As a card carrying member of the Man Club, there are very few foods I wouldn’t stuff my face with – especially after having a few drinks. Day old burritos? No problem. Week-old General Tsao’s chicken? Just pick off the hardened rice and we’re good to go. Half-brown pears? Why not, they’re just as juicy and I don’t have to work as hard to eat ‘em.
At one point I noticed something, though. A co-worker and avid cat lover admitted that she let her cat sleep in her sink, on the counters and occasionally in a bowl. Yes, her cat’s filthy paws, that had just been in a litter box, were now in the place where the cookies for the company outing were prepared. A charming woman, I made a point to ask which dish she brought to pot lucks and never touch it.
I used to think this was odd behavior. I mean, she loves her cat so much and seems like a generally clean person (sans the cat hairs on the back of her favorite black sweater) and I’m such a snob that I won’t even give something she made a chance?
Flash forward several years and as the Dad of the house I’m essentially the garbage disposal, who’s responsible for every leftover, “there’s only one left – anyone want it?” and essentially crumbs of anything sweet that may be purchased and sit at the house while I’m gone at work. As a scavenger you learn to improvise and make due; Hot dogs on a piece of wheat bread? Why not. Mac and cheese, baked beans and broccoli in one bowl? Eat up. Half a burger? Gone. I used to plow through this stuff like I was prepping for one of many of Joey Chestnut’s titles.
That was my life until recently. I noticed the belt needed an extra notch, those “slim fit” pants were revealing male camel toe and my side profile looked like my father. I started watching what I ate and trying to get in some exercise and alas, my clothes started to fit again. I still felt sluggish, so I started re-examining what I ate.
Now, because of my job over the years I’ve been exposed to a lot of truths that get spun into “new” truths. Such as: Ethanol is a good thing. We need this bill to pass to “save jobs”. And High Fructose Corn Syrup is OK for you. Using my best judgement, I’ve usually been on the right side of these issues. When I would volunteer to hit the grocery store, I would always avoid products with high fructose corn syrup because I knew it wasn’t natural, your body can’t process it properly and there’s no way in hell I’m going to have my boys grow up with boobs.
My wife and I recently rented “King Corn” and, while it took us several months to finally watch it, showed us the exact reason why my instincts were right – high fructose corn syrup, while a cheap sugar substitute, is basically poison. I had no idea the depth to which corn was produced to support live stock and numerous industries, so that part was quite shocking to me.
A few days later I cued up “Food, Inc.” on Netflix. As some material was redundant with “King Corn”, this documentary went through the systematic dismantling of the family farm and how the government ordered the production and subsidation of the corn industry. Family farmer are either forced to sell to multinational chemical, err, biotech, err, “food”, companies, and those that stay in business are aligned with one of four major food producers, buried in debt to meet their standards, and are producing “food” that is poisoning our bodies daily.
Both documentaries go through the basic, simple notion that cows used to be grass fed and graze but are now confined to lightless, fecal-filled sardine cans and kept alive through the use of hormones and antibiotics. Their bodies, like every other animal (including humans), can’t take living on corn full-time.
It goes a long way to explain why so many Americans are, much like the cows, chickens and pigs in both movies, suffering from heart burn, acid reflux and ulcers. Your body, and in particular your stomach, is fundamentally breaking down and can’t handle that much corn. It also explains the obesity epidemic in this country and how, like most problems, when the government and business get into bed together it’s never the “consumer” that wins.
Times, They Are A Changin’
We used to shop at the local farmer’s market, grow a small garden and pick up organic food when possible. You better believe that we’ve made the switch full time. We’re even looking into buying in on a farm as a co-op in order to guarantee fresh, sustainable vegetables, fruits and meat. One of the big arguments people have is cost. The prices actually aren’t much different from what you’d pay elsewhere and as “Food, Inc” points out, organic brands that support sustainable farming like Stoneyfield Farms are even being carried in Wal-Mart. Consumer demand is what drives this, folks, and the only way to break the cycle is to send a message with your wallet.
What’s crazy is that while we spend more on food and bring home slightly less, we’re finding that we’re not hungry all the time like we were before. I’ve lost weight and so has my wife, and it’s not because we’re wasting away due to starvation. It’s because unlike high fructose corn syrup’s empty calories our bodies are able to register when we’re full. The other piece that is huge is that I know my kids aren’t eating Frankenfood and I’m hoping my middle son will have a chance at outgrowing the numerous food allergies he’s had. You can help break the cycle for your kids at school as well by signing a petition for schools to provide healthy lunches here.
To top things off, I can’t walk down the streets of New York without thinking about how many restaurants and delis I pass that are charging an arm and a leg for serving processed foods and non-organic crap. Yes, I used to sneer at food made by cat people — but now I feel like unless I know the source I have to do it to everyone.