Friday, April 2, 2010

food taboos

I don't necessarily mean taboos held and followed by societies or religious groups (i.e. taboos against eating cats, dogs, other humans). I mean foods that you don't eat for more personal reasons, I suppose.

Okay, maybe I'm just talking about diet.

I find certain diet restrictions interesting because we don't always know what is in our food.

I first starting thinking about this in relation to sober alcoholics. It's easy enough to know not to drink a glass or wine or a Cosmopolitan. But, what if you're out for dinner (at a restaurant or at someone else's home...wherever): What if you order tiramisu and you don't realize that it might be made with rum or a coffee-flavored liqueur? What if you order a chicken dish and your chicken has a wine sauce? Or, what if you catch a cold and might want to take some big brand cough syrup [just an example -- you have to click on "ingredients" to see where alcohol is listed]? What if you think, "Hey, non-alcoholic beer. I can still have beer." Well, maybe not.

Also, I've been thinking about vegans and vegetarians. No marshmallows or other gelatin-containing food. Better check the label for carmine.

What I've been thinking about most recently, though, is: What about "foods" or additives that just sound wrong? I am planning to make some coconut muffins because Cardo likes those and I thought I might use coconut extract. (I wasn't sure if there was such a thing, but I'm pretty sure my mom had some when we were growing up. She had just about every kind of extract I could imagine.) I couldn't find any real coconut extract at the store. I did find imitation coconut extract, though. I could not bring myself to buy it. First, there was absolutely no "coconut" listed in the ingredients. Also, propylene glycol was listed. What is that? It sounded too sketchy to me, so I didn't buy it.

I looked it up, on this here interweb, and I find that propylene glycol is one of those magical substances used to make antifreeze, deicing solutions and polyester compounds. According to this 1997 article/pamphlet (I don't know why it's so old), propylene glycol has been "'generally recognized as safe' for use in food" by the FDA (same source as the link). Um, no thanks.

So, I don't only eat pure, whole foods. I'm working on it, but I do still eat some processed foods. In fact, I have hot chocolate with mini marshmallows* (hello, gelatin) almost nightly. I wonder how much other scary crap I eat? In the last five or so years, we've inspected food labels much more closely, but I'm still learning all sorts of fun (read: scary) new information.


* I'm weirdly picky about my hot chocolate. I like hot chocolate made from powdered mix and boiling water. I've tried making it with steamed milk and melted chocolate, but I actually don't really enjoy it. I'm weird, I know. At home, I only drink TJ's Conacado Fair Trade Hot Chocolate. However, my marshmallows are whatever mini marshmallows that happen to be on sale.