Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Un-Food For Thought
Not all food items that I find weird are rare, in fact some are as ubiquitous as rain in Vancouver, or as Jell-O.
The most popular of all branded desserts gives me the willies, and it's not just because it jiggles like an octogenarian's man-boobies.
Naturally-occurring gelatine has been used in savoury and unsettling things like calf's-foot aspic to torture Polish kids for a very long time. Sometime during the Victorian era, the servants of the very wealthy began to process sheets of gelatine and sweeten them to come up with a dessert form of the jelly of yore.
After some time an american named Peter Cooper powdered gelatine and patented it, but the idea stayed out of the market for over 50 years until clever marketing and timing brought the instant to the masses. The yummy fruit flavourings and quick preparation made people too happy to think about what the new great American dessert really was . And is.
Jell-o starts off as a big pile of pig and cow bones, skin, connective tissues and other selected offal. The mix is ground together and mixed up. The mess is then "treated" with a strong acid or base like Lye to break apart cell structures and make it easier to coax the valuable collagen away from the byproducts. The mishmash is then furiously boiled and the collagen is scraped from the surface of the enormous kettles.
The skim is boiled and filtered several more times, finally dried and then ground into a fine powder. Afterwards, sugar and food colouring are added and the end product is shipped all over the globe in signature white boxes.
Now, I know what some may be thinking. You guys figure that since I'm veg, I'm going to be biased against a meat product. Well, not exactly. According to the USDA, gelatine is so heavily chemically processed and manipulated, it isn't even an animal product at all. The Kraft Company likes people to think that gelatine came from some magical space dude or Bill Cosby and people eat it up. Some vegetarians even consume it. But rabbinical and halal authorities DO consider it to be critter and the "K" featured on some American boxes of Jell-O is unauthorized as the product does derive from pigs. So, the company is lying to the consumer by trying to convince folks that their dessert is both vegetarian and kosher, and it is neither. It also isn't a great nutritional source as they advertise it to be.
What disgusts me is not just the lying and the manipulation of the USDA, but chemically processing anything - be it flesh or fauna- to such an end that it becomes an abomination. Agar is not nearly as manipulated and even sets better. It is also a digestive and contains fiber as well as iodine. The problem with the ancient asian gelatine is price- farmers will get rid of offal for next-to-zero and you actually have to cultivate seaweed.
Personally I'd rather spend an extra 50 cents than think about the guy whose job it is to grind up pig heads and play with harsh chemicals.
Sometimes when we think about what is in what we eat, it is nauseating. And there are usually a multitude of reasons why. If you had to kill an animal and then grind and boil the pig's remains, would you be thinking dessert?
Put that in your pot.
Posted by Michel-Exildas Galipeau at 20:29