Gardening can be a hobby, in my family it was a competition amongst the men. It ‘inspired’ my father to grow an apple tree that had branches of yellow apples, green apples and several varieties of red apples off the same trunk. Uncle Nino had the biggest zucchini and this was before nuclear Miracle Grow, his fertilizer was his well-kept secret. Who grew the hottest pepper? My mother’s father ALWAYS won that one, maybe because he loved hot pepper and put it like a veil over his pasta, he could handle heat when the rest of the men were left chocking and crying, a scene us kids watched with absolute joy as the men clowned it up. My father loved going fishing for Blue Fish in the fall, they put up a good fight and they had teeth! Yikes, how hard must it be to take the hook out of their mouth? The fish bones were thrown into the garden where the eggplant, or was it the rhubarb, was going to be planted. Funny thing: when the snow melted it was a hard to explain to my friends why the garden had little rows of what appeared to be baby teeth poking through. Between that and the freaky apple tree I learned to be a creative storyteller and to give a pretty good pitch at a young age.
As an advocate against some of the practices of industrialized food in the US for a very long time I became an organic consumer when it was a very small niche market in very small health food stores. It takes work to be an informed consumer and passing on that information can create public response to make change, and that is my purpose.
There has been public outcry over a few things that have recently come to light, but have been in practice a very long time; the public response of boycotting is creating change: Starbucks stopped using red coloring made from beetles and at least four facilities that washed food with ammonia were closed last year.
1- Starbucks used bugs for red coloring in their milk shakes.
Most red food coloring comes from ground beetles. This includes cosmetics as well as foods. The alternative Red Dye #40 is made from coal, kosher foods use this one, I guess bugs just ‘aren’t Kosher’.
2- Pink Slime: Ammonia rinsed beef byproducts (things you wouldn’t knowingly eat) and fat and parts that need antibacterial rinse from decay are used as filler to add to the profit margin of beef. Think cheap hamburgers, processed cold cuts, hot dogs. As stated on several national news broadcasts and publications the only way to avoid pink slime completely is to eat organic beef products.
“Ammonia’s not an unusual product to find added to food, we use ammonia in all kinds of foods in the food industry.” Gary Acuff director of Texas A&M University’s Center for Food Safety announced at a press conference.
My belief is that the ‘trendy’ diagnosis of gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease coincides with some of the changes made to the processing of wheat, barley and rye and the hormones added to dairy cows to extend their production to far beyond what is natural. Now I see a new culprit to add to the mix: Ammonia was allowed to be used by the U.S. health officials nearly 40 years ago and is used in making cheese, baked goods and even chocolate products.
Although Kraft/Nabisco Foods Inc., are all foods avoided by gluten, dairy, sugar free consumers, they declined to specify which of their products uses small amounts of ammonium compounds, but did admit to their inclusion. Their product list is on every aisle in American supermarkets, if you are shopping for a ‘mixed household’ and include gluten or dairy and sugar products for some of your gang you should be informed:
Feeling like an alien on my own planet when I first started eating gluten and dairy free, I have come to realize that ‘what we eat is better’ and this is my motto when newcomers ask my advice. As daunting as the learning process is, there is a food revolution that is proving the importance of the Internet as an information highway. Do not believe everything you read, back it up with research, and most importantly of all: know your own body, that is your primary responsibility, learn to feel your instinct for survival, it is what your brain is programmed for. Once you are in touch with that inner voice, trust your instinct, when you have hives or a problem with breathing you KNOW what triggered that reaction. I think we all know that ammonia’s not good for us, that smell when you open the bottle doesn’t need a skull and crossbones for your brain to register: keep it away from my mouth.
The sooner you adjust to a real food diet the better your pallet will come to recognize the flavor that is ‘off’ in unnatural foods. The sooner you eat foods grown and harvested closer to your kitchen the more adapt at picking ripe fruit and vegetables that are peaking in flavor instead of those ripened in a warehouse. The more ‘real’ your food the better the chance you have of getting a healthy appetite and a gut feeling about what to avoid. In fact, the bloated gut is a signature of gluten intolerance, but more on that in the next blog.