Simple Food

There are 73 ingredients in a McDonalds “Big Mac,” including chemical additives such as ammonium chloride, sodium stearoyl lactylate,  sodium phosphate, polysorbate 80, and azodicarbonamide.

A Little Debbie Oatmeal “Creme Pie” snack cookie has 45 ingredients, including corn syrup, folic acid, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, thiamine mononitrate, ammonium bicarbonate, dextrose, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, corn starch, caramel color, carrageenan, red dye 40, sorbic acid, and yellow dye 5.

Here’s the 59 ingredients in a Burger King strawberry milkshake (note that strawberries are not among them): amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethylpropionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2-butanone (10% solution in alcohol), ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylace-tophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphtyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, undecalactone, rum ether, rose, vanillin and solvent.

Not very appetizing, is it?

In our broken food culture, we’re regularly eating chemical concoctions like this.

Meanwhile, what are the world’s finest restaurants serving?  Locally produced food with few ingredients.  Here’s an interesting blog post contrasting the simplicity of the food served by the world’s leading restaurants and the mindboggling complexity of the processed food that now comprises about 70% of our diets.

For breakfast I had two eggs laid by our chickens, scrambled with onions and peppers grown here on the farm. I cooked them in butter.  The butter didn’t come from our farm, but according to the package it has two ingredients:  pasteurized cream and natural flavoring.  Total ingredients in my breakfast: 5. Total number of unprounceable chemicals: 0.

“Keep it simple” seems like good advice when choosing what to eat.

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34 comments on “Simple Food

  1. beeholdn says:

    …Though, as you’ve mentioned previously, we might wonder about that “natural flavoring”…Congrats on your successful harvest, you guys are awesome 🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      This is one of the reasons I love the folks who read this blog. I got three comments about the “natural flavoring” in the butter. 🙂

      Of course I could have avoided that if I’d correctly reported what I ate. I only cook eggs in butter if I’m making them over easy. If I’m scrambling them, I use olive oil. So this particular breakfast had no “natural flavoring” butter in it.

      I have no idea what it is or why it’s in there. I was surprised to see it on the label. Whatever it is, we can be sure it isn’t “natural.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shoreacres says:

    So you’ve noticed those labels, too, huh? 🙂

    I have a friend who says, with a twinkle in her eye, that her rule is simple: never buy anything with an ingredient list that goes more than two lines. If the package is very small, she allows for three. She’s joking (sort of), but her point is the same as yours. A diet of additives adds nothing to the quality of our life, and as for better living through chemistry — that’s great for medicines, car tires, computer monitors and perfumes. Food? Not so much.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s a good practice. One of Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” is to avoid any food that has more than 5 ingredients or that has ingredients you can’t pronounce or that would not be found in any ordinary kitchen.

      I doubt if inedible things made of synthetic chemicals have as many ingredients as these so-called “foods.”

      Like

  3. Joanna says:

    I qualified in Pharmacology and Chemistry way back in the early 80s. It sure put me off anything that sounded more like the Chemistry lab where I studied. I know from experience that even if the end resulting chemical is “safe”, there will be a trace of something in there that isn’t. I was always cautious with the chemical stuff and doubly so when our youngest was born and would go off at the deep end when given even one glass of fizzy soda and no it wasn’t the sugar rush, it was E211 the preservative, followed by some of the colourings. We became adept at reading labels to see what was in them. Not long after that I found a wholefood wholesaler who we could buy from and I would buy good food like flour in bulk and sometimes shared deliveries with neighbours. We were on a tight budget, but we managed. Now I can rustle up something quick in 20 minutes from the simple ingredients if I need to – so why bother with fast food? It takes longer to buy or order 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Fast food isn’t fast and it isn’t cheap. Generally a delicious nutritious meal from whole foods can be prepared at home less expensively and in less time than it takes to go pick up a meal at the fast food joint.

      Even with labeling requirements, my guess is that the vast majority of people have idea how much chemical stew they’re eating every day.

      Like

  4. Cro Magnon says:

    You’re preaching to the converted here, Bill. None of that stuff passes my front door (unless it’s extremely well disguised).

    Like

  5. Jeff says:

    Yes, but there’s no profit in “simple” food – can’t have that, now, can we? What would the Buffets of the world do if your scenario came to pass? Tsk, tsk, tsk …

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Per the article I linked, folks are paying $300/meal for simple food at these high end restaurants. Restaurants and food retailers managed to stay in business before the invention of the chemicals, so I’m confident they’d manage to make a profit without them.

      But definitely the food scientists have done a great job of creating food-like substances that keep folks forking over their money for them.

      Like

      • Jeff says:

        To clarify: “simple” food prepared at home, not in an upscale restaurant catering to the .0001%. $300 for a meal is simply obscene.

        Like

  6. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I can’t say that everything in my house has not been processed but I’m working toward that end. Having a young 30 year old daughter living with me keeps the shelves stocked with some processed quick to fix foods. My breakfast is oatmeal. I haven’t checked lately but I don’t think there’s a lot of ingredients in Quaker oatmeal. I eat the kind that comes in a big round cardboard box, not the kind that comes in the little individual serving packs with flavorings mixed in with the oatmeal. Maybe a sliced banana or a couple strawberries on top with some honey drizzled over the whole thing. I really do try to eat as simple as I can. Last week was bean soup starting with soaking the beans. When I finished I don’t can the left overs but put them in clean hot canning jars and screw down the lids. Then after they seal I keep them in the refrigerator. It’s a short term storage that will last longer than just ZipLoc sealers. I usually don’t keep any thing past a couple weeks sealed that way.

    A wise man once told me that if you can’t pronounce it then don’t eat it. Have a great simple food day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I also know a wise man who says that.

      Processed foods (and GMOs) aren’t easy to avoid in this culture. It requires attention like you’re giving it.

      Like

  7. There are some unpronounceables in my kitchen – I have teenagers who make their own lunches for school and university. Rice cakes seem healthy, until you consider all that flavouring on them, which accounts for about 90% of the ingredients list. Triscuit crackers, the same. Bagels. Why do bagels have so many ingredients? There are chocolate chips in the baking cupboard. Ice cream in the freezer.

    If I lived on my own, we’d be 100% simple food round here, but I share this household with three other people, and while I could be dictatorial or preachy about the food they choose, it doesn’t serve (because I’ve tried that). Instead, the meals that I control are simple food. The food that I buy is simple food. I encourage simple food choices at the store, but sometimes convenience wins – a lunch that can be thrown together in 5 minutes trumps my simple food.

    Your breakfast sounded perfect. Think I’ll go have some of the same.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I know exactly what you mean. Our kids are gone now but despite the fact that we spend so much effort promoting real food they’d eat outrageous chemically-soaked junk food (Cheetos, for example). They’ve both gotten much better now. My daughter is a vegetarian who is careful about her diet and my son, while not as careful, isn’t living off junk food like he did in college. There was a time in my life when I ate like that too. Hopefully your example will lead them to a better diet someday too.

      Like

  8. valbjerke says:

    That strawberry milkshake sounds like perhaps you could build a bomb with it 😳
    My breakfast – Creole cream cheese I made with the milk from our Jersey – topped with straight cream, again from the Jersey. I’m glad we don’t eat out.

    Like

  9. Laura says:

    Try reading the container for bread crumbs some time. There are about 100. Crazy, considering how easy it is to toast bread and put it in the food processor. I’m all about simple food, just tastes so much better, especially fresh from the garden.

    Like

  10. EllaDee says:

    It’s sad. Macca’s… as it’s referred to in Australia made itself part of our culture via its insidious marketing and products… all care [for profit and some charity efforts as a sweetener] and no responsibility. We rarely eat it but the G.O. has a lingering affection, from his younger days, for a Big Mac. How do I tell him that this treat is an even bigger piece of crap that he already realizes. It’s a sign of the sad times that our true treats are the authentic foods we buy from the farmers market.
    Natural flavour added to butter?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You make a great point. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s almost all of our meals were natural whole foods. Every now and then (only a few times a year) we’d eat fast food as a “treat.” Now it seems to be the other way around. Junk food is the norm and real food from the farmers market is the treat.

      I have absolutely no idea what the “natural flavor” is in the butter or why it’s there. I was surprised to see that too. Butter already has it’s own natural flavor. Just shows that you have to look at every label. Cherie bought a jar of roasted unsalted peanuts as a snack food for us not long ago and when we looked at the ingredients we found that it had MSG in it. What the…???

      Like

  11. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Don’t get me wrong, ’cause this obviously is not the main event here… But, I can’t help but wonder, what “natural flavourings” would they be adding to your butter – other than salt to preserve it?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m chuckling at how many people commented on that. Beats the heck out of me. The box the butter came in says it contains (in large print) “Unsalted Butter.” So one might expect there is nothing in there but butter. When typing this post I checked the box just to verify that it was nothing but butter and discovered that it also had “natural flavoring.” That could be anything, of course.

      Like

  12. ain"t for city gals says:

    Hmmmm….had to check my butter label. I buy the organic butter from Trader Joe’s…it does not have natural flavors as an ingredient…..just organic sweet cream but also lactic acid….which I will check on. Our favorite place to eat is LaPasoda in Winslow Az….it is a beautifully restored train depot…returned to its former glory. Their restaurant is superb….but expensive….all from local and organic food. Since we have started doing all our vegetable and fruit shopping at our little farmer’s market my food now tastes like LaPosada but way less expensive…..When I serve dinner to my husband I say “LaPosada worthy…that will be $50 please.”….We always laugh….plus the wine isn’t $10 a glass either!….

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks to the farmers market you can have gourmet meals at home. 🙂

      I know what you mean. The other night we had a salad of microgreens, heirloom cherry tomatoes and a homemade zucchini dressing. The main course included fingerling potatoes and freshly picked wild mushrooms. We grew all the food. We laughed too about how much a meal like that would cost at a restaurant.

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  13. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Just a little light reading material about food additives… Bon appétit!
    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.22

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That definition of “natural flavor” is broad enough to include castoreum. But that is nothing natural about using beaver secretions to create vanilla and raspberry flavoring.

      Like

  14. Zucchini dressing? Hmmm, of the thousand ways with zucchini I’ve never come across this. Mind sharing? I assume it has less than 5 ingredients and that I can pronounce all of them 😉

    Like

  15. avwalters says:

    It’s twofold. One, simple ingredients. If that’s too difficult, put a syllable limit on the ingredients. Food “technology” just cannot abide by a syllable limit.

    Like

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