Progresso Regresso

Progresso "Clam" Chowder can - Front

(Yes, I know, a bit fuzzy and not up to my usual quality for a picture. What can I say. Early morning, bad light, no coffee, and some, er, ‘intestinal distractions’… I may replace it with a better picture later).

Prgresso Screws the Pooch (or Haddock)…

For years I’ve eaten Progresso soups (especially their Clam Chowder). They had been good and ‘clean’ soups. Reading the label typically looked like what I would put in soup in the kitchen. Clam chowder would be things like: Clams, Milk, Potatoes, onions, butter, Salt, Pepper, … So I didn’t think much about it when the label on the front had changed just a bit. Yeah, a ‘facelift’. “Progresso” was written a bit smaller. A bit more color. The fine word “Traditional” oozing soothing comfort. A very prominent “Gluten Free” (so who in their right mind would be putting wheat in clam chowder anyway?). As one friend is Gluten intolerant and I’m fond of Clam Chowder, a half dozen cans went into the cart….

But no more.

OK, so they have hired a “new kid” who’s not a cook, but a “food scientist”.

IMHO, what has likely happened is they got big enough that using Grandma’s recipes on a large scale with only minor modifications for canning lost it’s charm. At some point a growing company hires a “food scientist” and suddenly the label starts to look like a page from Doctor Frankensteins Notebook. In this case, they sold out in about 1996 and it’s taken the purchaser a while to get around to screwing with the products.

This link:

http://www.progressosoup.com/progresso-soup-story.aspx confirms it as a family operation that got sold to Pillsbury in 1996, that then merged with General Mills in 2001. Guess they finally got around to buggering the product.

I’m going to try a couple of other stores and see if the ‘old soup’ is still lurking on some shelf, but it’s been a few months since I bought any, so most likely the whole inventory has turned over.

What’s on the new label? Plenty of stuff that is not “clams”…

Progresso "Clam" Chowder can - back side

Now, the big deal for me is that “corn protein (hydrolyzed)” down near the bottom of the ingredient list. I ‘have an issue” with corn. (Lets just say I’ll never need to buy Exlax again…)

So having read the Progresso Label for years, and always being pleased. I let my guard down. When? Who knows. A year ago? Just last week? Doesn’t really matter. We ate the soup, and a few hours later I’m “in the little room”.

But wait! There’s More!

The spouse has a different food allergy to a particular shell fish. (No, not clams, and not listed on the label). And SHE has a reaction. Now both of us had fairly mild forms of our reaction. That indicates the percentages are very low. But still “an issue”.

So I went to read the labels on everything we had eaten in the last 48 hours (that was mostly all home made from scratch so nothing to read… part of WHY I cook so much from scratch.) And ran right into a FrankenFoods Label.

Can anyone tell me what idiot would think CLAM chowder ought to be made with Soy, Lobster, Shrimp, Crab, Tuna, Cod, Blue Whiting, Haddock, Pollock, Halibut, AND Redfish?

Yeah, I know, it’s buried in the “fish powder”.

But that just means they took the floor sweepings (metaphorically speaking) of the fish packing industry, tossed it all in a vat, and after cooking and macerating, blew it out a nozzle to powder it. It’s still in there.

And none too cleanly, either. The spouse is NOT allergic to any of the listed species, but is horridly allergic (as in hospitalization scale) to a non-listed species. My best guess is that there were traces of that other mollusk in the system somewhere. Just enough that a single diphenhydramine cured the minor symptoms of throat scratch / tightness.

Freeze Dried, Cooked, Canned, Mystery Meats

OK, I know I’m going to be eating canned soup when I buy canned soup. I got that. But I don’t expect to be eating freeze dried soup when I buy canned soup. (the taste is different). So this lead me looking more closely at the rest of the label. What does it say about the “new” processing?

They have moved to blending up a lot of dried ingredients and calling it soup. They have gone to a lot of “cheapened” ingredients to avoid using real quality products.

Down the List:

Clam Broth. Fine with that.

Potatoes. Fine with that too, though in the #2 position it means we’re really getting clam flavored potato soup, not Clam Chowder. But all the canned stuff is like that. If I want real Clam Chowder, I make my own. Recipe is trivial: Clams (in broth), milk, onions sauteed in butter, salt, pepper, potatoes and / or a small bit of peas as I feel like it – but always less than the clams.)

Clams. Hey, in the #3 spot! Good! Decent level of clams. Now just put in some milk, butter, salt, pepper, maybe a bit of herbs and call it done! But no…

Soybean Oil: OK, I know soybeans are dirt cheap. But a lot of folks are allergic to them (like my niece – so she can’t eat this soup either…). And WHY put soybean oil in clam chowder? Because we’ve not run into “milk” yet. They are cheapening the product by substituting SOY fat for MILK fat. Maybe you won’t notice that it doesn’t have that buttery flavor.. or they can add a load of chemicals to simulate it… At any rate, when Soy is in #4 position, you have a problem. (Things are listed in order of concentration). I’m not thrilled at the idea that I’m mostly eating a can of potato water and soy oil with some clams to flavor it.

Water: Speaking of water… At #5 in addition to the water in the clam broth is more water. So we’re working our way up to a nice can of oily water with flavorings. There is never, ever, any reason to add water to CHOWDER. Most of the time you are trying to get it out to thicken the stuff or absorbed into a starch to thicken.

Modified Food Starch: Oh. That’s why we have the water. So the food starch can jell up and make a ‘white sauce’ of sorts. (Note that it does not say WHAT food starch. Corn? I hope not, but who knows. Now when I make chowder, I use potatoes for the starch, but that’s just me…)

So at this point we have a nice can of starchy oily water with some clams in it. But darned near no flavor. Guess that at this point they figured they would need to fix that. So it’s “off to the lab”.

Onions: Hip Hip Hurrah! A real ingredient. I sometimes put onions in my chowders too. “Without onions there would be cooking, but no cuisine”…

Then the dreaded “Less than 1% list”. Where lurks both spices and daemons. The things they add to fix bad ideas and lousy ingredients, and the things that add the spice of life. The things that tell you how the cook thinks. When you see “spices” and nothing else, it’s a pretty good sign (though it would be better if they listed what those spices were for those of us with allergy issues…)

Soy Protein Concentrate. Oh YUK! Not only have you lost all the soy allergic folks, but given cross reactions between the legumes you are likely to have some folks with other bean allergies having mild responses. And for what? Something to make it taste like there is real milk in it or more clams than really present?

Sugar. In chowder? Has to be there to fix a deficit in the ingredients they did use. Maybe the complete lack of Lactose due to not using milk? CLUE: Use Milk. There, now they have a clue…

Salt: OK. About the right place.

Cream and Butter: LESS of them than there is salt? Oh come off it. You are waving a bottle of milk near the can so you can put it on the label. That’s just legal fraud. You have soy oil / water emulsion with sugar in it, not milk, in the can. Man up and admit it. You have “plastic milk” as your soup base.

Sodium Phosphate: Added to control texture and flavor a bit. Makes canned milk keep better IIRC. OK, a necessary evil in most canned milk products. But you don’t really have any milk in the can… is it needed in Soy Emulsion too?

Potassium Chloride: Non-salt salt. No idea why… Perhaps so they can get the “sodium’ level down below some PC point for folks in the Salt Nazis to leave them alone?

Artificial Color? It’s CLAM CHOWDER fer crying out loud. It’s WHITE. All I can figure is they needed to make soy / oil emulsion look like milk instead of soy oil emulsion…

DATEM. What the hell is DATEM?

DATEM, (Diacetyl Tartaric (Acid) Ester of Monoglyceride) is an emulsifier primarily used in baking. It is used to strengthen the dough by building a strong …

Oh… something to turn the soy oil and water into a milk analog while toughening it up so it feels creamy instead of like oily water. Welcome to Dr. Frankensteins Laboratory…

News Flash: THAT is not a “Traditional” clam chowder…

OK, that’s the bulk of the rant. The rest of the list is an odd mix of things that just don’t belong being used to jack up the (missing) flavor and some proper spices (but all as dried ingredients… I’ve nothing against dried and use them often, but fresh is always better. And if you are canning a million tons of something you OUGHT to be able to get truckloads of fresh ingredients delivered…) So I’ll list them, but with minor comments, and not in order but in groups.

Lobster Powder, Shrimp, Crab Powder, Fish Powder, Tuna Extract. What ARE you thinking? I know, I know. You’ve got to do something to cover up the low level of clams used and the funky flavor of soy oil / water emulsion. But My God Man, are you TRYING to hit every possible sea food allergy in one go?

I’ve got a news flash for you: Allergies are SPECIES SPECIFIC. A friend can not eat abalone. All other shell fish are fine. Another can’t eat scallops, all others are fine. Another has an issue with shrimp, but not crabs. Get it? You are excluding every possible person with a sea food allergy of any kind from buying your product. (The abalone friend read the label and said “not going to risk it – too much mixing going on” ).

Oh, and those things are NOT CLAMS. If I want Lobster Bisque, I’ll buy Lobster Bisque. When I want Clam Chowder I want CLAM CHOWDER. (My god, you’d think clams were as rare as gold… )

Parsley, Celery: Fine. Nice touches in chowders. But DRIED? Look, parsley and celery are available year round now. And you use nearly none of it per can. Dump the Franken Fish, put in some real milk and more clams, and use fresh herbs. Add a dime to price of the can and we’re good.

Spice: Ah yes, the generic “spice” that hides seasoning secrets AND abuses. I’d guess your “spice” is MSG or something like that… not pepper or a real spice. Why? Because the rest of your label has made me paranoid. I now KNOW you have a FrankenFoods Fetish. So at this point I’m assuming the worst.

Yeast Extract, Corn Protein (Hydrolyzed): Added to improve the flavor of things that are dull and lifeless, like Soy Oil Emulsion. Drop them, put the milk back in.

Whey: A cheap product from butter making that is often fed to cows. Why is it there? Probably so you can put “MILK” in the warning list following the word “Contains”. Lord knows there isn’t any milk anywhere else in the ingredients. Yeah, you have “Cream” listed. Less than you have Salt. So what, two drops? Three?

In Conclusion

So this is why it takes me 5 hours to do the grocery shopping and why I buy 4 dozen cans of something at a time. Because I have to read Every Single Label – Every Single Time. Because somewhere out there is Dr. FrankenFoods working to turn a fine old family recipe for a decent honest product into a Recipe From Hell that will make me and mine sick.

Congratulations, General Mills, you’ve succeeded.

Consequences:

There are a variety of ‘follow on’ consequences from this kind of event.

First off, since I now know that Dr. FrankenFoods is working on the Progresso Line EVERY SINGLE PROGRESSO SOUP is now CONTRABAND unless I’ve read the label and assure that it’s not a problem by eating it (since the label failed to predict the spousal reaction). So I’m shopping for a new brand…

(And it’s not just me. My spouse has told her sister, and her daughter who is allergic to soy. I’ve shown the can to my abalone friend. Offered him the half dozen cans for free, even. He declined due to the risk… And they will tell their friends… Of 7 folks in my home last night, only 2 would be able to eat it. My daughter and her SO. The “abalone friend”, me, my spouse, her sister and her sisters daughter could not. Each for a different reason. But my daughter doesn’t like clams and her SO is a vegetarian. So ZERO of us can / will eat the product.)

Since the spouse reacted, and her species was not on the list, I now get to add “fish powder” to the ‘problem ingredients’. Clearly either the folks making it are sloppy about perfection in cleaning, or about exactly which shell fish guts where what, or whatever. I can’t trust them in any case. (Yes, it could have been an alien in the clams or clam broth, but I doubt it… never had a problem with any other clam chowder before. What’s changed is the “fish powder”.)

Further: Since many restaurants no longer actually cook anything, they just “open the can and heat” or “microwave the TV dinner entre” I now get to play “20 Questions” with any restaurant that has “Clam Chowder” on the menu?

Is it Progresso brand or house made?

Does it contain “corn” in any form? “Fish Powder”?

etc. etc. Which means I’ll probably not bother to order clam chowder at any restaurant (unless I eat there often and I’m willing to put in the time to find out if they actually make it…)

Further, the same now goes for the spouse. Since she can no longer depend on the label to indicate what’s really in the can, she’ll not be ordering ‘fish soups’ either.

Now that means that when we want some (which we love) I’ll most likely be making it. Since I can do this easily with a hot plate, pot, can of clams, milk and potatoes; odds are we’ll just eat in the hotel room and not bother going to the restaurant at all. (At least when we want chowder).

So much damage from so little gain. Is it REALLY that hard to just use milk and clams in clam chowder?

Postscript on Allergies

For folks without allergies, you are most likely thinking “Glad I’m normal”.

What you don’t know is that allergies means we have an added immunoglobulin – igE. What igE does is give us a fast response / hyper response to foreign proteins. This confers, at a minimum, better resistance to parasites. It may also help with second exposures to some non-parasitic diseases. We trade comfort for survival. Not so important in a world of antibiotics and modern medicine; very valuable in a primitive world of little bugs trying to eat you…

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this Faustian Bargain. At the end of the day, I think I’d rather have the hyper immune response and the occasional food allergy or watery eyes. I’ve had various illnesses that I just fought off with no problem, while others had Doctor Time. The spouse had a flue last year that the Doctor said was almost certainly the Swine Flue H1N1, and it was mild at worst. So we just walk through most ‘bad’ infective agents.

Our ancestors survived The Plague in Europe, the Ague (Malaria) for generations in Britain, and God only knows what other wee beasties; all with no medicines. I’m “good with that”. And if I have to visit the little room a bit more often from time to time, well, I’m happy to know I can probably eat raw fish that was not handled right and the worms will end up in the pot, not living in me…

So it’s a bit of a burden, having a hair trigger immune system that goes “crazy open loop” on things. But it will be very much a feature as the antibiotic resistance genes circulating today become more widespread in bacteria…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to Progresso Regresso

  1. George says:

    “Congratulations, General Mills, you’ve succeeded.”

    So now I am confused. Is it General Mills or General Foods?

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Sorry, my error. In typing about the merger story I put “foods” where it ought to have been “mills”. General Foods ceased to exist in 1990 or so when it was mergered with Kraft by Altria (aka Phillip Morris) and in 1995 they dropped the “General Foods” name.

    As you can see on the ‘back of the can’ lable, it says “General Mills”.

    What can I say. I associate General Mills with cereal and General Foods with non-cereal foods (from days gone by) and that flashback went to the fingers when typing about merger…

    But I’ve fixed it now…

  3. Verity Jones says:

    Hope you feel back to normal soon (I assume spouse is better after the antihistamine).

    I’ve worked out I have a slight problem with shrimps and prawns – sometimes. I like them too much to avoid them altogether and several times I’ve had them I’ve been sure they’ve been fresh etc. but still had a problem. At other times no problem whatsoever. It never goes much further than mild stomach pain, intestinal discomfort and its consequences (!). Hmm, never actually thought of it as an ‘allergy’. Thought I’d grown out of them.

  4. Verity Jones says:

    Mean to say ‘good post’ too!

    I did wonder about the ‘intestinal distractions’ in the second line. I was thinking “Huh? isn’t that a bit more information than we needed?”….

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Verity: Yes, fine now.

    It’s also possible that you are reacting to something the shrimp ate… In Asia a formaldehyde based food pellet coating is allowed on fish pellets. So an imported shellfish from there might well have some in it. Wild shrimp may have issues with various toxins in the stuff they are eating (red tide anyone?…)

    I suspect that the spouses reaction was due to the fish eating some of the mollusk that causes her a reaction. Then they take the ‘fish guts’ and turn them into ‘fish powder’ (what, you didn’t think they would use prime fillet of fish for that, did you?… ;-) and viola, a non-ingredient in the ingredients…

    You are what you eat, AND, what THEY ate…

    And we’re all better now. It had the classical ‘food poisoning’ profile of a 24 hour total from start to “end”…

    And it wasn’t TMI, it was a valuable metric as to the severity… and consequences…

    FWIW, I first had the “fish powder” or “fish meal” flag go up on the “catfood” posting. That was the ingredient that was causing the cat problems… Just never occurred to me that it would end up in people food too.

    At any rate: You now know what to watch for on the labels… and why.

  6. dearieme says:

    “TRYING to hit every possible sea food allergy in one go?”

    Exactly. I could eat that soup but my wife and daughter couldn’t (lobster), nor could my father have eaten it (crab). How brilliant of them.

  7. John F. Hultquist says:

    In the years before personnel computers and the internet a funny story circulated typed on a typewriter and passed hand to hand that told of a letter sent by a coffee bean roaster to the shipper. It seems the bags contained a number of things in addition to coffee beans – lint, dirt, small stones, mice droppings, and some unknowns. The roaster wrote and asked the shipper if it would be possible to ship all the items separately so they could be mixed as desired.
    Maybe that would work in this case for the dried flavorings and many of the other ingredients could be omitted also, such as, sugar, salt, food starch –or added to the dry pouch. Further, for a can of soup such as this I frequently add a can of clams (or 2) as I’m not fond of potato soup; then add some milk and a bit of appropriate vegetable left over from earlier.

    Now then, tell me this: Why do cans labeled as “Pork and Beans” on the front contain only a couple of odd shaped chunks of pork fat with no meat?

    I suppose the same answer applies to the flower seed packet that shows a beautifully blooming plant when there are only small seeds inside.

  8. Rob R says:

    As Billy Connelly once said the lobster would get me doing a bit of talking to “Huey and Ralph”.

  9. Malaga View says:

    I really enjoyed that… makes me feel almost human… and glad to know I am not the only one reading labels in the supermarket while I mutter WTF is this doing in the ingredients list… especially as I know my body will later react and say WTF have you eaten FFS.

    / RANT

    I am always looking at labels… reading… thinking…

    Where have they hidden the additives: Acids, Acidity regulators, Anticaking agents, Antifoaming agents, Antioxidants, Bulking agents, Food coloring, Color retention agents, Emulsifiers, Flavors, Flavor enhancers, Flour treatment agents, Glazing agents, Humectants, Tracer gas, Preservatives, Stabilizers, Sweeteners, Thickeners… see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_additive

    How they have managed to get EXTRA hidden water into the product like they do with meat by injecting it with proteins and then tumbling it in water… so your chicken breast (or whatever meat you buy) could be pumped full of pork protein or rendered BSE beef protein or fish protein or god knows what protein has been added in other country… see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumping and http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/enhancedmeat.html

    And when I travel to the USA or UK (or buy their food products) I am always looking for where have they have hidden the BLEACH… usually its hidden in the cheap grey flour they use… yes I said BLEACH… the stuff you pour down your drains and toilet… the stuff that kills 99% of household germs plus my anal sphincter. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_bleaching_agent and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleach

    / END RANT

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View: Once upon a time Lysol had an avert… that said “Kills 99.9% of “Common household Germs” and showed some wriggling things with long tails and bloody large heads…

    And my home town apothecary called them on it….

    It was Human Sperm what they shewed in the the commercial advert it was… “Most Common Household GERM” and we all had a good laugh at it.. but the point…

    You have no idea what the loonies running the asylum are thinking…. and they are on the outside…

  11. Malaga View says:

    In the UK the Kills 99.9% of Household Germs slogan was used for the Domestos brand of bleach… just makes me wonder what all those British flour millers are getting up to if they have to add bleach to their flour… sounds like they must have some connection with British merchant bankers – see http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/slang/merchant_banker

    / RANT ON

    I also used to suffer from Trusted Brand Name syndrome until my last trip to the English supermarket which is just down the coast from me…

    The latest brand name that I don’t trust anymore is Ovaltine… the powder used for making hot drinks… that good old tradition wholesome recipe invented by a Swiss chemist in 1904… the drink served to athletes at the 1932 Olympics… the drink Sir Edmund Hilary used when climbing Everest in 1953.

    Now the uniformly branded Ovaltine product range includes Ovaltine Original – see http://www.ovaltine.co.uk/ImageResizeCache/4c8c21aeb807c5de0cc6cbd6f9159660.jpg and there is Ovaltine Original Light – see http://www.ovaltine.co.uk/ImageResizeCache/4c8c21aeb807c5de0cc6cbd6f9159660.jpg

    I have no idea if Ovaltine Original uses the actual original recipe… but I do know that Ovaltine Original Light is a hideous concoction that I really do not want to ingest because it contains: Stabilisers (E340, E341), Sweetener (Acesulfame K), Anti-Caking Agent (E551) and Flavouring.

    Now to my problems with Ovaltine.

    Firstly, I cannot understand why any company that has been building up a wholesome brand name for over a century would wish to tarnish their image by using all those crap ingredients in one of their products… talk about shooting yourself in the foot… talk about abusing brand loyalty… think about destroying brand loyalty.

    Secondly, and this is what really bugs me, is that you can’t visually tell the difference between Ovaltine Original and Ovaltine Original Light on the supermarket shelf unless you are paying very close attention… the light designation is written in very small letters in a pale colour and is only detectable by the trained eye of a marketing executive… and I have on two occasion failed to detect the subtle packaging differences until after I have spat the offending light concoction out… and that vile artificial aftertaste just lingers on… so goodbye Ovaltine… fool me once – shame on you… fool me twice and I will avoid all Ovaltine products.

    / RANT OFF

  12. j ferguson says:

    E.M.
    I really really hope you sent a version of the above to General Mills. On human sensitivity to chemicals, I may have shared the following when we were worrying about your cats. If so, it’s still applicable.

    In the late ’50s, a friend got a summer job at International Mineral – the packagers of MSG as Accent. He had a scientific bent and found himself involved in their researchs into the question of how low a concentration of MSG could be detected by taste..

    They hired part-timers for their experiments and trained them on “with” and “without.” Then over the course of the summer using a double blind methodology they had them taste samples and indicate “with” or “without.” Not all the tasters were able to follow the concentrations as they were reduced.

    A great deal of care was taken with time-outs and “palette cleansings” although they called it something else.

    Ultimately the tasting staff was reduced to two women who couldn’t be stumped. If it was in there, they could tell and at concentrations that the scientific staff considered less than trace. I wish I knew the number but Bob says it was so unbelievable that the research group was uncomfortable sharing it with management.

    I suspect that similar sensitivities can exist with some allergies and I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the specialists have no idea. But your wife’s stomach does.

    Please, Please send a version of your notes to General Mills.

    And thanks for alerting us this new improved version of a soup I too loved.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Malaga View: A company hires a new marketing guy. They have to ‘make a name’ for themselves, somehow. When that is mixed with a new financial management guy, the result is typically a “bugger the product to cut costs”. They get their bonuses, and by the time the world catches on and stops buying, they’ve moved on to a new job at higher pay.

    The only brand they really care about is their own.

    @J Ferguson: Anyone can print out a copy and send it. Hint hint…

    There are “supertasters” that are hyper sensitive. My wife is probably one. I’ll make something, like chili or curry, that is ‘barely seasoned’ and she will ask if I can tone it down… (And it’s not just ‘hot’, it’s the spectrum of flavors). Now I’m a pretty sensitive person ( while I can eat gunpowder-chicken, I prefer to taste what I eat ;-) Kung Pao for the purists … ) and typically do not season things strongly…

    So there are things like the “soapy french fries” that I just can’t get past. Doesn’t matter how slight, even just a nibble, and I’ve got the soapy aftertaste.

    FWIW, my niece recently ran into a “light” issue. There is a growing trend for things to have “reduced sugar” on the label here. Prominently in front. What they don’t tell you unless you read ‘down in the weeds’ on the back is that they reduced the sugar alright, but added artificial sweetener.. (Aspartame I think…) Artificial sweeteners are much cheaper than sugar. The calories from the sugar in a product are nearly none anyway when compared to the rest of the meal.

    I’m not a PKU (Phenylkentonuric) but just can’t stand the stuff. If I drink an aspartame flavored soda, not only does it taste very wrong, but the crap plugs up my sugar sensors for hours. Can’t taste the sweet in a proper sugared drink after it. It’s evil. Drink one, and only IT will taste sweet… and all your food will go ‘flat’ in that the sugar components are under-registered.

    Drives me nuts that I’ve got to take the glasses with me to read the fine print on EVERYTHING now.. (I skipped the glasses and ended up in the soup last trip… Yeah, it was big enough to read without them, but since I wasn’t reading all the ones with mice-type I just skipped all the labels on that trip…)

    The other one that I’m fairly sure of is that trans-fat (hydrogenated oils) seem to plug up my fat metabolism. If I avoid them, I can eat all the fat I want and it is just fuel. I feel full quickly and stop eating, then satisfied for hours. If I eat even a few grams of transfat, I’m unable to burn fat for fuel and feel driven to eat more. Carbs, protein, whatever I can burn that gives energy. Fats just do nothing. Takes a while to get the trans-fat level low enough to start a fat burn again afterwards too. I suspect it gets started into the fat metabolizing enzymes, then the ‘kink’ is hit and the enzyme is locked up; taken out of action. You can only make enzymes so fast…

    Since we’ve gone on a strict avoidance of ALL foods with the word ‘hydrogenated’ anywhere on the label, I’ve been losing ‘pudge’ at a pretty good clip. (Though it took a few months to get going… I suspect there was a ‘body inventory’ of the stuff in the body fat that needed a while to get turned over.) So I look at the “Fat Crisis” in America and I think they’ve just got it all wrong. It’s not that we overeat. It’s not that we lack self control. It’s that we’re fed crap that plugs up our ability to use fat as fuel. So the fat just clogs everything up.

    (And I’m not bashful about using fat in foods now. Butter galore and love crispy oily fried chicken skins… and BBQ ribs with nice marbling… Still losing pudge.)

    So while I like to imagine that the “food scientists” have a clue, I’ve come to understand that they don’t. And while I don’t want to be a ‘food purity nut’, I find I’m being forced into it by those “food scientists”.

    When we eat natural ingredients without the “plastic foods” everybody does well. When I slip and eat some of the plasto-crap again, various systems “have issues” of one kind or another.

    For anyone not familiar with my position on trans-fat, a repeat of a story (short form):

    A friend had his Dad die of a heart attack. So was scrupulous about not eating ‘bad fat’ and avoided animal fats. Only used margarine (that is about 1/3 trans fat, just hideous levels). At “40 something” had a heart attack (caught early and was 2 blocks from a hospital at the time, so got a nearly instant STENT and is doing great).

    I told him my thesis (and the evidence of My Dad who ate butter and lard his whole life and had zero arterial issues). He’s been eating butter (and chicken with the skins…) for a few years now. About a dozen. Every checkup the Doc says, basically: “Great Condition. Keep up your diet just as it is.” and my friend declines to inform him that he’s not doing the diet the doctor ordered… (He did it for about a year, then gradually ‘cut over’ keeping an eye on the blood work the whole time…)

    All anecdotal. All unproven. But…

    At any rate, yeah, the tendency for brands to branch out into a dozen different things with minor trivial variations on the label to “inform” you drives me nuts too. Between the “low salt” the “low sugar” the “low fat” and the “0 Trans-Fat!” that can mean up to a gram per serving IIRC, it’s just a mess.

    It’s gotten to the point that I’m simply unwilling to buy things like canned soup as it just takes longer to figure out what I’m getting than it does to toss some vegetables and meat in a pot and let it simmer…

    Sigh.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and on the “enhanced meat” topic:

    I once or twice have accidentally bought a turkey with “basting solution” injected into it.

    Most of the folks at the table thought it was fine.

    To me it has this slightly wretched chemically taste. And the pan juices smelled a bit of over cooked “off” meats. Like they had swept up the guts and feathers and cooked it down to make the ‘protein solution’. I could barely eat the bird (and only by telling myself it was not supposed to taste like real turkey, so it was OK…)

    So now each holiday I have to scrupulously inspect the bird label for that evil word “injected”.

    I’ve taken to getting Diestel brand from Whole Foods

    http://www.diestelturkey.com/home.htm

    even though it costs more… Just because I can trust it.

    FWIW, I do a semi-traditional “larding and barding”. I make a paste of about 1/2 pound of butter and herbs that gets slid under the skin all over the place. Just heavenly…

    I don’t actually use a barding tool to insert it into the meat, though…

    Those folks who had to cook whatever was shot in the field that day were on to something …

  15. j ferguson says:

    E.M.
    Living on board and having a fridge but no freezer, we eat a lot of canned food. We augment what’s in the can with additional ingredients some canned some fresh.

    Hunts canned spaghetti sauce is available in a number of flavors, spicey and “herb and garlic” for example – which we really like. We add canned mushrooms, hormel spicey chile with beans, and either hormel or armour canned beef w/o the gravy it comes in, oregano and we have a spaghetti sauce we really like. Spouse often adds canned zuchini as well. not as good as my scratch sauce where everything is fresh except tomato sauce, but pretty good and with the two of us, one batch makes 3 night’s dinners. we do pasta fresh each night.

    Cruisers all laugh about Dinty Moore, the sort of last gasp meal that day-sailers and racers who can’t cook keep aboard.

    We add mushrooms, canned beef and a lot of curry type seasonings. Spouse makes up Thai seasoning out of the base ingredients (coriander etc.) and then we serve on rice. Again a meal that we repeat twice and then it’s all eaten.

    We grille chicken, hot italian sausage, and smithfield pork loins at maybe 3 day intervals in succession and rotation. first day eaten with sides of rice, pasta, eggplant, zuchini, onions. second and third day cut up and mixed with rice and above vegs to make what we call a perloo – see Pogo for definition.

    I love hot and sour soup. i ate a big bowl for lunch every day for 2 years at the same restaurant, lost weight, and eventually could divine which of the restaurant’s three cooks had made a particular bowl.

    So, like any other fool, off to google to see how to make it myself. I liked the looks of the recipes I found but not the time requirement to prepare all the ingredients – soaking the tree ears for example. So we bought Knorr’s dry mix, added mushrooms, corn, and vinegar and although no one would have thought it was real Hot and Sour, it was pretty good.

    After 5 years of eating this stuff every couple of weeks, Knorr dropped the product. We’ve got a substitute made by an outfit that makes all kinds of dry-mix mexican soups. It’s not as good as the Knorr was, but still pretty good.

    There are other packaged hot and sour soup mixes and the ones that look like you need to be wearing birkenstocks to make them are the most expensive and least satisfying.

    I guess the point of all this is that I can’t taste any of the problems in the stuff we buy and anything that isn’t quite there yet out of the can we fix.

    I CAN taste the aspartame in the Coke that has it and my comparison is that it tastes like a certain anatomical area smells and if I were to be more specific, i think the reference would be way too vulgar – even with polite words. you’ll think of it.

    BTW, friend came back from visit to the green zone (the Baghdad one) in 2008 with the news that the guys there carried hot sauce to meals. They called it “food fixer”

    This business with trace unknowns in the food is quite worrying.

  16. Sean Peake says:

    What a great rant. Made my day. I seldom buy canned foods, except for diced tomatoes, tomato paste (a pain to make) et al, and I can a lot of tomato-based sauces in the fall. For canoe trips, which have lasted from 3 weeks to 8 weeks, across vast uninhabited sections of northern Canada we take dried food that we spent the winter and spring preparing. Herbs, tuna, casseroles, even tomato leather (drop it in boiling water for sauce) are made. You may want to consider a food dryer—at least you’ll know what the ingredients are of whatever you prepare. I don’t know about dried clams, though. Never tried it and I think they would look quite frightening at the end of the process. Probably attract every raccoon for blocks as they were drying, too.

  17. tckev says:

    I’ve been listening to the radio recently (the pictures are better on the radio) and have heard that Nordic cuisine is making a big hit!

    Anyway, during the program they mentioned that clams in the Northern Hemisphere are very long lived (100s to 1,000s of years old!), and that one special clam (the mahogany clam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctica_islandica ) was subject of a major export drive (dredging them up by the ton) from impoverish Iceland to the US as an ingredient in canned clam chowder.
    Well, these aquatic bivalves have now come into their own in the “climate change” game – clam shell ridges sizes, and the shell chemical make-up can indicate past weather.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100308/full/news.2010.110.html

    http://www.sos.bangor.ac.uk/research/php/theme.php?project=463

    With clam chowder, (Iceland) economy, and climate change all in one program I just thought you may be interested.

    Kev.

  18. @E.M.Smith:
    Now, the big deal for me is that “corn protein (hydrolyzed)”
    Just for the sake of chemical translation:
    Hydrolyzed protein: Commonly : Water “cooked” corn flour.
    More sophisticated: Corn (or whatever) protein it is extracted by decomposing it into its amino-acids by the action of an alkali solution (sodium or potassium), which renders them as alkali amino-ates (sodium or potassium salts of amino-acids). It can be re-constructed back to protein if acidified to pH about 4,5. where the protein coagulates or precipitates again, but having left behind carbohydrates as sugar.

  19. soup drinker says:

    Hi E.M. Smith,

    Good Article. I dislike the gleuten free Progresso New England Clam Chowder for what mnay be a slightly different reason. The gleuten-frees soup tastes horrible compared with the earlier version of the gleuten-rich soup. I do not know why the soup was changed. Perhaps, the cover is to make the soup more healthy while the motivation is to cut production costs. you are correct in listing all the new bad contents. It is not really a new england clam chowder. It may be, as you suggest, things swept off the floor. It is a shame that a good product has gone so bad.

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