Sunday, 1 July 2012

Barbecue-flavour camelids and more on excessive sweetness

From Liquid Life by Zigmunt Bowman: "The most sober and seasoned of counsellors advise the seekers after guidance to accommodate themselves to the inevitable: ambivalence is here to stay, they say; the joys and horrors of ingesting what the world peddles to us and seduces us into digesting are inseparable."

I know it's not long ago since I talked about the overabundance of sugar in British prepared food, but it's obviously been on experts' minds as well, according to the recent blitz of articles and TV programs on the subject. It's sugar, not salt, they say, that has made us fatter.

And here I was blaming the average British palate for this overabundance of sugar in foods that shouldn't be sweet, eg. mayonnaise, vinaigrette salad dressing, and Thai chilli prawns. But one article blamed Richard Nixon. In 1971, as Nixon was facing re-election, the rising cost of food caused him to push Earl Butz's plan to urge farmers to grow corn in order to produce lots of high-fructose corn syrup. This magical substance was not only a cheaper alternative to sugar, but it could be added to pizzas, coleslaw, and meat to improve the taste and give everything that "just baked" sheen. Even Coke started to use HFCS instead of sugar, which as a result increased the caloric content. By the mid 1970s, low fat items (read "Lite", "Slimline", "Virtually Fat-Free", et al) became popular with the assumption they would prevent both obesity and heart disease. To improve the taste of these low-fat items, sugar was added (or the amount of sugar increased), replacing the calories from fat with calories from sugar and high-fructose sweeteners.

And this is one of the reasons the obesity epidemic is growing, both in Britain and in the USA. Fortunately as a thin person I haven't gained weight as a result -- but I still can't stand the thought of what all that unnecessary sugar is doing to my blood sugar levels, my teeth, and my already hyperactive system. So it's not just a matter of taste.

Speaking of taste, while I was waiting for a bus the other day I spotted an advertisement for a new product. Llamas are new bite-sized nibbles baked in the shape of a llama. I can handle biting into disks and wheels and sticks, and I even used to enjoy Pogens ginger cookies that were in the shape of animals. But somehow a BBQ-flavoured llama just sounds wrong. What's next? Salt and vinegar camels? Cheese and onion giraffes? Ready salted goats? Nacho Cheese armadillos? Prawn warthogs? Basil and mozzarella locusts? Thai chicken maggots?

If I ever see packets of Smoky Bacon Software Engineers being sold in my local pub, I think I'll go move into a cave and live on lichen…

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