhm, it just never occurred to me that Salsa was so easy to make :)
posted by Faintdreams at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2013


uhm, it just never occurred to me that Salsa was so easy to make :)

(takes Faintdreams under a friendly wing) Congratulations, you have leveled up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on February 20, 2013


I'm a big fan of self-determination, personal freedom (including the freedom to hurt yourself if you choose), and reducing overpopulation, so giving weak-willed people the power to happily eat themselves into an early grave hits my mental "bliss point." That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us. If people want to commit suicide-by-coronary, that's their own personal choice, but why should the rest of us have to subsidize it?

If it were one person selling unhealthy food to another person, you'd probably have a point. But the reality of the junk food situation is that it's one person's willpower versus an entire army of psychologists, researchers, food scientists, marketing professionals, ad campaign designers, etc, whose sole job is to work in tandem with all those other professional to overcome that person's willpower.

Of course most people fail at avoiding that crap. It's a bit of a wonder that anyone ever succeeds.
posted by zug at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


That said, it really doesn't seem fair at all that they should be paying the same amount in health insurance premiums as the rest of us.

Without touching on the unsavory implications of what you're saying... what makes you think they don't already pay higher insurance premiums?
posted by palomar at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2013


Being married to a guy with celiac, who still has about 5 restaurants total he can eat at (and only chains, there are no local GF places that we have found), I can tell you having it is still more annoying than having to see "G/F" options on your menus.

There are many places that advertise G/F, but they can't promise no cross-contamination, so we don't eat at those. Because he really does get sick when you put bread on a surface and then make his meat on the same surface without a really thorough cleaning.

When he eats out with people at other places, he carries his own sandwiches with him on G/F bread, and some G/F snacks (not many of these that don't taste nasty) and drinks water, and watches everyone else slurp down their delicious pasta or what have you.

And doesn't complain, because he was so sick for so long before. But the growth in G/F awareness has made it much easier for him to figure out what to buy, how to cook and where he can eat. So even if there are "posers" out there, I don't care, because he deserves all the options he can get.
posted by emjaybee at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


David Kessler, former head of the FDA, published a book about overeating that made a lot of sense to me. (Here's a review that summarizes it well, though it ultimately disagrees with it.) The core of what he says is
“Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time a powerful drive for sugar, fat and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say no."
It lead me to start thinking about foods in terms of whether or not they will lead to satiation. Some foods, ignoring how much or how little nutrients they have, never lead to satiation (Doritos are the poster child for this). So for some foods I can eat until I'm satisfied — which is what I want my diet to be like — but for others I need to be very careful with portion control, and to be on the look out for the "I'd like some more of that" feeling, because it will never go away.

The example that really drove it home was Trader Joe's chocolate bars. The difference between two squares of dark chocolate and two squares of dark chocolate with salted peanuts was stark: "That was good" versus "I want another".
posted by benito.strauss at 12:07 PM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


People in the "healthy" BMI range should obviously pay more than people in the "overweight" BMI range, because the latter is the lowest morbidity/mortality risk group, right? And of course people with family histories of heart disease and cancer should pay more, because that's a risk factor? Coal miners should be paying out the wazoo, because that shit fucks your lungs up.

Oh, you don't agree with any of that? Then maybe it isn't about health at all, but about body policing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:11 PM on February 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Emjaybee: I definitely get that. My best friend from college (and godmother of my daughter) developed Celiac three years ago, so she, like your husband, definitely benefits from the GF revolution.

I'm just annoyed because the majority of people who eschew gluten have no physiological need to do so, they've just glommed on to a very real dietary restriction and turned it into a fad. And so when people like the douche mentioned at the end of this article come along, they just undercut the legitimacy and need for restaurants to maintain workstations that are contamination-free.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other week it was almonds and almond butter. Everyone went out and bought almond butter, and no one liked it, so back to Jiffy peanut butter on Wonderbread.

I dunno man. Almond butter is delicious.
posted by gyc at 12:26 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then maybe it isn't about health at all, but about body policing.

Sidhedevil, I have friends who are overweight. I myself have a BMI of 25.1, so I'm hardly Mr. Universe. However, what distinguishes me and my overweight friends is that we fully acknowledge that our weight is a result of our choices (conscious or otherwise), rather than trying to pass the blame off on some corporation just for doing exactly what it is that all corporations do. I find it troubling when somebody can shove Cheetos into their mouth with one hand while pointing the finger of blame at a corporate psychologist with the other.

I do agree with the second half of your statement though - it certainly is body policing. When I pay money for a project, I have a financial investment in it, and I am entitled to police that investment in order to make sure my money is not being squandered frivolously. If it is, then I am perfectly allowed to withdraw my stake. Similarly, when society invests money into somebody's health, we have a stake in their bodies - and as I see it, society is perfectly entitled to police that investment, making sure those people are living up to our expectations and not squandering the financial investment that we have put into their physical well-being. If they are wasting our tax dollars by wantonly devouring junk food, then we absolutely should be entitled to withdraw our financial support, either in part or in full.

This does not address your concerns about miners in coal mines, but that's because I try not to respond to unreasonable straw-man hypotheticals.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:52 PM on February 20, 2013


The food technicians stopped worrying about inventing new products and instead embraced the industry’s most reliable method for getting consumers to buy more: the line extension.

Just like Hollywood with the sequels and franchises, remakes/reboots, etc. I can't wait for the day when Big Food starts assembling all-star teams from separate product lines... also known as combo specials.
posted by fatehunter at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2013


rather than trying to pass the blame off on some corporation just for doing exactly what it is that all corporations do

Yeah! Mandating airbags, seatbelts and crash safety standards, when all along the consumer could just choose to buy cars that had them... those poor, poor multinational automobile manufacturers! The horror, the indignity... and they were just doing what comes naturally to corporations!

Don't even get me started on the grim fate of cigarette companies and lead paint manufacturers, denied profits because consumers couldn't be bothered to choose.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


[Howard Moskowitz], who studied mathematics and holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard, runs a consulting firm in White Plains, where for more than three decades he has “optimized” a variety of products [...] “I’ve optimized soups,” Moskowitz told me. “I’ve optimized pizzas. I’ve optimized salad dressings and pickles. In this field, I’m a game changer.” [...] Moskowitz’s work on Prego spaghetti sauce was memorialized in a 2004 presentation by the author Malcolm Gladwell at the TED conference in Monterey, Calif.: […] That is Howard’s gift to the American people. . . . He fundamentally changed the way the food industry thinks about making you happy.”

“There’s no moral issue for me,” he said. “I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time.”


That is rich, man. This isn't like stealing bread when you are penniless, you're running a fucking consulting firm and you are Harvard-educated, so don't give me the struggling to survive shit. "Oh shit, I'm struggling so hard (to keep my well-paying job at megacorp) that I can't possibly take any time to consider the moral implications of my actions developing addictive foodstuffs for megacorp (but my defensiveness and intelligence should tell you that I know full well I am full of shit and doing the world a disservice)." The amount of self-importance that just permeates the quotations in this article leads me to believe these people do a lot of rationalizing.

The circle-jerking around the development of lunchables is especially nauseating. Cheese, sausage and crackers, WHO WOULD HAVE EVER THOUGHT OF THAT? Have these people never been to a cocktail party in Wisconsin? For that matter, preserved (smoked) meats and a piece of stale bread (cracker) have been staples of farmers for how many hundred years? No, it's REVOLUTIONARY.

“Discover what consumers want to buy and give it to them with both barrels. Sell more, keep your job! How do marketers often translate these ‘rules’ into action on food? Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt. . . . So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low-cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then ‘supersize’ to sell more. . . . And advertise/promote to lock in ‘heavy users.’ Plenty of guilt to go around here!” -The dude who made lunchables

Maybe the amount of moral depravity that went into Lunchables explains the vile attitudes of the children that had them during lunch hour. As someone who has now grown up and understands things like health and nutrition and cost, I fully respect my mother's decision to deny me lunchables almost always. I finally got some when they were on sale and it didn't change my life. I will always remember how much the kids that had them would rub it in everyone's face with this sense of superiority. Like, if you didn't have lunchables, you maybe were not even a person; at most, a despicable and impoverished one. Come to think of it, the companies are pretty much acting like parents giving in to insolent, demanding children and giving them whatever they want regardless of the implications.

“By 2007, Finland’s per capita consumption of salt had dropped by a third, and this shift — along with improved medical care — was accompanied by a 75 percent to 80 percent decline in the number of deaths from strokes and heart disease.)”

Along with improved healthcare, too bad we’re not going to get any of that. I don’t know about the salt thing, myself, I’ve seen research that certainly calls it into question. My grandpa ate an unbelievable amount of salt, perhaps growing up on a farm where they still made salt pork altered his tastes, but stuff that I could barely eat he would salt more...and died when he was 91 of prostate cancer. I know, call off the studies, I’ve got an anecdote!

I JUST GOT A FUCKING CARTIER AD AFTER PAGE 9, GRAH.

“It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”

It’s called vanishing moral integrity. If it makes money quickly and your company demands that and you view your life as dependent on your paycheck, your brain rationalizes your behavior and determines that "you don't have the luxury of being a moral creature"…you can just keep shafting people forever.

“A potato chip that tastes great and qualifies for the Clinton-A.H.A. alliance for schools . . . . We think we have ways to do all of this on a potato chip, and imagine getting that product into schools, where children can have this product and grow up with it and feel good about eating it.”

You know, it's never too late to change the path you're going down in life, boys.

“They found that every four years, the participants exercised less, watched TV more and gained an average of 3.35 pounds. The researchers parsed the data by the caloric content of the foods being eaten, and found the top contributors to weight gain included […]” IDK, exercising less and sitting on your ass more?

The marketing division’s efforts boiled down to one question, Putman said: “How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?” Sick. Dude needs to beer-bong soda until he realizes why this is wrong.

In his capacity, Dunn was making frequent trips to Brazil, where the company had recently begun a push to increase consumption of Coke among the many Brazilians living in favelas. The company’s strategy was to repackage Coke into smaller, more affordable 6.7-ounce bottles, just 20 cents each. “A voice in my head says, ‘These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’ I almost threw up.”

Finally, someone in the article gets to the level I've been at since they second page. I've got to agree with the above poster; this article is probably the best dieting aid I've come across in my life.

A director of one bottler wrote a letter to Coke’s chief executive and board asking for Dunn’s head. “He said what I had done was the worst thing he had seen in 50 years in the business,” Dunn said. “Just to placate these crazy leftist school districts who were trying to keep people from having their Coke. He said I was an embarrassment to the company, and I should be fired.” In February 2004, he was.
Later, describing his new line of work [selling baby carrots], Dunn told me he was doing penance for his Coca-Cola years. “I’m paying my karmic debt,” he said.


Holy shit. Who’s going to pay it for the rest of these people? I think we're going to have to rely on Jesus. The last article I read that had me thinking "You need to become an hero." this often was the one on copper/gold mining in the Condor in Ecaudor. I'm not saying I'm some moral fucking authority, but man...just man how do people end up like this?
posted by nTeleKy at 1:13 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it troubling when somebody can shove Cheetos into their mouth with one hand while pointing the finger of blame at a corporate psychologist with the other.

I don't understand why you should feel this way, when this is exactly the result that the corporate psychologist and her employer are expending massive efforts and million$ to achieve. Maybe instead of calling it blame, you should think of it as giving them credit for succeeding brilliantly in what they set out to do, which is essentially producing and selling attractive nuisances. It's like blaming people for being addicted to smoking when cigarette makers intentionally made cigarettes addictive.

I try to avoid processed foods. It's hard, even for someone like me who loves to cook everything from scratch, has the time to do so, and has easy access to organic produce, grass-fed meat, and raw milk products. One big reason I am glad I work at home is because that makes it easier for me to resist the siren songs of the free Coke in the break room, the Cheetos in the vending machine on the fifth floor, and the fast food places on my way home from work.
posted by caryatid at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only "hard" part is dough, which is literally just flour, water and yeast and the amount of the latter really doesn't matter much. You can even get a bread machine for about as much as a pizza or two (or less, via Freecycle) and it takes about 2 minutes to dump the ingredients in. 1.5 hours later, you have pizza dough.

Uhhh...yeah, after I get home at 6:30, I'm not going to spend 90 minutes making pizza dough while by kids are complaining that they are hungry.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 1:34 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can confirm that the selling coke in favelas continues to this day and in fact has expanded outside of Brazil. I was sitting on the bus today in Asuncion Paraguay, when a 12 year old kid in a Coca-Cola-branded vest hopped on the bus and started hawking tiny bottles of coke that go for 25 cents.

This isn't an unusual occurrence, but I had never before noticed that the sellers were wearing official uniforms. Combining that with this article, I'm pretty sure the Coca-Cola company is paying these kids to hawk coke for really cheap on buses.

These tiny bottles of coke did not exist the last time I was in Paraguay, about 6 years ago. They are indeed immensely popular in the local favelas, where they no doubt slowly nickle and dime desperately needed money away from families.

I don't think I'll be drinking any more coke.
posted by zug at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Uhhh...yeah, after I get home at 6:30, I'm not going to spend 90 minutes making pizza dough while by kids are complaining that they are hungry.

Yeah, see, this is what I thought but then I went on Amazon to go buy myself a bread machine today and some of them have timers and holy balls I am so setting that thing to have pizza dough ready for me when I get home from work.

I only 5 to 8 more days until homemade pizza bliss!
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2013


and some of them have timers

While I'm on the subject, I would like to take a moment to sing the praises of whatever benevolent genius put timers on electronics. I can make it so that my laundry is ready to be hung up to dry right as I walk in the door. It's like I live in the future or something.
posted by phunniemee at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Similarly, when society invests money into somebody's health, we have a stake in their bodies - and as I see it, society is perfectly entitled to police that investment, making sure those people are living up to our expectations and not squandering the financial investment that we have put into their physical well-being. If they are wasting our tax dollars by wantonly devouring junk food, then we absolutely should be entitled to withdraw our financial support, either in part or in full.

Can people who look fat get an exemption if they provide a daily diet log that proves they don't eat junk? Who gets to decide what levels of junk qualify as "wanton devouring"? How much tax dollars would it take to set up whatever kind of boards/tribunals/reports/oversight/etc. would need to be in place to actually implement "if you are within these parameters of fatness or fitness, you have to pay more?"

(Also, through 2014 you have had the entitlement to withdraw your financial support. It's called not buying insurance).
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:47 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


We just got a toaster oven that adjusts its TOAST program based on ... get this ... whether or not the oven is warm from a previous batch of toast. I think it has been going on 50 years now with toaster ovens that always burn the second batch? SCIENCE UNF UNF UNF UNF okay easing back on the coffee now no not really
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can even get a bread machine for about as much as a pizza or two (or less, via Freecycle) and it takes about 2 minutes to dump the ingredients in. 1.5 hours later, you have pizza dough.

"Hello, Domino's? I understand your price differentials are negligible compared to making pizza from scratch at home, is it true? Great! It's seven o'clock in the evening and I am fucking starving, get me some pizza here by nine pm sharp! I will leave the back door open so your delivery driver can leave a fucking massive mess in the kitchen - I want to be walking in flour for the next week! And I'm gonnna need a half-dozen dishes and some cutlery to wash before bed! Also bring me ten empty plastic packages to stuff into my rubbish bin! It's okay, I can put burned cheese through the oven all by myself!"
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:43 PM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Hello, Domino's? I understand your price differentials are negligible compared to making pizza from scratch at home, is it true? Great! It's seven o'clock in the evening and I am fucking starving, get me some pizza here by nine pm sharp! I will leave the back door open so your delivery driver can leave a fucking massive mess in the kitchen - I want to be walking in flour for the next week! And I'm gonnna need a half-dozen dishes and some cutlery to wash before bed! Also bring me ten empty plastic packages to stuff into my rubbish bin! It's okay, I can put burned cheese through the oven all by myself!"

If you look all the way...let me check...four comments up, to a comment that was posted a full hour before yours, you would find someone addressing that exact concern re: timing. And as for a massive mess, I'm a messy cook, but it's not actually hard to clean as you cook. It adds maybe 30 seconds to each step. You're talking like a character in the black-and-white video section of an infomercial. Is cooking something like this for you?
posted by protocoach at 2:56 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have never seen a fifty gallon jug of milk in real life.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:58 PM on February 20, 2013


Can people who look fat get an exemption if they provide a daily diet log that proves they don't eat junk? Who gets to decide what levels of junk qualify as "wanton devouring"? How much tax dollars would it take to set up whatever kind of boards/tribunals/reports/oversight/etc. would need to be in place to actually implement "if you are within these parameters of fatness or fitness, you have to pay more?"

You wacky liberals (and I say this affectionately)... I don't know why, but you always seem to think that every solution somebody proposes involves expanding government somehow. Look, if you're going to be sarcastic and mock me, at least think through what you're saying so it's thoughtful sarcasm. For example, I don't know why in the world you're going on about boards/tribunals/reports/oversight/etc. If you genuinely want to know how I'd implement my suggestion, I'd simply impose a "sugar tax" on unhealthy products with said tax paying directly into universal health care. Companies would have to raise their prices on those unhealthy products, passing the price onto the individual consumer. This financially penalizes the individual consumer for their lack of self-control (and hopefully incentivizes them to buy healthier products by comparing the shelf prices) while at the same time subsidizing healthcare more effectively. Bam! Problem solved, with no messy bureaucracy or fuss.

As an addendum - I don't mean this to sound rude, but I would appreciate if you didn't project your inelegant methodologies onto me, as you did here. The fact that you genuinely think I'd implement my solution with stupid governmental bureaucracy rather than having an efficient direct-to-consumer tax reflects far more about your own "organizational style" than mine.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:24 PM on February 20, 2013


what distinguishes me and my overweight friends is that we fully acknowledge that our weight is a result of our choices (conscious or otherwise), rather than trying to pass the blame off on some corporation just for doing exactly what it is that all corporations do.

There a great comment by JimmyJames that addresses that:
... It difficult to explain to someone that the reason they live their life the way they do because of the structures built to help them live that way. ...
And for myself, what's so great about corporations that they should do what they do without restraint? I'll bet you can make your argument without this point, but it seemed so wrong that I couldn't resist calling it out. One could just as easily say "people trying to stop companies from pitching crap food at them is exactly what people do", putting them above criticism instead.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:29 PM on February 20, 2013


You're talking like a character in the black-and-white video section of an infomercial. Is cooking something like this for you?

While not presuming to speak for the person you're talking to, I think the somewhat defensive reaction to the comments about how easy and fun it is to cook your own pizza and such is happening precisely because a number of the commenters here (and elsewhere) treat anyone who doesn't cook extensively for themselves or who sometimes prefers the convenience of fast and processed food like an idiot child who just doesn't realize how simple it is if only you remember a couple easy tips. There are people who really, honestly, truly don't have the skills, or the time, or the tools, or even the inclination to prepare their own meals from scratch on a daily basis, and this fact is not some sort of moral failing on their part or a sign that they just need a little condescending life coaching to enjoy the same lifestyle that happens to be convenient for other people. It's just one of the many ways in which people differ in circumstances, abilities, and preferences.
posted by Copronymus at 3:30 PM on February 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


If you genuinely want to know how I'd implement my suggestion, I'd simply impose a "sugar tax" on unhealthy products with said tax paying directly into universal health care. Companies would have to raise their prices on those unhealthy products, passing the price onto the individual consumer. This financially penalizes the individual consumer for their lack of self-control (and hopefully incentivizes them to buy healthier products by comparing the shelf prices) while at the same time subsidizing healthcare more effectively. Bam! Problem solved, with no messy bureaucracy or fuss.

Problem not solved. Hi! I'm fat! Have been my whole life, except for times when extreme stress has caused my weight to drop into a region that might be described as "plump but fuckable". The funny thing about me being fat, though, is that I don't eat the shit that you'd like to have taxed to pay for healthcare. And I'm not an anomaly. Plenty of people whose BMI measurements would put them at overweight also do not eat the shit that you want to tax.

Try again.
posted by palomar at 3:39 PM on February 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I totally would make homemade chips (I've made my own Bagels!), at least once or twice, if I had a big enough kitchen to easily store and use a deep fryer.


A pot with oil in it is a deep fryer. A pot with oil in it and a thermometer is a fancy-pants deep fryer. Making good potato chips is not as easy as one would think, in my experience, but there is no reason not to try.
posted by ssg at 3:40 PM on February 20, 2013


Uhhh...yeah, after I get home at 6:30, I'm not going to spend 90 minutes making pizza dough while by kids are complaining that they are hungry.

No, what you would do is start the dough and let it go in the background while you prepared dinner as usual, and then when the dough is finished you portion it out and freeze it. In the next few weeks you throw one in the fridge before work and you come home to fresh dough.

You might even find your kids like to help making pizza, and might be willing to eat certain veggies or foods in pizza form if they made it.

This is a great idea, but you had to come up with that idea. In other words, dealing with prepackaged food so that it's even remotely nutritionally sound requires a fair number of hacks, which is supposed to be one of the reasons why people allegedly avoid preparation from scratch. It's like steering through a very clever obstacle course.

If you're thinking that mixing two flavors of instant oatmeal is a hack, how about just making it? Here's how I used to make cinnamon-raisin instant oatmeal:

• Take any kind of quick oatmeal of your choice (quaker, bulk organic, store brand, TJ's) and pulse it a few times in the food processor.

• Mix in raisins, or dried apples, or any other dried fruit of your choice.

• Mix in some cinnamon and brown sugar to taste and add a pinch of salt.

• Store in a container, and just scoop out 1/2 cup for each serving. You can even prepare a week's worth of little single-serve baggies to take with you to the office, just like the instant packets.

It's tons cheaper, healthier, and tastier and you get the control the quality and/or cost of every ingredient. And I didn't come up with the idea, it just caught my eye in one of my food blog feeds. But the key is it's super simple, too.

Like the pizza dough example above, it's very easy to have healthier, convenient, and even instant food every day of the week. You just need to be willing to spend a little time in advance preparing things and show a little initiative. AskMe is full of questions from people asking about healthy and convenient eating. Even doing it one day a week or one food a week helps.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are people who really, honestly, truly don't have the skills, or the time, or the tools, or even the inclination to prepare their own meals from scratch on a daily basis, and this fact is not some sort of moral failing on their part or a sign that they just need a little condescending life coaching to enjoy the same lifestyle that happens to be convenient for other people.

Well, by the same token, there are people who really, honestly, truly capable of making a pizza without walking in flour for a week and messing a half-dozen dishes and using ten empty plastic packages and burning the cheese. In fact, the majority of them are.

True, not everyone knows how to cook from scratch, but the people who do weren't born knowing how to do it. Cooking is a learnable skill. And the people who blow off cooking as being something impossible to do without trashing one's kitchen irretrievably are selling their own ability to learn short.

I know not everyone knows how to cook. But it is not all that hard to learn how.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Problem not solved. Hi! I'm fat! Have been my whole life, except for times when extreme stress has caused my weight to drop into a region that might be described as "plump but fuckable". The funny thing about me being fat, though, is that I don't eat the shit that you'd like to have taxed to pay for healthcare. And I'm not an anomaly. Plenty of people whose BMI measurements would put them at overweight also do not eat the shit that you want to tax.

Are we even talking about the same problem? You seem to be defining "the problem" as people being obese, and thus by your standards, a "solution" would involve reducing obesity. Personally, I couldn't care less about that. The "problem" that I defined (which you'll see quite clearly if you scroll up to my previous comments) is purely economic: namely, that the rest of us have to subsidize healthcare for people who are fat because they gluttonously cram unhealthy food into their faces, and I don't think it's fair that the rest of society has to subsidize their lack of self-control. While you may certainly be fat, it sounds like that is primarily the result of genetics rather than lack of self-control, so in my opinion it would be completely unfair for you to be penalized for it. The fact that my system would not penalize you is a feature, not a bug.

What I'm trying to say is that the problem that I defined is certainly solved by my proposal. You may have a different idea of what the "problem" is, but that's your concern, and I don't have any responsibility to meet your goalposts in that regard.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:18 PM on February 20, 2013


I cook dinner from scratch 4 nights a week (with planned left overs for the other nights.) It almost always takes me 1.5 hours to cook. It's weird, I think oh I'll make something quick. Bam! 1.5 hours go by. And that does not include washing up afterwards.

About the gluten thing. I went very low carb a little over a year ago. I was expecting to lose some weight (and I did) but what I was not expecting was that the eczema on my hands that I had battled 30 years went away and my occasional bouts of gastritis (that I had had for over 40 years) also went away. I was truly shocked and a tiny bit angry. If you knew the amount of prescriptive steroids and aggravation and pain and gloves and doctor's visits for my damn hands and all I had to do was to stop eating flour. Well I'm just glad I never again have to worry about a flare-up and torn and bleeding flesh.

Aside from the other benefits, going low carb was like getting a monkey off my back. I don't feel the lure of the midnight cookie fest. I no longer have to keep eating the M & Ms until the entire package is gone. I don't have to eat cheetohs until I'm sick, bloated, gassy and mad at myself.

PS: For the almond butter lovers out there, have you tried sunflower butter? Once I tried it I never went back.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:31 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that you genuinely think I'd implement my solution with stupid governmental bureaucracy rather than having an efficient direct-to-consumer tax

"Stupid governmental bureaucracy" is what writes, implements, collects, and enforces tax laws.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


You seem to be defining "the problem" as people being obese, and thus by your standards, a "solution" would involve reducing obesity.

No, the problem is blaming the cost of healthcare on obesity, when the two largest patient groups that contribute to the cost of healthcare are premature babies and the elderly. That's, of course, not even touching the issue of systemic causes, i.e. corporate greed and et cetera.

Slapping a sugar tax on junk food is a nice idea, but it solves nothing.
posted by palomar at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "problem" that I defined (which you'll see quite clearly if you scroll up to my previous comments) is purely economic: namely, that the rest of us have to subsidize healthcare for people who are fat because they gluttonously cram unhealthy food into their faces, and I don't think it's fair that the rest of society has to subsidize their lack of self-control.

...and as always someone has to make the claim that being fat is some sort of moral failing, despite all evidence to the contrary, including the article under discussion here. I'm pretty convinced that this mindset is a mental illness that costs our society much more than obesity ever will.
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:27 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"A pot with oil in it is a deep fryer. A pot with oil in it and a thermometer is a fancy-pants deep fryer. Making good potato chips is not as easy as one would think, in my experience, but there is no reason not to try."

Um, was it really necessary to talk down to me?

A pot with oil in it? Cute. Should I use a strainer for a fry basket? Am I to hope that it just fits in the pot properly or should I go buy a special strainer just for frying projects? Also, I don't know about yours, but the lids on my pots aren't as heavy as the lids on a deep fryer, maybe that makes a difference, maybe it doesn't. Considering what could happen if something goes wrong, I'm not going to take the chance.

A thermometer? Because I want to dick around with the settings on my range while I figure out which setting will keep the oil at 375? Instead of just setting the dial on a fryer to the temp I want?

Furthermore, I don't usually use oil just once, if you filter it you can use it at least a few times. So, where should I put the oil-filled pot? Since the whole point of my original comment was that I lacked the space for the set-up?

There's a time and a place for DIY. You'll excuss me, if i don't think this is it.
posted by oddman at 8:19 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can pack my daughter a lunch by throwing an avocado, some cubed tofu, and a graham cracker into a bag.

I find this utterly astounding. As adults, my kids eat plain avocados, but as kids, it would have to be in the form of guacamole and chips. It would have been 3-4 grahams, with milk for dipping. Plain tofu? That would have been considered cruel and unusual punishment, not to mention disgusting.

As one who has been a lunch monitor, best middle school lunch is sandwich, piece of fruit, and either a couple cookies or small bag of chips. By high school, you're lucky if they eat a candy bar.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:20 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wonderchicken Method As It Has Developed:

Reduce sugar and salt consumption.
If it's manufactured, try not to eat it.
If it comes in a bottle, box, or bag, try not to eat it.
Don't worry about (naturally occurring) fats as much as about simple carbohydrates.
Don't be afraid of meat in moderation. Meat may be murder, but it's good food. Organic/free-range etc is even better.
Don't skip meals, and get some protein into you in the morning, even though you're not a breakfast person.
Eat even more vegetables and fruit and unsalted nuts than before. Eat them a lot.
Drink water. Drink black coffee. Drink beer at most once a week.
Exercise at least 5 days a week (200 minutes of cardio plus some strength stuff).
Eat crap one day a week at most if you need to eat some (admittedly satisfying) crap.
Nothing to excess.
Denying your aging body's changing needs is lying to yourself.

I've never been one to eat junk food or drink soda or any of that. But getting older and too many years with too little exercise took their toll.

I've been losing weight steadily for 6 months or so now following my plan, and, as 50 approaches, feeling better than I have in a long time. It's infuriating how 'food' companies are killing people -- it's a fuck of a lot bigger threat to society at large than terrorists or random gun-happy lunatics or what-have-you -- but you can get yourself well and deny the Industrial Food Complex profit from your pockets (at least) at the same time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"What I'm trying to say is that the problem that I defined is certainly solved by my proposal."

"There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A pot with oil in it? Cute. Should I use a strainer for a fry basket?

I just saw the Good Eats episode on frying last week. He fried fish and chips stovetop in a dutch oven, and used a spider style strainer to add and remove the food.

So yes. A pot with oil in it. It's not rocket science.

So, where should I put the oil-filled pot? Since the whole point of my original comment was that I lacked the space for the set-up?

If you lack storage space a unitasker frying device is the last thing you want. A dutch oven (a pot) has many uses. When the oil cools strain it into a recycled milk jug and save for reuse.
posted by COD at 5:29 AM on February 21, 2013


COD, I'm actually starting to side with oddman here. I hear you on the "don't need a deep fat fryer" bit, but not everyone is going to want to make room for a jug of used fryer oil, and that's valid. Especially if all that person would use a deep fat fryer for is potato chips anyway.

However - oddman, I also am siding with COD to a point as well, as your "but what if my pots don't have lids that fit tight enough and and and" defenses were sounding a little...defensive. (And, frankly, I didn't get why you'd need to have a lid that fit tight if you were making potato chips anyway - you don't cover the pan when you make potato chips in the first place.)

So - oddman's right that look, not everyone wants to make every single last thing from scratch and that is valid, but COD is right that making things from scratch is honestly not as hard as some marketers would have you think it is, and that a lot of the "special tools" people are trying to sell you aren't always necessary.

Okay, you two, shake hands.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:57 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, please shake hands!

This is sort of what I meant in my initial comment for this thread where food discussions always end up with MeFites tripping over themselves to talk about how we eat better than everyone else (which may be true, but not everyone does and we should still hug them anyway).
posted by Kitteh at 6:11 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I once started a derail about my garlic mincer. But with less grump I think. It's a good food thread and also mention fryers as a tool to have/not have if you want to see more info on that as well.

Enjoy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:33 AM on February 21, 2013


I've found that one of the best ways that my family's diet has improved has been after my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease, my son can't tolerate Red 40 (he turns into the Tasmanian Devil) and I have discovered that corn will make me curl up like a boiled shrimp (I'm not allergic, FWIW, my body just reacts to corn, which is brutal to digest, this way - a single corn chip and I'm lying down for the rest of the day). So we cook more things from base ingredients and buy very few convenience foods, relatively since most of those either contain wheat, corn, or fake colors.

It also helps when shopping with my nearly-6 year old son to point out the correlation between exciting packaging and horrible content as well as reading through the ingredients in things and pointing out how much of it is sugar.
posted by plinth at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2013


mrgrimm: is there a Trader Joes near you? Good almond butter for barely more than the price of peanut butter. I'm not sure how they do it.

IIRC, the standard store almond butter at TJ's and Whole Foods (365 brand) is about the same - ~$3-4 a jar. It's when you get organic that the price jumps up to $13-14.

I'm sure I'm a victim of marketing, but I admit I don't trust TJ's as much as Whole Foods when it comes to food safety.

Right or wrong, packaged food is one of the things I splurge on (good, healthy raw food is usually fairly cheap). My fave almond butter right now is Artisana, perhaps b/c I don't have to stir it as much as the other damn stuff.

Speaking of, I never want to eat again after reading this article. It's like a diet aid.

Having said all that, I read the article while eating a pop-tart acquired from my company's vending machine. :s

Somebody needs to start a blog about quick, real food. This can be done, and for all our health, this needs to be done (and to confess, it feels good to stick it to The Man by eating real instead of opening a box. I take my motivation where I can get it.)

Actually, I think Nigel Slater's website fits the bill.


Is there a vegetarian analog? Dishes look great.

I wonder how much of the benefit of going gluten free is that it involves scrutinizing your food choices, so a lot of other problematic stuff goes by the wayside, too.

Personally, I think dairy is much more of a health offender than gluten, but everyone is different. Cut out all the milk, cream, cheese, butter (and again, throw in the sugar too), and see how you feel.

As other have noted, though, junk food is usually loaded with gluten, which is why eliminating almost always has a benefit (if one is tempted to eat junk food).
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on February 21, 2013


I don't think I'll be drinking any more coke.

There are lots of (dead) reasons not to drink Coca-Cola.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on February 21, 2013


Is there a vegetarian analog? Dishes look great.

Because I'm vegan, the recipes I've tried are ones I can easily veganize for my husband and I. I've been tweeting about doing that and Nigel Slater has been responding to me very positively via Twitter for my innovation!
posted by Kitteh at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


my son can't tolerate Red 40 (he turns into the Tasmanian Devil)

Oh, jeez, food dyes. I'm so glad I learned early that it's the dye, not the sugar, in birthday cake that makes kids go nuts (well, and also the "FUCKING YES CAKE!" insanity of it all). I've (tried to) cut out artificial dyes completely. Most responsible companies have shifted, i.e. my kids can eat Goldfish Colors ... if they're lucky.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2013


I like how not even a 14 page, in depth article about food science, with actual quotes by the inventors, as to the philosophy and nature of the tools, and all the linked articles and sources and discussion and evidence in the world is STILL not enough to prevent someone from going "...Well I still think it's because fat people are morally bankrupt, and the only solution is a sin tax."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, they are really short pages.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:42 AM on February 21, 2013


I like how not even a 14 page, in depth article about food science, with actual quotes by the inventors, as to the philosophy and nature of the tools, and all the linked articles and sources and discussion and evidence in the world is STILL not enough to prevent someone from going "...Well I still think it's because fat people are morally bankrupt, and the only solution is a sin tax."

I didn't imply anything about morally bankrupt - I meant to imply that they were weak-willed, because (with the unfortunate exception of those who are fat because of genetics - as one previous poster self-identified) that's generally what they are, at least from my perspective.

To give you an idea of my point of reference, I define "weak-willed" as "anybody with substantially lower willpower than me." Personally, I've gone entire weekends without eating anything (when I was substantially overweight and wanted to lose pounds quickly), so the idea that even a whole army of psychologists could influence me through taste or advertising is laughable. I've read the article and I understand how this scientific programming works, but if somebody else is so weak-minded that they are susceptible to it, then I'm totally fine with Darwinism working its reductive magic on them. I'm sorry if that sounds unkind, but the world is overcrowded anyway and I really don't see humanity being substantially benefited by a surfeit of human beings who have so little self-control that they just mindlessly do whatever corporate psychologists program them to. To me, being "human" implies an ability to prioritize reason above the mindless impulse or instinct to reach for chips. If I wanted to share space with a irrational creature that eats whenever it feels hungry, I'd simply buy a dog.

The only people I really feel sorry for in this whole picture are the children. As far as I'm concerned, adults have the right to ride the calorie train straight to hell, laughing all the way - but kids don't have the maturity or intelligence to make those kind of decisions, and it's just really sad when their parents start them down this self-destructive road.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2013


I'm sorry if that sounds unkind, but the world is overcrowded anyway

myth
posted by mrgrimm at 1:23 PM on February 21, 2013


As far as I'm concerned, adults have the right to ride the calorie train straight to hell, laughing all the way - but kids don't have the maturity or intelligence to make those kind of decisions

I'm curious how you define the difference between kids and adults. 18 years? What about mentally handicapped ... do they deserve to ride the calorie train straight to hell?

with the unfortunate exception of those who are fat because of genetics

What if your "weak-willed" attribute (something I won't even call b.s. on except in a parenthetical) was based on "genetics"? What if the relationship between genetics and environment is complicated beyond our ken? THEN WHO GETS THE SHAME?!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wouldn't it be lovely if it were easy to tell if a person is fat because of genetics, because of diet, because of "weak will", because of medical conditions or medications that cause weight gain?

Alas, it is not. To believe that it is easy is to live in a total dream world.
posted by palomar at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2013


(And as the "previous poster who self-identified", I never actually said I am fat because of genetics. You took the liberty of saying that for me. All I said was, I don't eat junk food. Maybe stop ascribing situations and habits to people you do not know in an effort to categorize them so that you can more easily dismiss them.)
posted by palomar at 1:47 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Personally, I've gone entire weekends without eating anything (when I was substantially overweight and wanted to lose pounds quickly), so the idea that even a whole army of psychologists could influence me through taste or advertising is laughable. I've read the article and I understand how this scientific programming works, but if somebody else is so weak-minded that they are susceptible to it, then I'm totally fine with Darwinism working its reductive magic on them."

Hello, Just World fallacy. Not only that, but arguing that psychologists, scientists and marketers haven't reached you at all is disproved by the fact that you know what Doritos are.

But really, all you've got is the judgmental certainty of youth, which is remarkably unsusceptible to any sort of real evidence of health risks.

Plus, remember how you complained about rudeness? Saying that "I'm totally fine with Darwinism working its reductive magic on them" is saying that you're fine with people in this thread dying. That's pretty much an asshole thing to say, both naive and sociopathic.
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Wouldn't it be lovely if it were easy to tell if a person is fat because of genetics, because of diet, because of "weak will", because of medical conditions or medications that cause weight gain?

Well, if you read my previous comments (which I think is pretty important in order to be able to take what I am saying in the proper context), you would see that my proposal was for a "Sugar tax" - which (it seems to me) would effectively target fat people in the correct category - namely those who are fat because of their choice of diet. I'm pretty sure there's no "medical condition" that forces somebody to eat fatty sugary food, unless you count diabetes (which is better regulated via insulin).

What if your "weak-willed" attribute (something I won't even call b.s. on except in a parenthetical) was based on "genetics"? What if the relationship between genetics and environment is complicated beyond our ken? THEN WHO GETS THE SHAME?!

Then that's sad for them, but I still don't see how being weak-willed is an evolutionary trait which should be protected because it benefits humanity. This isn't about shame - to take it that way would be utterly missing my point. The question I meant to raise is simply how much of an obligation society has to protect people from their own foibles. I don't have a problem with fat people - there are people who make a conscious choice to be fat (for example, one of my best friends is a gourmand and he made this full choice with awareness that he was trading his health for his preferred lifestyle). Similarly, there are people who are fat for reasons beyond their control, and I don't have a problem with those either.

I recognize that it gives some people a thrill to be able to scream "FAT SHAMING YAAARGH!" and attack another mefite in a frenzy of self-righteous rage, but to do so here would be a misnterpretation of my point. I don't look down on fat people as a group - rather, I look down on weak-willed people, and fat people who are susceptible to the programming discussed in this article happen to be a subcategory that falls into the intersection of both groups. Thus it is entirely possible for me to dislike one type of fat person but not another, and if you'll consider the methodology I proposed, you'll see that exact bias at work - my sugar tax idea is specifically designed for a relatively narrow target selection.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks, let's not make this into YET ANOTHER thread where we all interrogate wolfdreams01 about his quirky lifestyle and beliefs. Wolfdreams01, you can help too. MetaTalk is an option, for anyone but continuing this well-trod troll-sounding derail is not. Move on, everyone.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:15 PM on February 21, 2013


In an attempt to get the thread more or less on track, it's worth pointing out an observation from Food Inc (though I think it was originally made by Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma): most of the processed food out there - junk food obviously included - derives mostly from corn. So, consider the myriad junk food options out there and know that there are only a few dozen building blocks there. You can sort of admire the ingenuity, if nothing else.

Corn. All the way down. Every last bit of it.
posted by jquinby at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


An analogy to why arguing that willpower trumps science is fundamentally flawed is optical illusions.

Like optical illusions, the tricks junk food makers use are essentially using quirks of human perception to misrepresent the food — trompe la bouche. You can overcome some tricks of the eye, others are hardwired, and all of them require effort to reconcile. Not only is it unrealistic to expect everyone to constantly devote that effort to ignoring their senses (especially given the regular results of willpower experiments, i.e. it's finite and work), but there are plenty of effects that you physically can't overcome.

Now imagine if optical illusions came with a powerful, primeval reinforcement that's congruent with the senses. Saying that willpower should trump all, like a tinpot Nietzsche, evidences both an ignorance to how humans actually behave and a glee in blaming exactly the wrong people. The only rational justification for that is if it's a necessary fiction that one has to maintain to vehemently defend in order to buttress one's own narrative of triumph. Which is fine as it goes, but why then hector others with it?
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 PM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


> I was toying with starting a food blog (not so sure about it now), but one of the things I was thinking of looking at was a side-by-side comparison on how long it took to cook Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff vs. beef stroganoff from scratch. Because I think this supposed "timesaver" takes the same damn amount of time as the real thing.

The best I could find online is this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonliebigstuff/4847759364/lightbox/
Which is from 1979 so probably not prefect, but claims brown beef + bring to boil + 20 minutes. That agrees with my general idea of these sorts of things. The microwave instructions say 5 + 13 minutes which makes 18.

Contrast to a "real" recipe like http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-ground-beef-stroganoff/detail.aspx that says it will take 75 minutes. Or http://allrecipes.com/recipe/dianes-beef-stroganoff/detail.aspx which says 3+ hours.

Either way, the real time saver type prepared foods are the "TV Dinner" style things, which are a whole meal + sides. The point being that the entire preparation process is toss in oven (or microwave) + do something else while you wait. Which aren't even a rough comparison. And ultimately, are too tempting for me to avoid. (I greatly appreciate the free food I get at work, partially because it's free, but largely because it's mostly good/real food that I don't have to invest time into making.)
posted by arantius at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2013


Contrast to a "real" recipe like this beef stroganoff recipe that says it will take 75 minutes. Or this beef stroganoff recipe which says 3+ hours.

What??? The recipe I use is from a cookbook entirely comprised of "recipes that take thirty minutes or less." How in the hell are they getting 3 hours out of that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on March 12, 2013


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