Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Would You Dare Keep Butter From Paula Deen?

In my quest to go green and live a healthier life, the way I look at food has changed substantially. I was the girl who cried at McDonald’s because they wouldn’t make me a hamburger for breakfast (they eventually did, by the way) and now I’m the woman who eats a vegan diet of mostly raw, organic food I lovingly prepare myself.

I encourage you to take a step back from the way you think about food . . . and question everything from your new perspective. Questions can be really shallow (How did a seedless cucumber get its name when it clearly has seeds?) or really deep (When did artificial start passing as authentic?) but the point is:

You’ve got to start asking questions, listening to the answers you get, and then making great-for-you changes.

Big companies and big groups (think grain, meat, and dairy industries) with big budgets have used big (aggressive) marketing campaigns for years to get us to eat their products. We see the ads, hear their claims, and blindly believe them. And, without asking questions or even reading the labels, we invite their products into our homes and into our bodies.

It seems unthinkable . . . but think again.

Almost worse than the ads (although by a slim margin) are today’s celebrity television chefs. Just for kicks, I like to watch The Food Network on occasion to see what their “experts” have to say. A good friend of mine—who just happens to be a great chef—believes Paula Deen is nothing short of a criminal. She feels, and I agree, that all television chefs have an obligation to demonstrate healthy cooking.

You can (and should!) splurge from time to time, but celebrity television chefs need to take accountability for their influential status. Their recipes, for the most part, should come with a disclaimer—or, at least, the chefs should have to share the calories, fat grams, and sodium content per serving for each of the items they encourage us to make along with them. Would that piece of chocolate cake look nearly as good if you knew it contained more than your daily recommended allowance for just about everything?

Perhaps “Death By Chocolate” is a literal name?

During our current epidemic of overweight and obese Americans, giggling as you toss in handfuls of salt or add sticks of butter is criminal. All you have to do is take one look at Paula Deen or Mario Batali or Ina Garten or Emeril Lagasse or Tyler Florence or Guy Fieri or Duff Goldman (or, it seems, a good percentage of the Food Network on-air staff) and you’ll see just what all that salt and butter will do to a body.

I’m sure these chefs would say they’re not forcing us to cook this way. They’re right! But even they have to admit that seeing chefs cook high-calorie, sodium-rich, fatty foods day in and day out somehow seduces us into thinking it’s okay to cook every meal with such frivolous use of the items we should be using sparingly, if at all.

And then there’s the “expert” advice . . .

I was watching an episode of 30-Minute Meals yesterday while I did my green exercise routine (which I blogged about earlier). During the show—and, don’t ever forget, it is a show—Rachael Ray mixed together her version of sweet and sour sauce out of conventional ketchup, yellow mustard, soy sauce, and light brown sugar. As she blended everything together, she said something along the lines of, “Making this yourself is so much better than store-bought sweet and sour sauce because this doesn’t have corn syrup.”

I was so stunned, I literally stopped working out for a minute, trying to digest (excuse the pun) what I’d heard.

First of all, mixing together ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and brown sugar isn’t really making anything yourself. It’s like hanging a curtain and saying you made your window treatments.

Second—and this is the frustrating part—ketchup and some yellow mustards are loaded with corn syrup.

Where’s the “expert” in that advice?

Here’s a suggestion: Get your cooking inspiration and authentically expert advice not from a television commercial, magazine ad, government recommendation, or celebrity chef. Go to your Farmer’s Market or health food store instead and find a veritable cornucopia of local, healthy, naturally delicious (read: totally green) items.

Then later, when you’re whipping up your feast back at home, remember to hold the salt . . . and the butter . . . and possibly even the cooking altogether. You won’t believe how great you can feel when you increase your intake of raw food.

I promise: It's advice you can trust.

Question of the blog: How different do you think you’d eat if you never saw a “food” commercial or celebrity cooking show or if the grain, meat, and dairy industries didn’t have so much influence in Washington?


Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion, I don't think you should put people down for the way they look. Perhaps people in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

Kristyn said...

Dear "Anonymous,"

There is an obesity epidemic in this country and perhaps a few glass houses need to be shattered to get people to wake up.

We tip toe around, being politically correct, and ignoring serious health risks that cost millions of lives and billions of dollars per year. You don’t have a problem with THAT?


Jo said...

I don’t think you’re throwing stones at all. In fact, there's a new Food Network personality you need to add to your list of “salt bodies”: Did you see Anne Burrell in “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef”? I saw this new show recently and Anne was making mashed garlic potatoes. Into a small pot of water, she threw in three fistfuls of salt, saying nonchalantly that salt “makes everybody taste better.” If she didn’t add the salt, she said, her potatoes wouldn’t taste of anything. Interesting, considering they COULD taste of potatoes, or the garlic she added, or the obscene amounts of heavy cream and butter she used. By the way, Anne threw in a fourth fistful of salt to “finish them off.” I wonder if she meant, finish US off? Disgusting.