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The Hillbilly Housewife.
May 15, 2004 10:41 PM   Subscribe

The Hillbilly Housewife. "I am just a humble, barefoot, hillbilly woman with too many irons in the fire like most folks...You will not find nutrional information with these recipe because I do not beleive that God intends normal, everyday eating to be a burden for His children."
posted by bingo (78 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
And cue the hate in 5... 4... 3... 2...
posted by keswick at 10:46 PM on May 15, 2004



posted by abcde at 10:57 PM on May 15, 2004


Er.

*hates*
posted by abcde at 10:57 PM on May 15, 2004


Cue the hate? Cue the recongition that these sorts of people are morons != cue the hate.

But...
posted by xmutex at 11:06 PM on May 15, 2004


It blew the illusion for me when I saw a recipe requiring tofu.
posted by RavinDave at 11:06 PM on May 15, 2004


it vaguely reminds me of the simpsons 269. Simpsons Tall Tales


Bart (as Tom Sawyer): 'Hmm. Looks like we're out of cornpone, fatback, hardtack, fatpone, corntack...' Nelson (as Huck Finn): 'Any tackback?' Bart: 'Tackback?' Nelson: 'I mean backtack.' Bart: 'Plum out.'
posted by MrLint at 11:14 PM on May 15, 2004


"Margarine is used almost exclusively in these recipes. Only one or two recipes call for real butter, and then it's expressly stated in the recipe. Margarine is 50¢ a pound and butter is $3 a pound, so let your pocket book be your guide."

Yeah, except it's poison?

I didn't get past the intro... was there something about hate?

Fuck the poor!
posted by zekinskia at 11:32 PM on May 15, 2004


Seems like a decent site to me - how and where does "hate" enter this discussion?
posted by davidmsc at 11:56 PM on May 15, 2004


It's a cute site...and some of the recipes looked fairly palatable were one to make substitutions of real food for the weird processed food. But, this site strikes me as someone who's hoping to get a book published by using a cute hook, rather than someone who has actually tried to feed a family on a budget.

As an example, I refer you to this recipe...which has *so* many things wrong with it, both from a culinary perspective, and from a perspective of budgetary analysis. Real tea...you know they kind in leaf format...is significantly less expensive than powdered tea. And good lord, it tastes so much better.

The discussions and use of powdered milk is equally faulty. Store brand milk is less per oz that reconstituted powdered milk, and has significantly better taste, body and adhesive properties in cooking. Not to mention the sheer volume of corn syrup and other additives in powdered milk. Bleh!

Margarine, besides being a disgusting product, is almost worthless in real cooking. It breaks down into a watery substance that will destroy baked goods, sauces, and pretty much anything else it touches. The stuff is vile...granted it's cheap...but damn...it's nasty.

The vast majority of the recipes call for processed food of some denomination...products which are significantly more expensive than the non-processed alternative. I put it to you that the "cheap" ingredients she uses were put there for effect, and as a hook to sell the "hillbilly" concept, rather than because those ingredients make financial sense.
posted by dejah420 at 12:29 AM on May 16, 2004


Margarine poisonous? Hardly.

It *can* be a poor food choice, but being generally high in bad fats doesn't make it a poison anymore than a Big Mac is. Also, just as eating a hamburger can be healthy if you make it yourself from extra lean ground beef, bread, and onions, not all margarines are alike. For example, Becel margarine contains zero of the trans-fatty acides, and therefore is definately more "healthy" for a dieter than butter.
posted by shepd at 12:41 AM on May 16, 2004


I agree completely with dejah420, apart from the margerine thing. Get proper vegetable margerine, and it's as good as butter for most things, and better for some (some things just get too rich with butter).

Is there a difference between the margerine sold in the US and europe? I frequently encounter anti-margerine americans, while around here it's pretty much ubiquitous.
posted by fvw at 1:13 AM on May 16, 2004


I've grown up always eating margarine, and I don't like butter at all. It just doesn't taste right.
posted by spazzm at 1:25 AM on May 16, 2004


Er... *grew up*
posted by spazzm at 1:28 AM on May 16, 2004


Blast it. Nevermind.
posted by spazzm at 1:28 AM on May 16, 2004


However, re powdered milk: way, way back in the late '70s and early '80s, when the U.S. government used to give surplus food to poor people, powdered milk was a usual part of that benefit.

Doesn't help to know that much in 2004, but "things to do with powdered milk" could have helped my grandmother out back in 1981....
posted by Electric Elf at 1:32 AM on May 16, 2004


MetaFilter: The best of the web for people in living 1981


sorry
posted by fvw at 2:40 AM on May 16, 2004


I can't see a "hillbilly housewife" cooking dal.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:59 AM on May 16, 2004


Cooking oil? Margarine? Butter? If she doesn't have a tub of lard somewhere in that kitchen, she's not a real hillbilly cook. (Bacon grease is common to midwestern farm cooking too.)

My wife's hillbilly grandmother deep fries chicken in lard. And no, I DON'T recommend it.
posted by pyramid termite at 5:59 AM on May 16, 2004


She does talk about bacon grease, and how she saves it to use later.
posted by bingo at 7:04 AM on May 16, 2004


she's not barefoot in the illustration. yah, she's a typical hillbilly like lynndie england is a typical uhmurkuhn soldier.
posted by quonsar at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2004


dejah420, a few points:

Leaf tea may be less expensive (I doubt it, but I'll play along), but I doubt it's as ubiquitous as instant tea;

Also, regarding powdered milk: if you have problems with electricity outages, you don't want a lot of milk (which spoils quickly)... and even if you're solidly on-the-grid, but have a large family, you don't want to fill up your frig with milk, when a bucket of powdered will do you just fine sitting in the larder;

I'm guessing that the margarine comment was not part of your run-up to your conclusion, as you say it yourself: margarine is cheap.

Anyway, I'm just saying that the recommendations sound poor middle america to me — and I grew up on WIC, with powdered milk in the larder and a crock of homemade sauerkraut under the stairs (mmm... sauerkraut...).
posted by silusGROK at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2004


I like some of these recipes, and a good few are veggie or can easily be modified for veggie. If you really want to get down and boggie, however, I would suggest this...
posted by moonbird at 8:01 AM on May 16, 2004


Who are we meant to be hating? People whom others might describe as "hillbillies" or people who are trying to carpetbag on some kind of mythical "hillbilly" cultural movement?

Because I don't hate the first kind, and the second kind just leaves me saying, "WTF"?

I think that, as a marketing gimmick for some uninteresting recipes, this leaves quite a bit to be desired. For one thing, nobody thinks of themselves as a "hillbilly".

For another thing, The White Trash Cooking Cookbook (so brilliantly linked above by moonbird--snap!) has covered this topic so thoroughly and so well that any other Slim Shadys are just imitatin'.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:41 AM on May 16, 2004


She forgot the paprika!!!
posted by sleslie at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2004


As for the dahl, curry is actually used in 'Hillbilly recipes' or in dishes you'd see served at a church event. It is principally used in casserole dishes.


This site has some stupid frame thing going on, but look for the second page of the casserole dishes for some Curried Baked Fruit.
posted by sleslie at 10:09 AM on May 16, 2004


It's not "dahl." He's a British author. It's "dal."
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:15 AM on May 16, 2004


A friend of mine used to keep the grease from the meat he cooked in a cup by the stove.

He died of an obscure, incurable stomach cancer.
posted by troutfishing at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2004


Curley - How do you know sleslie hasn't cooked with Dahl ?
posted by troutfishing at 10:42 AM on May 16, 2004


A friend of mine used to keep the grease from the meat he cooked in a cup by the stove. He died of an obscure, incurable stomach cancer.

Do you suppose it was the fact he kept it in a cup? I believe an empty can is the traditional hillbilly vessel for grease.
posted by kindall at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2004


For example, Becel margarine contains zero of the trans-fatty acides

That's cool. I've never seen it on a shelf in the US, but I may have overlooked it since I generally head for the butter. I bake a lot, and I use a lot, a lot of butter. I should have a dairy cow, I use so much milk and butter, I swear it. (Wouldn't the Home owner's association just love that?)

But that's for the heads up, the next time I'm at the healthy store, I'll see if they have it. The last time I looked at margerine, I did a calorie/fat comparison and for the life of me, I couldn't understand why anyone would choose the margerine...but that was before butter got as obscenely expensive as it's become. The organic dairy stuff I buy was over $4.00 a pound last time I was at the store. Ouchies!


Trout - Cooking with Dahl...now that's a cookbook I'd own.
posted by dejah420 at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2004


If you all would go pick up a country church cookbook compiled in the South it would be filled with those kinds of recipes. I have some here in the house.

An interesting study could be made correllating recipes and social class.....
posted by konolia at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2004


this site strikes me as someone who's hoping to get a book published by using a cute hook,

$$$$$$$

having said that, some of the recipes are cute.

dejah,
I actually don't bake as often as I once did, I realized the staggering amounts of butter I was using -- I'm kinda health-conscious and even paranoid to some extent, due to the heart-disease-prone DNA I carry with me all the time (GATTACA? Bring it on!).
as of now, I mostly bake carrot cakes (with highest-grade olive oil, no butter). but yeah, I am still known to have succumbed to baking the occasional butter-laden banana bread every once in a while. it's just too good.

anyway, I swear by Pellegrino Artusi's work, worth checking out
posted by matteo at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2004


What? No Bible recipes?

"Sir, we have cracked the REAL Bible code."

*long pause*

"....yes?"

"Its a recipe book."

THe Galations quote is cute how about:

Do not eat fat of ox, sheep or goats (Lev. 7.23)
Do not eat rabbit (Lev. 11:6)
Do not eat blood of fish, fowl or beast (Lev. 7:26)
Do not eat ham, bacon, pork chops or ribs (Lev. 11:7)
Do not eat lobster, crab, scallops or shrimp (Lev. 11:10 and Deut. 14:19)
Hybridization of animals and crops is condemned (Lev. 19:19)
posted by skallas at 12:11 PM on May 16, 2004


Sure, there are some real problems with being a hillbilly, based on the few I've gotten to know. Many are poor. Many are badly educated. But they're just as smart and interested as most other people. And culturally they inhabit an interesting and shrinking place in society.

The Christian stuff I see on this site is about how believers should live their own lives, not how they should impose their beliefs on others. I don't have a problem with that.

I don't see anything about a book. It just seems like a cute, amateurish page that someone put together to share thoughts, recipes and conversation with like-minded people. Maybe some of the recipes aren't the best thought out or the most logical. Lots of us on metafilter have web sites where we post illogical, poorly thought out stuff. Most of us (I expect) are not trying to sell anything or make books out of what we've got.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:17 PM on May 16, 2004


What? No Bible recipes?

actually, even Gore Vidal wrote about Leviticus-as-cookbook, so to speak:

"(...), as if that loony text had anything useful to say about anything, except perhaps the inadvisability of eating shellfish in the Jerusalem area."
posted by matteo at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2004


Lots of us on metafilter have web sites where we post illogical, poorly thought out stuff.

of course. but most of us have better design
;)
posted by matteo at 1:29 PM on May 16, 2004


Curley - How do you know sleslie hasn't cooked with Dahl ?

I read that initially as "how do you know Sellassie hasn't cooked with Dahl?"

That would have been the most awesome cooking show in the history of PBS.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2004


"Do you suppose it was the fact he kept it in a cup? I believe an empty can is the traditional hillbilly vessel for grease." - kindall, no - the hillybilly method suggested in the linked website is, in fact, better. The author suggests refrigerating bacon (or meat) grease. That keeps it from going rancid, a health threat.

But, cooking meat - especially frying it and even more especially frying it on high heat - releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - the product, essentially, of burning animal fat, which are known to be potent carcinogens.

I bet those are what killed my friend.

Also, PAH's are released in especially high concentrations from barbecuing.

There's a deep irony to this also. Cooking animal flesh smells delicious to most people I know (including most vegetarians) and so I assume that human love of the smell is instinctual and has to do with the fact that, in the far human past, the benefits of cooking meat (it kills parasites and bacteria) far outweighed the associated cancer risk.

Mayor Curley - What'd you just say, "She lassie cooks with Dill"?
posted by troutfishing at 2:14 PM on May 16, 2004


Cooking with Dahl
posted by scribblative at 2:20 PM on May 16, 2004


troutfishing: You're saying that cooking meat, in itself, produces potent carcinogens? Not just certain kinds of meat, or certain ways of cooking, but in general?
posted by bingo at 2:25 PM on May 16, 2004


I don't think it's just meat. I remember a med school student telling me that toast can cause cancer--the act of toasting bread produces carcinogens, though I'm not sure how potent they are.

Life causes death.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2004


croutonsupafreak - look up Acrylamides (a class of carcinogens recently discovered in very high concentrations in carbohydrates cooked on high heat, especially in oil - like potato chips and french fries)

bingo -I thought the carcinogens I was talking about - the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Google search) - had been tied to burned animal fats, but maybe it's more than just burned fat.

These nasty little PAH's seem to be geometric hockey pucks of woe.

If you really want to know a LOT about this....
posted by troutfishing at 3:41 PM on May 16, 2004


I bet your friend breathed air too. Maybe breathing air causes cancer. Did he watch TV? I heard TV causes cancer.
posted by keswick at 4:25 PM on May 16, 2004


The organic dairy stuff I buy was over $4.00 a pound last time I was at the store.

That's still about half of what the bog-standard factory stuff costs here in Korea, dejah! Count your blessings, count your blessings.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:45 PM on May 16, 2004


keswick, you're being silly.

My friend breathed decent, clean country air and - no, he didn't watch TV. He was very active too, strong, and sharp as a tack.

But if you're insisting on playing the "those darned sceintists, what do they know?" game, well.....

Here, have a lead lollipop. It tastes sweet, and sweet is good.

Good for you, too. ; }
posted by troutfishing at 4:59 PM on May 16, 2004


troutfishing: Okay, going by your own links, what you say here is a bit of an exaggeration:

But, cooking meat - especially frying it and even more especially frying it on high heat - releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - the product, essentially, of burning animal fat, which are known to be potent carcinogens.

The use of the word "burning" is important here. Your PAH link above reveals that risky behaviors include:

Eating grilled or charred meats; contaminated cereals, flour, bread, vegetables, fruits, meats; and processed or pickled foods.

...which, okay, is interesting and relevant, but clearly they're talking about burning in the sense of actual blackening, i.e. this does not seem to be about cooking meats on high heat in general.

Now, it also says:

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that some PAHs may reasonably be expected to be carcinogens.

Some people who have breathed or touched mixtures of PAHs and other chemicals for long periods of time have developed cancer. Some PAHs have caused cancer in laboratory animals when they breathed air containing them (lung cancer), ingested them in food (stomach cancer), or had them applied to their skin (skin cancer).


...which means that it is possible that your friend's stomach cancer came from PAHs. But if it did, it wasn't because he was cooking meat per se, or because he was using recycled bacon grease. He would presumably have been eating cajun-level burned-black food. (And maybe he was. Was he? I'm sorry about your loss.)

The last link you posted seems to be all about the dangers of fossil fuels.
posted by bingo at 5:24 PM on May 16, 2004


OK class, let's try an experiment:

next time you cook red meat, try this:

don't get the leanest cut you can find, get something just a little fatty. not too much, just a little, dr Atkins says it's OK. then carefully broil the piece of red meat in a nonstick pan without using butter or oil. if you do it right at the right -- not too hot -- temperature, the meat won't burn but will get broiled and juicy.
then when your steak/whatever is ready, eat it with gusto. leave the nonstick pan alone for a few hours, don't even put water or soap in it. let the burnt fat just sit in the pan for a few hours.
then you'll be able to see the congealed fat in all its lipidic glory, crusted on the pan.

now I'm no biology major. and frankly I'm no vegetarian and not even an anti-red-meat zealot, I like a good steak every once in a while. but I can't believe that that fatty whitish brownish stuff that you'll have to scrape off the experiment's pan with a sledgehammer is good for you. really. it's disgusting, nasty, evil shit. it's probably the way a cow avenges her death -- she'll attack our ventricles from inside.

/war-on-cholesterol nazi
posted by matteo at 5:39 PM on May 16, 2004


For one thing, nobody thinks of themselves as a "hillbilly".

Several members of my family quite proudly (and correctly) self-identify as rednecks. I wouldn't be at all suprised if there were hillbillies who do the same.
posted by orange swan at 6:59 PM on May 16, 2004


"....PAHs are by-products arising from incomplete combustion of organic matter that are frequently released into our environment, and thus are ubiquitously detectable. Many PAHs are strong carcinogens in rodent bioassays and have been linked to increased incidences of various types of cancer in humans."

Bingo, here are some more pointed resources :

To quote the American Cancer Association : "Cancer researchers have found that grilling … causes ‘muscle meats’ (red meat, poultry and fish) to produce cancer compounds.’

These compounds, called HCAs (heterocyclic amines), have been shown to cause tumours in animals and increase the possible risk of breast, colon, stomach and prostate cancer in humans.

Another cancer-causing substance forms when fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto hot coals or wood and then, via smoke and flare-ups, is deposited onto the food above. These carcinogens are called PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. "


The end of grilling? - maybe not : use a marinade!

"Use a Marinade

AICR's Director of Nutrition Education, Melanie Polk R.D., suggests that avoiding the grill altogether may not be necessary. "It is still possible to enjoy barbecued meats," stated Polk. "Marinating meats before grilling can significantly reduce the amount of carcinogen that might otherwise form." Studies have shown that marinating foods is effective in reducing the amount of HCAs by as much as 92 to 99 percent. "

Or, buy a Foreman grill! - "The hot zone

Poor barbecuing techniques can create dangerous byproducts known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

HCAs have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals, and may increase the risk of cancers of the breast, colon, stomach, and prostate in humans, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. They're created when red meat, poultry, and fish "muscle meats" are subjected to intense high heat.

PAHs are formed when animal or fish fats drip onto hot coals. The smoke and fire flare-ups drive these residues into the food. PAHs are thought to increase the risk of stomach cancer.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to minimize or reduce HCA and PAH contamination. Reducing the heat is the first.

HCAs need intense heat to form, which is why they are absent in boiled or baked foods. One study found a threefold increase in HCAs when cooking temperatures were raised from 392 to 482 degrees."

I guess my memory proved accurate enough.
posted by troutfishing at 7:49 PM on May 16, 2004


pigs in a blanket....


Not stuffed cabbage,
This is what the "hole guy" was eating.
posted by TangerineGurl at 8:23 PM on May 16, 2004


scribblative - That is so cool...and now the quest for one in print begins...(ok, one in print and that can be shipped to me in the US.)


That's still about half of what the bog-standard factory stuff costs here in Korea, dejah! - stavrosthewonderchicken

Holy mother of god, really? Wow.

TangerineGurl, when I was a little kid, my best friend's mom would make those...and I thought they were by and far the greatest thing of all time. (My mom, being a chef, was forever feeding us her experiments... ) I think most kids will take pigs in a blanket over ramaki any day...
posted by dejah420 at 9:53 PM on May 16, 2004


troutfishing: interesting...however, although the sources you're quoting now do explicitly mention high heat, they also describe the formation of the PAHs as directly relating to grilling, wood, or charcoal. The fact that a marinade may reduce the chances of danger while grilling suggests that the problem is actually the interaction between wood and coal, or blackening contact with metal, and seems to fly in the face of the suggestion that baked goods are less likely to cause this problem because they are heated at a lower temperature. That is, it seems much more likely that the difference is that baked goods are not cooked directly up against a hot metal element in such a way that blackens them, or exposed to smoke formed by animal fat dripping onto wood or coal. This would, in turn, suggest that no matter what heat you cook your food at, if you do it on a stove and don't blacken it, you should be fine.
posted by bingo at 4:20 AM on May 17, 2004


bingo - If you go to one of my earlier links - to a publication by the US national Academy of Science - you'll find that PAH's are simply a byproduct of combustion. They are formed, also, by burning petrochemicals.

I'm not sure what's going on with the "marinade effect", but the basic mechanism is that, at various levels, heat causes chemicals changes in food. As I linked to up the thread, it creates Acrylamides, and it also creates PAH's and HCA's. But as with the Acrylamides, heat can produce chemical changes in food even without obvious signs of combustion - blackening or smoke.

To put things into perspective :

How to Lower Your Cancer Risk

Also, "Studying a cancer-causing ingredient in barbeque affects researcher's eating habits

The research that the scientists in the lab perform can have an impact on outside lives. For example, Hye-Young Kim, a post-doctoral scientist, has been studying a family of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) found in charred barbecue scraps, among a number of other sources. Laboratory animals, when fed large amounts of the burned parts of charbroiled foods, have exhibited an increased risk for certain types of cancer.

Kim explained how her study of PAH has changed her daily eating habits: "Now, I slice off the burned parts even though I know such a small quantity is harmless...even though they're the tastiest parts," she smiled. "


I eat Cajun-blackened fish fairly often. It's my main PAH cancer risk sin. But, I really like the taste.
posted by troutfishing at 6:29 AM on May 17, 2004


However, I have given up french fries and potato chips - almost all fried food, actually, except for occasional fish.
posted by troutfishing at 6:32 AM on May 17, 2004



"Use a Marinade

troutfishing, you have my thoughts;P
posted by thomcatspike at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2004


troutfishing: I'm really not trying to be difficult, and I don't think that you are either, but as I'm going to the links you suggest, I feel I have the right to continue to voice my skeptism on the subject of PAHs being caused by heat alone (not just blackening). Your link to the US National Academy of Science goes to a book of some 467 pages, which I admittedly have not read in its entirety, but I have, as the result of this discussion, now read some parts of it, some from the "executive summary" and some pages that I found when running searches related to this discussion. From what I can tell, they are (or were, in 1983) saying that PAHs can be caused by the combustion of wood. Your "how to lower your cancer risk" link above does caution against cooking meats at high temperatures, but then goes on to say that PAHs in particular " form when meats are charcoal-broiled." And your last link attributes PAHs to " charred barbecue scraps, among a number of other sources."

I am not arguing that there is a problem with barbecue, or that there aren't others possible risks that go with cooking meat (er...of course it brings about a chemical change, it's cooking), and those I would have to examine separately. But I remain unconvinced about PAHs coming from cooking meat at a high temperature in general.
posted by bingo at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2004


bingo - you're stubborn!

Here's another few links "PAH's are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances and charbroiled meat"

But meats aren't the only culprit, as the US NIH reports (see bottom of quote) :

"The highest levels of BaP (up to about 4 ng BaP/g of cooked meat) were found in grilled/barbecued very well done steaks and hamburgers and in grilled/barbecued well done chicken with skin. BaP concentrations were lower in meats that were grilled/barbecued to medium done and in all broiled or pan-fried meat samples regardless of doneness level. The BaP levels in non-meat items were generally low. However, certain cereals and greens (e.g. kale, collard greens) had levels up to 0.5 ng/g. In our population, the bread/cereal/grain, and grilled/barbecued meat, respectively, contributed 29 and 21 percent to the mean daily intake of BaP."

"Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's) are large, flat compounds that are similar to benzene in structure. Many aromatic compounds, including PAH's are carcinogenic as a result of their structure. The flat, hydrophobic shape of a PAH makes it difficult to excrete from the body. In addition, this shape allows a PAH to insert itself into the structure of DNA where it interferes with the proper functioning of the DNA and can lead to cancer."
posted by troutfishing at 9:36 PM on May 17, 2004


Okay...again, all that is interesting, but those breast cancer awareness people do specifically say "charbroiled meat."

Despite the lack of PAH danger in non-burned meat, all these links are great, and I am grateful to you for bringing all this info to my attention.
posted by bingo at 9:49 PM on May 17, 2004


bingo - you're welcome. I'm just trying to make sure you stick around so I'll have someone to argue with. Anyway, how about this : I'll split the difference! (see below)

But, have you ever seen the classic high school science class experiment in which it's demonstrated that, with a certain oxygen concentration, quite a number of materials (wood, paper, cloth, etc.) will spontaneously burst into flame ? Most everything tends to react to oxygen - a very reactive element - but at a certain level of atmospheric oxygen, a runaway process of oxidation (AKA "burning") begins.

So most stuff - including our bodies - is on a slowburn all the time.

This is one of the great questions of the new field of "Geophysiology" - how the hell does life on earth mantain such a precise balance of oxygen levels ? Atmospheric oxygen levels several percent lower would not support most of the larger animal species - or, they'd be slow as turtles. Conversely, at levels a few percent higher, things - and creatures even - would tend to burst into flame and runaway fires would consume most of the biota on Earth.

So how does life mantain that balance ?

Anyway - putting aside the fact that oxidation (burning) happens even at low temperatures, I'll split the difference here - it does seem that visible blackening DOES correlate with dramatically higher PAH levels.

As thomcatspike likes : marinade!
posted by troutfishing at 6:57 AM on May 18, 2004


Sorry, but no.

Burning does involve oxidation, but that does not mean that all oxidation is burning, nor does it mean that all heating is oxidation. Also, heating and burning are not the same thing.

Charring meat creates elemental carbon, which, not by coincidence, is a characteristic shared with the burning of wood and coal, two processes discussed at length in your links above with regard to the creation of PAHs. The non-charring cooking of meat denatures proteins, makes the molecules move faster, and kills bacteria. It does not create elemental carbon. A different kind of chemical reaction is taking place, one that does not occur in regular cooking or low-temperature oxidation.

The Maillard Reaction, which is the most common chemical reaction in cooking.

Wikipedia discussions of combustion, heat, and oxidation.
posted by bingo at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2004


bingo - Thanks, I've learned something there. And, the Maillard Reaction would - presumably - be behind the formation of carcinogenic Acrylamides?

"...The non-charring cooking of meat denatures proteins" - Elemental Carbon or not, our bodies have elaborate defenses against oxidative processes. There is a reason for that. I may have been technically inaccurate in using the terms "oxidation" and "burning" interchangeably, but from our viewpoint - as biological organisms - those distinctions do indeed break down.

I think that I am arguing from a basic physics principle here, one that you may or may not want to recognize :

Heat potentiates, accelerates, and makes possible chemical interactions...especially those involving carbon and oxygen.

Humans - as a species - did not initially evolve eating cooked food (though we have been doing so now for many thousands of years). Overall, heating food - at higher, sub-combustion generating temperatures (and certainly when charring occurs as well) seems to produce mutagenic compounds which our bodies have imperfect defenses against.

The recent discovery of high levels of Acrylamides in potato chips and other carbohydrates cooked at high temperatures underscores my point - heat kills bacteria in food, yes. And it also - at the same time - tends to produce carcinogens.
posted by troutfishing at 2:41 PM on May 19, 2004


Also, heating is not oxidation, sure. But - in the presence of oxygen, and with enough heat, almost everything oxidizes and, eventually, burns. Some elements won't, yes - but those are not the stuff from which our bodies are mostly composed.
posted by troutfishing at 2:46 PM on May 19, 2004


All I have been saying is that the evidence suggests that PAHs come from a process that involves the creation of elemental carbon. Ergo, it is not reasonable to suggest that someone who cooked a lot of food on high heat, but did not blacken it, died from PAH-related causes. I'm willing to argue your other points, but let's be clear on what we've really been talking about.

Now...sure, heat makes possible chemical reactions. No one can argue with that. But different levels of heat bring about different chemical reactions in different situations.

I don't know exactly where carcinogenic Acrylamides come from, and it sounds from your link like scientists don't know either. It also sounds like they are created in the process of cooking specific (usually starchy) foods. In other words, the article you linked to does not suggest that the problem is heat, or the heating of food in general.

Overall, heating food - at higher, sub-combustion generating temperatures (and certainly when charring occurs as well) seems to produce mutagenic compounds which our bodies have imperfect defenses against.

I haven't seen any evidence in this discussion that suggests that this is true. (And even if it is, PAHs are not some of those mutagenic compounds.)

The recent discovery of high levels of Acrylamides in potato chips and other carbohydrates cooked at high temperatures underscores my point - heat kills bacteria in food, yes. And it also - at the same time - tends to produce carcinogens.

The fact that in some cases, Acrylamides are produced by certain types of cooking of certain types of food, does not mean that "heat tends to produce carcinogens."

The fact that you can point to specific situations in which a chemical reaction catalyzed by heat produced a carcinogen, does not mean that all chemical reactions catalyzed by heat produce those carcinogens.

Incidentally, cooked foot oxidizes slower than uncooked food.
posted by bingo at 8:17 PM on May 19, 2004


I should clarify that when I said

I haven't seen any evidence in this discussion that suggests that this is true. (And even if it is, PAHs are not some of those mutagenic compounds.)

I meant, excepting when charring occurs.
posted by bingo at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2004


Bingo - OK, I should have made this distinction : pan cooking often does involve blackening. It just depends on how tightly controlled the process is.

But, besides the PAH's, there are the HCA's and the Acrylamides.....how many specific carcinogens must we note before saying "it's bettter to cook with less heat"?

I'm sure my friend got fair doses of both PAH's, HCA's, Acrylamides, and probably other carcinogens not yet detected. Which caused the weird cancer? - Who knows! But I'm taking it as a very notable cautionary tale.

The key factor really is heat (from Integrated Cancer and Oncology News, may 15, 2004) : "Acrylamides may sound like the synthetic fabric of a swinging sixties mini-skirt in an Austin Powers movie; however, recent discoveries reveal that they are chemically produced in cooking food to high temperatures and can be dangerous to your health, whether you are a cancer sufferer or merely trying to prevent becoming one.
.....Cooking any meat, beef, lamb, pork, fowl, and even fish, at high temperatures creates dangerous carcinogens called Heterocyclic amines (HCAs). In particular, cooking at temperatures over 200 C should be avoided and obviously this is important when roasting food. It is better to choose lower temperatures and cook for longer."


My friend did not drink or smoke and was very active, thin as a rail, and extremely fit. He had vanishingly few of the normal American cancer risk factors. The odds were with him.

"Acrylamides may sound like the synthetic fabric of a swinging sixties mini-skirt in an Austin Powers movie; however, recent discoveries reveal that they are chemically produced in cooking food to high temperatures and can be dangerous to your health, whether you are a cancer sufferer or merely trying to prevent becoming one.

A World Health Organisation conference held in Geneva in June this year with twenty of the worlds top food experts, announced that acrylamides are present in a huge range of staple foods which form a large part of our diet and that they are playing an alarming role in our lives.

This, said Dr Jorgen Schlundt, head of food safety at the WHO, is not just another food scare. "The experts were unanimous and clear that this is a major concern he said.

Apparently, experts in Britain are comparing the discovery of acrylamides' action to the discovery of a link between smoking and cancer Some scientists are warning their own families not to eat foods cooked at high temperatures until more research has been carried out about the dangers.

   
Barbecues have long been known to be dangerous because of the tendency of flames and smoke to blacken and burn the meat and especially the fat. This produces high evels of carcinogenic nitrosamines, which have been particularly implicated in bowel cancer.

Fried foods are especially bad in terms of causing cancer. Fried meat has been directly linked to a higher risk of hormone-related cancers in women, and men who eat fried food regularly have three times the risk of contracting cancer.

Salted, cured, smoked and dried meats, where products like sodium nitrite are used as preserving agents, are also linked to increased rates of cancer. However, two research reports in the last eighteen months have proved even more worrying.

This is not just another food scare

Cooking any meat, beef, lamb, pork, fowl, and even fish, at high temperatures creates dangerous carcinogens called Heterocyclic amines (HCAs). In particular, cooking at temperatures over 200 C should be avoided and obviously this is important when roasting food. It is better to choose lower temperatures and cook for longer. Interestingly after cooking at high temperatures, chicken was found to have up to 15 times the amount of HCAs in beef cooked the same way! It would surprise many people that cooked chicken might be more carcinogenic than beef. And now cooking at high temperatures has been found to produce carcinogens in a much wider variety of food than just meat and fish.
Acrylamides are made from chemicals produced by the combustion of oil and hydrocarbons. when temperatures exceed 1200C (248%).

And, because they occur in common, everyday food, at the moment no one seems to know what to do about them.

However, the initial research shows they are highly carcinogenic and should be avoided at all costs, especially if you already have cancer. Acrylamides cause cellular DNA to mutate.

Acrylamides seem to be created naturally in baked or fried food when the temperature hits 120 C. They are not found in boiled or steamed food. At the moment no one is sure why or how they are created.

Acrvlamides should be avoided at all costs

Margareta Tornquist, an associate professor of environmental chemistry had been studying them and their usage in mineral processing and paper manufacturing. When she found them in foods earlier this year, all hell broke loose. Within four months the Swedish Food Agency had researched common processed foods and two months later the WHO was meeting in Geneva.

So little is known that the WHO conference came up with tour basic questions to be answered.

* Why do acrylamides form during cooking?
* How should we test for them?
* How many foods contain them?
* What is their potential impact on health?


WHO's head of food safety said, "The findings are very serious, and must be addressed urgently" Professor Tornquist added, "there is no safe threshold".

Figures reported in the Sunday Telegraph from both the equivalent Swedish and British Food Standards Authorities showed (in micrograms per kilo) the worst offenders to be fries, chips and crisps and breakfast cereals. Over-frying greatly worsens the levels.......

.....Acrylamides were not detected in flour, rice, raw or boiled potatoes and uncooked or boiled meat All the experts agree that much more research is needed before guidelines can be announced, but these new discoveries could change our eating habits for ever.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University believes acrylamide and other chemicals could show why cancer is so common in developed countries.

"Britain has a much better diet now than in the past but we and other western peoples increasingly die prematurely from diet-related disease such as cancer" he said. "The discovery of acrylamide could be the explanation we need, It means that these deaths could be caused by modern food processsing and cooking techniques".

So, while we are waiting for the results of new research and further announcements, if you want to make yourself as healthy as possible, turn down the heat and throw away the frying pan. You have been warned!"

posted by troutfishing at 9:21 PM on May 19, 2004


And - I hate to bash home a point like this. It's like slamming the ball in tennis - all the more so for the fact that you're more open minded than the vast majority on this issue. But, I feel strongly about it.
posted by troutfishing at 9:25 PM on May 19, 2004


I see it more like getting so excited about a volley that you throw the racquet at your opponent..

But, besides the PAH's, there are the HCA's and the Acrylamides.....how many specific carcinogens must we note before saying "it's better to cook with less heat"?

It doesn't matter how many you note. It's not the existence of the carcinogens I have a problem with, it's the idea that they are caused by heat. And by caused, of course, I don't mean "catalyzed." Heat applied to gasoline can be a problem. That doesn't mean that heating something else will cause the same problem.

Certainly, this latest article, which it was not necessary for you to paste nearly in its entirety, includes the most direct statements you have presented yet, in terms of your idea that there is something wrong with heating food in general.

But as it's obvious just from reading what you pasted above, the WHO, revered though they may be, is apparently not very clear about their own conclusions:


Acrylamides are made from chemicals produced by the combustion of oil and hydrocarbons. when temperatures exceed 1200C (248%)..Acrylamides seem to be created naturally in baked or fried food when the temperature hits 120 C. They are not found in boiled or steamed food. At the moment no one is sure why or how they are created.

Well, come on.

It's interesting that, despite the emphasis on heat, there is an acknowledgement that certain kinds of food just do not exhibit this problem, and that other foods don't exhibit it in certain situations (like meat being boiled). Who knows what additional factors need to be taken into account...nitrates and other preservatives in the food, maybe?
posted by bingo at 10:33 PM on May 20, 2004


bingo - that's a transcription error, I'd say. But when you say "It doesn't matter how many you note. It's not the existence of the carcinogens I have a problem with, it's the idea that they are caused by heat. And by caused, of course, I don't mean "catalyzed." " - I'd have to respond that if the emergence of carcinogens in some foods is catalyzed by heat, even though it might not be technically correct, exactly, to say that the heat "caused" the carcinogens - doesn't this distinction amount to a type of hairsplitting?

There are lots of nuances to the story, and we'll no doubt be hearing additional twists for years. Sure, nitrates and other food additives probably play a role.

I went to visit my father yesterday - he recently had 2/3 of his colon taken out (cancer) and so he's paying close attention to health news he hears on TV.

He had derived exactly the same overall picture about the dangers of heat and cooking as I have been sketching out here - including even the difference between boiling and frying in terms of acrylamides (boiled foods seems safe).

I don't watch TV, but I'd have to take my cues from the unnamed scientists worrying now about their families eating food cooked at high temperatures.

____________________________

I was talking to a friend of mine, last night, who remarked - "Well, it's known that humans, and proto humans, have been eating cooked food for a long, long time - maybe as far back even as three million years."

Sure, I replied, but humans - until recently - didn't live on average nearly so long, so - in evolutionary terms - I'd guess the known benefits of cooking foods (killing bacteria and parasites, and neutralizing certain toxins - in some cases) outweighed the benefits (prior to our era). But, now they generally don't.
posted by troutfishing at 6:22 AM on May 21, 2004


Oh - and, my parents were eating a huge salad for dinner, a salad festooned with wild rice, beans, and nuts.

As I left, they plied with with Udo Erasmus infoganda
posted by troutfishing at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2004


I'd have to respond that if the emergence of carcinogens in some foods is catalyzed by heat, even though it might not be technically correct, exactly, to say that the heat "caused" the carcinogens - doesn't this distinction amount to a type of hairsplitting?

No. The difference is important because it means that the heat can exist without the carcinogens being created. And that means that it is just plain wrong to say that the carcinogens are caused by cooking, or that cooking definitely brings them about.

I went to visit my father yesterday - he recently had 2/3 of his colon taken out (cancer)...

Tonight I had dinner with my parents and my uncle. My father, like yours, is a cancer survivor. He's also a vegetarian and a doctor, and he eats cooked food. So does my uncle, who looks great despite having aids for over fifteen years. Neither of them is exactly ignorant about current events in medical and health science.

Sure, I replied, but humans - until recently - didn't live on average nearly so long, so - in evolutionary terms - I'd guess the known benefits of cooking foods (killing bacteria and parasites, and neutralizing certain toxins - in some cases) outweighed the benefits (prior to our era). But, now they generally don't.

...and you were wrong. If you really believe that statement, then I encourage you to make your own FPP about it, because a) it's starting to sound like you believe in some sort of pseudoscientific nutritional standards, and b) the idea of getting deeper into that doesn't interest me.
posted by bingo at 8:38 PM on May 22, 2004


"No. The difference is important because it means that the heat can exist without the carcinogens being created." - OK, let me be clear - I'm talking, from a layperson's perspective, about the health implications of cooking with high heat (or maybe even moderate heat) and so - as far as I can tell - the health implications amount to an increased cancer risk.

"Tonight I had dinner with my parents and my uncle. My father, like yours, is a cancer survivor. He's also a vegetarian and a doctor, and he eats cooked food." - Well, I'm glad your father and uncle have survived thus far ( why the men ? ). In fact, I too eat cooked food and also BLACKENED FISH ! I doubt it's good for me. But, I like it.

bingo - At this point, I'm wondering what's at stake here. Yes, I'll do an FPP on this. I'll wager - based on a decent track record of trend anticipation - that I'm right. But I suspect that there's something else going on here. What's at stake? Maybe it's simply that we both like to be right?

"...and you were wrong. If you really believe that statement, then I encourage you to make your own FPP about it" - Why the heavy "you were wrong" claim? I qualified my statement ( "I'd guess....." ) - which is in the best spirit of known scientific uncertainty, as I understand it. But your "you were wrong" claim doesn't seem to me to be in that same spirit.

As far as I can tell, judicious scientists almost always qualify their statements - who knows what future research may bring?
posted by troutfishing at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2004


OK, let me be clear - I'm talking, from a layperson's perspective, about the health implications of cooking with high heat (or maybe even moderate heat) and so - as far as I can tell - the health implications amount to an increased cancer risk.

I know. And I'm saying that you're wrong. Have we ironed out the ambiguity now?

Well, I'm glad your father and uncle have survived thus far ( why the men ? ).

Just because they were more relevant comparisons to your own anecdote about your father. My mother is not a vegetarian, and she has not survived any life-threatening illness. But she is very healthy, looks about 20 years younger than she is, and eats cooked food too.

I'll wager - based on a decent track record of trend anticipation - that I'm right.

I have no idea what that sentence means. Really.

But I suspect that there's something else going on here. What's at stake? Maybe it's simply that we both like to be right?

Although I think I understand these sentences, I'm not sure what you're talking about. You have said a number of things that I think are wrong, so I was telling you so. If you had convinced me that I was wrong, I would have admitted it, but you haven't.

Why the heavy "you were wrong" claim? I qualified my statement ( "I'd guess....." ) - which is in the best spirit of known scientific uncertainty, as I understand it. But your "you were wrong" claim doesn't seem to me to be in that same spirit.

Your "I'd guess" was not a qualifier for the statement that I was disagreeing with.

Anyway, I don't think that you understand scientific thought very well at all. What is this "spirit of known scientific uncertainty" that you're referring to? I found the statement you made to be patently ridiculous. And, honestly, the idea of actually getting into a detailed argument about it bores me. Someone could say to me "I'd guess that the moon is made of green cheese," and the fact that they used the phrase "I'd guess," or the fact that all scientific knowledge is technically open for challenge would not mean that their ideas carried the same weight as those that have been arrived at through a tremendous amount of empirical evidence, nor would it be inappropriate for me to say "you're wrong."
posted by bingo at 9:59 PM on May 22, 2004


"...cooking meat - especially frying it and even more especially frying it on high heat - releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - the product, essentially, of burning animal fat, which are known to be potent carcinogens.

I bet those are what killed my friend.

Also, PAH's are released in especially high concentrations from barbecuing." - That was my original statement. Now, I also qualified this statement, further on down the thread, to recognize the importance of the distinction you were making between combustion and heating ; I noted that pan-cooking (unless it's tightly controlled) tends to - in my experience - sometimes produce blackening. It simply depends on the level of heat, the flash point of the cooking oil used, and so on.

But you seem to be saying that PAH's are strictly associated with the burning of wood (and, presumably, petrochemicals too), and with other types of combustion. Here's a very succinct definition : "PAHs are formed by the incomplete combustion of organic matter. Aromatic hydrocarbons are the cause for most of the toxic effects of petroleum and petroleum products. They are what give petroleum products a smell. Vaseline is a petroleum product but it is not smelly or poisonous because it has no aromatic hydrocarbons. On the other hand, mothballs are mostly aromatic hydrocarbons and therefore very poisonous and strong smelling.

PAHs are a group of more than a hundred organic compounds composed of products derived from benzene. Benzene is the simplest of the aromatic hydrocarbons.  PAH compounds can actually grow in molecular weight and toxicity.  As this occurs, their solubility in water decreases, their solubility in fat tissues increases, and their melting and boiling points increase. The overall properties and effects of PAHs vary according to the combination of compounds involved. Testing requires laboratory analysis."
( from here)

I have the general understanding that PAH's are formed BOTH from the burning of wood, coal, petrochemicals, and also various types of fats including animal fats.

You seem to be - am I understanding your position correctly - arguing that PAH's are produced expressly as a result of burning and blackening. I strongly disagree with that position.

You were at least partly correct to call me on my equation of oxidation with burning. Low level oxidation is a different chemical process from combustion, yes. I tend to group these dissimilar processes together, in my mind, as merely different types of oxidation and - having looked it up, I discovered that I was employing a more recent understanding, or definition, of oxidation. You seem to be referring to an older, tightly restricted definition of oxidation. The new definition - which I am using - is much more expansive. Here is a bit about the distinction which you noted (which is very worth making). But, in fact, it IS common to refer to burning as rapid oxidation (see : Testing the rapid oxidation properties of a Twinkie". Further - and a bit more seriously - here is one (extended) dictionary definition which,a href="http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oxidation"> includes combustion as a type of oxidation.

To quote the Wikipedia :

"Oxidation is any electrochemical process which involves the formal oxidation state of an atom or atoms (within a molecule) being increased by the removal of electrons. E.g. iron(II) can be oxidized to iron(III):


Fe2+ Æ Fe3+ + e-

Substances or reactions having the capability to oxidize are said to be oxidative, and oxidized substances are called reductants, or reducing agents.

Formerly, oxidation simply meant the reaction of a material with oxygen (hence the name). However, when the term is now used it is normally in the more general sense. Some common forms of oxidation are the tarnishing of silverware and the rusting of iron:

4Fe + 3O2 Æ 2 Fe2O3.

Another example is the burning of hydrocarbons to produce water, carbon dioxide, some partially oxidized forms and heat energy."

_________________________________

I just uncovered this well written rundown, which makes the overall situation a bit more clear to me (including the distinction between the Maillard Reaction which you noted, and the processes which create PAH's.) :

".......During moderate heating of proteins, some of the cross-linkages that connect the peptide chains are split, making digestion easier. However, excessive heating results in linkages that are resistant to digestive enzymes. One resistant linkage, known as the Maillard or the browning reaction, is formed between lysine and carbohydrates. This occurs when an item has been held at a high heat for a long period of time. Commercial breakfast cereals fall in this category, and, not only are the proteins affected, but other nutrients are as well, necessitating additions falling under the label of "Enriched."

When barbecuing, burning fat drips onto an open flame producing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's), which are dangerous carcinogens. They are also produced when foods are browned or fried. There are more than twenty known, with the two most notable being benzopyrene and quinoline compounds. They are also found in the waxy coating used on fruits and vegetable. The canning of high protein foods cause some formation, as does the fermentation and pickling of foods. Cooked meats do not pose the only threat; even browned or burnt crusts contain a variety of carcinogenic substances. People consume many grams of overcooked food each day. By comparison, these same dangerous materials is only O gram, which is equal to someone smoking two packages of cigarettes per day.

Several carcinogens are produced. Carcinogens are mutagens, that is, substances that change the genetic code of cells. When meats are barbecued, broiled, char-broiled, smoked, fried, or even cooked above a temperature of 212F, the production of these carcinogens explode. In fact, many of the chemicals used to produce cancer in lab animals have been isolated from cooked proteins."

__________________________________________

"But I suspect that there's something else going on here. What's at stake? Maybe it's simply that we both like to be right?" - I repeat the question. I actually wrote it as a way of defusing tension, as a friendly gesture. Which was also, BTW, what I intended by my " (why the men ? ) " aside. It was an honest question - I was not questioning the appropriateness of your example.


"What is this "spirit of known scientific uncertainty" - Well first of all, I'm not a scientist. But scientists have told me that I understand certain subjects extremely well. Whether this translates into an overall understanding or not is an open question. But as far as the "spirit of known scientific uncertainty" is refer to, what I was getting at is that all scientific knowledge is provisional. Now, that does not mean that I'm about to jump of a cliff because Gravity is only understood provisionally. Not at all. We have to act on the best available scientific understanding we have at the time. It's that simple. BUT.......there is always a certain level of uncertainty in scientific understanding - of anything and everything. Because of this, scientists as a rule speak in qualified terms. Those who don't are generally not taken seriously. This, I have read. It might not be absolutely true, but I think it is substantially correct.
posted by troutfishing at 11:07 AM on May 23, 2004


"...cooking meat - especially frying it and even more especially frying it on high heat - releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - the product, essentially, of burning animal fat, which are known to be potent carcinogens.

I bet those are what killed my friend.


Not sure why you're repeating this. I'm perfectly aware that this is how the argument started, and unless your friend was eating blackened food on a regular basis, I think that your conclusion is wrong.

But you seem to be saying that PAH's are strictly associated with the burning of wood (and, presumably, petrochemicals too), and with other types of combustion. Here's a very succinct definition : "PAHs are formed by the incomplete combustion of organic matter..."

Apparently you don't see that there isn't any contradiction here. Here is one of many links I found discussing what incomplete combustion is. Incomplete combustion produces soot. Normal cooking doesn't.

None of the information you quoted above changes anything. Like I said, all burning involves oxidation, but that does not mean that all oxidation involves burning. Of course setting a twinkie on fire involves oxidation. Of course the corroding of silverware doesn't involve burning.

Formerly, oxidation simply meant the reaction of a material with oxygen (hence the name). However, when the term is now used it is normally in the more general sense. Some common forms of oxidation are the tarnishing of silverware and the rusting of iron:

...after which, you give an example of a chemical reaction involving oxygen.

Several carcinogens are produced. Carcinogens are mutagens, that is, substances that change the genetic code of cells. When meats are barbecued, broiled, char-broiled, smoked, fried, or even cooked above a temperature of 212F, the production of these carcinogens explode. In fact, many of the chemicals used to produce cancer in lab animals have been isolated from cooked proteins."

Like all other links you've provided that in any way suggest that PAHs are produced by heat alone, the emphasis of this article is overwhelmingly on barbecueing, blackening, fat dripping on burning wood, etc. "..or even cooked above a temperature of 212F," oddly stands out from the rest of the article without any further explanation. And that's enough to make me doubt it.


But I suspect that there's something else going on here. What's at stake? Maybe it's simply that we both like to be right?" - I repeat the question. I actually wrote it as a way of defusing tension, as a friendly gesture.

Okay, here's a more direct answer. No, for my part, the issue is not that I like to be right. It's that I believe that I am, in this particular case. I am not enjoying this dialog at all at this point, and I wish that I could be convinced that you're right, but you aren't. Nevertheless, I may soon be faced with the first time on metafilter that I will have to abandon an argument simply because I feel that it's a waste of my time to continue it.

Because of this, scientists as a rule speak in qualified terms. Those who don't are generally not taken seriously. This, I have read. It might not be absolutely true, but I think it is substantially correct.

They do not, however, qualify every single thing they say. For example, most scientists interested in nutrition would probably not say "...if cooking food is worthwhile to begin with," any more than a physicist might say "if there is, in fact, such a thing as gravity."

I appreciate the fact that you are a friendly person who is trying to be consistently civil. But I feel I need to get across that I am not enjoying this anymore, I think your point of view is ridiculous and wrong, and I feel like I'm spending 90% of my response time correcting your misunderstandings about what I was saying to begin with. This is my last relatively long post on this thread. I think it would be unfortunate for you to think that I am saying this because I lack conviction, but believe it if you must; your believing that is preferable to my continuing to spend copious amounts of time on an argument that is clearly going nowhere. I urge you again to make an FPP so that others with more collective time, energy, interest in the subject, and immediately available chemistry knowledge will be able to walk you through the long series of explanations and corrections that will no doubt be necessary.
posted by bingo at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2004


"....I'm perfectly aware that this is how the argument started, and unless your friend was eating blackened food on a regular basis, I think that your conclusion is wrong." - Bingo, I've now cited three major classes of carcinogens - PAH's, HCA's, and Acrylamides - which are now known to form as a result of the heating of food at various temperatures. The PAH's are associated with blackening, yes - but PAH's have been found in non-blackened food as well, and the other two classes of carcinogens are not associated with blackening.

The overall case against cooked food seems to me - if anything - much stronger now as a result of the reading I've done here in the course of this dispute.

"I think your point of view is ridiculous and wrong" - I hope you're aware that, unless you critique specific points in my argument, I can never hope to remedy errors in my thinking.

I'm a bit confused now about what your actual position is - is it that 1) PAH's are only produced by incomplete combustion, 2) The carcinogens that are generated as food is heated are not a healthy threat, or 3) Those purported carcinogens do not actually exist.

Position #1 has been refuted by the discovery of PAH's in non-burned foods : "[PAH's] are also found in the waxy coating used on fruits and vegetable. The canning of high protein foods cause some formation, as does the fermentation and pickling of foods."

Position #2 is refuted by a number of links I've posted in this thread. As I just mentioned, I've now cited three major classes of carcinogens - PAH's, HCA's, and Acrylamides - which are now known to form as a result of the heating of food at various temperatures.

Position #3 - Well, this may have been a valid stance to hold three or four decades ago.

Calling my reasoning hopelessly muddled is not a valid argument - it is merely a debating tactic. Earlier in thread, I explicitly acknowledged your correction about my statement on oxidation (which should actually have been - "Oxidative processes - which include burning - happen even at low temperatures") but have you noticed my larger point (in the context of this discussion), that heating - even sans burning - triggers chemical changes in food which are carcinogenic?

That's the main point, as I see it, of contention here. Am I wrong about this?
posted by troutfishing at 10:19 PM on May 23, 2004


Oh, and - I should have written there "I'm a bit confused now about what your actual position is - is it that.....2) The carcinogens generated as CERTAIN foods are heated are not a health threat...... [?]"
posted by troutfishing at 10:24 PM on May 23, 2004


Calling my reasoning hopelessly muddled is not a valid argument - it is merely a debating tactic.

Unless your reasoning is, in fact, hopelessly muddled, in which it's a valid explanation for why I'm not going to continue the argument.

"I think your point of view is ridiculous and wrong" - I hope you're aware that, unless you critique specific points in my argument, I can never hope to remedy errors in my thinking.

Indeed a pity, but I can live with it, mainly because critiquing specific points in your argument does not seem to have worked very well either.

I believe that the questions you ask in your last post have been answered clearly above. If, for failings of mine or yours or both, you can't see them now, then it seems unlikely that that will change with further explanation on my part.
posted by bingo at 9:30 AM on May 24, 2004


bingo - The odd thing, to me, about your dismissive tone concerns the fact that I brought out a number of points on this post of which you were unaware. Thus, you learned.

As did I : I've made it abundantly clear that I'm not some sort of absolute or even relative authority. As I delved into the PAH/HCA/Acrylamide issue (carcinogens created during the heating of food, to put it loosely), I learned and my positions shifted.

But I'm not quite sure exactly what your positions are now - (hence my last post ) - and by reiterating your personal attacks on me rather than simply elaborating what your stance really is, - or by asking me what my position now is (since we've both taken in new information as a result of this thread and the following exchange), you're undercutting your authority here.

You could have addressed my last question to you with the same number of words and expenditure of time. This would have been quite simple.

You are indeed still arguing - but "argument by insult" is a tactic of rhetoric and not one of logic. I think you can do better.

Your "you're not really capable of understanding this debate" attack would be appropriate if we were attempting to discuss physics equations or other such technical points for which I don't possess the training and knowledge. But, we're not. I'm just reporting on a growing consensus, among health researchers, that cooking food produces toxins (mutagens) - and at levels previously unsuspected.

You seem to me be unwilling to confront these basic points I'm making, points which have little to do with me as a person or as a thinker.

Or perhaps you are willing to confront them, but future readers of this thread will never know that.
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2004


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