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Monday, 18 April 2016

Food Fairy Tales and Menus Misspeakings

I'm not exactly a gourmand; I'm a careless cook, I have low tastes, and I don't eat out all that much, (both impecunious AND a tightwad.)

But none of this is a surprise to me - and not just because I'm in state.
I have a food allergy with which to deal, and for years I've been lied to both deliberately and accidentally, by commercial establishments, friends and family members, (and that's not even counting the enormous array of food ingredients that the average person should not be expected to know is made from or would contain corn, e.g. distilled vinegar, pre-shredded cheese, Irish whisky.)

But I fear a great deal of this is brought upon trend-following diners and food snobs by themselves, desperate to be on the cutting edge, and ignorant or unheeding of easily verifiable truths just as long as they laid out enough cash for whatever it is they are ingesting.
One relative assured me a prepared dish contained nothing to which I was allergic, she'd "read the label." What she meant, I discovered that evening when my face ballooned to comical proportions, was not that she had read the ingredient list, but that she had read it was clearly marked as a product of "W#0LE FOODS," and it was only cheap places that I shopped where one needed to worry about them "putting chemicals in their food", right?
(Never mind that the entire physical world is made of "chemicals", a point her Ivy League education had failed to teach her.)
Anyway, caveant emptores, et comestores...
The restaurant’s chalkboard makes claims as you enter from the valet parking lot. At the hostess stand, a cheery board reads, “Welcome to local, farm-fresh XXXX.”
Brown butcher paper tops tables and lettuces grow along a wooden wall. In a small market case, I see canned goods from here and produce from somewhere. Check the small print: blackberries from Mexico and blueberries from California.

With the tagline “Local, simple and honest,” XXXX was among the first wave of farm-to-table restaurants in [the area] to make the assertion “we use local products whenever possible.” I’ve reviewed the food. My own words are right there on their website: “local, thoughtful and, most importantly, delicious.”
But I’ve been had, from the snapper down to the beef...
This is a story we are all being fed. A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby.
More often than not, those things are fairy tales....
If you eat food, you are being lied to every day.
The food supply chain is so vast and so complicated. It has yielded extra-virgin olive oil that is actually colored sunflower oil, Parmesan cheese bulked up with wood pulp, and a horsemeat scandal that, for a while, rendered Ikea outings Swedish meatball-free.
Everywhere you look, you see the claims: “sustainable,” “naturally raised,” “organic,” “non-GMO,” “fair trade,” “responsibly grown.” Restaurants have reached new levels of hyperbole.

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