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Mainely Tipping Points

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Turkey Tracks: Pie Pumpkins and Pie

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Turkey Tracks:  November 13, 2011

Pie Pumpkins and Pie

The best pie pumpkins are long–like a huge salami.  They’re dark green that starts to turn orange in patches–they turn orange when you cook them.

I usually get one from our CSA, Hope’s Edge.  And I buy a few more, roast them, and freeze the meat–for winter pies.  Organic, of course.

Just slice the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, put them on a shallow pan that has some sides–the roasting pumpkins can give off juice–and roast them for at least an hour at 350 degrees.  You’ll know when they are done–they’ll smell delicious and will fork easily.  Let them cool, scoop out the meat, and freeze or make a pie.

It takes about 2 cups of pumpkin to make a 9 or 10-inch pie.  Each of these halves makes about two cups.  Convenient, huh?

My favorite recipe comes from NOURISHING TRADITIONS, by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig.

Start with a flakey pie crust of your choice.  (Use butter or really good lard–not any of those fake fats like vegetable lards or margarine.)

2 cups pumpkin

3 eggs–if small, use 4 eggs

3/4 cups rapadura–which is dried cane juice.  I also use organic sugar.  The rapadura has a stronger taste, but the pumpkin can take it.

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each salt, powdered cloves, nutmeg

grated rind of lemon

1 cup piima cream, or creme fraiche–piima is a cultured cream.  You could also use sour cream.

2 tablespoons brandy

Mix everything together well, pour into your pie shell, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.  The time will depend on the size of your eggs and the liquid in your pumpkin.  I used 3 small eggs, and the pie took more like an hour to puff in the middle.  If it takes longer, cover the  pie with some parchment paper to prevent burning.  (Don’t use aluminum foil!  For anything!!)

 This pie is as light as a feather and absolutely delicious.

Serve with REAL whipped cream.

Turkey Tracks: I Feel Rich: 5 Pounds of Processed Pecans

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Turkey Tracks:  February 1, 2011

I Feel Rich:  5 Pounds of Processed Pecans


We’re almost out of the pecans my first cousin Teeny Bryan Epton and her partner brought to us last September.  (Thanks Teeny and Lori!)

With our friends Margaret and Ronald, we order many household items in bulk from Associated Buyers, located in New Hampshire.  AB delivers, also, to all our local coops, or cooperatively owned stores.  I ordered 5 pounds of organic pecans in this last order.  

 I soak the nuts over night, dry them gently in the dehydrator, and store them in Mason jars.  Five pounds lasts for months and months.  I keep pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and, lately, hazelnuts.  Crispy nuts are delicious! 

ALL nuts, seeds, legumes, and tubers need to be processed in some way to remove the phytates that can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients it needs from many foods.  One prepares most nuts by soaking them in salted water over night and drying then in a dehydrator or an oven on very low heat.  Drying can take, sometimes, well over 24 hours.  I found this information and the recipes in Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig’s treasure trove of a book, NOURISHING TRADITIONS.  Fallon and Enig are part of the Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonapricefoundation.org).  (Be sure to use .org and NOT .com, which is a scam site.)  I trust the WAPF folks because they have the scientific credentials to understand the chemistry of food and human bodies and because they are not affiliated with industry in any way.

Here are the pecans in the four-tray dehydrator:

And, here they are all jarred up.  The big jar is a half-gallon size with which I’ve recently fallen in love.  Now I’m a rich woman!  I have food assets.

Turkey Tracks: Making Yogurt is Easy and CHEAP

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Turkey Tracks:  January 13, 2011

Making Yogurt Is Easy and Cheap

Yesterday morning  when I tasted the yogurt that had been “making” overnight in the oven, I was, again, reminded at how absolutely delicious it is when it is just fresh, when it has not yet been chilled.  This batch had thickened up to a custard consistency, and it was like velvet on the tongue.  John and I each had a big bowl of it drizzled with nonheated local honey and sprinkled with some dried fruits and “crispy” nuts.

CRISPY NUTS:  Crispy nuts have been soaked in salted water over night and dried in a dehydrator or an oven on very, very low heat until “crispy.”  One does this process to remove the phytates present in the nuts and seeds.  Phytates can inhibit the full absorption of nutrients in a serious way.  Plants are way more chemically powerful than people realize.  Put the nuts into a large bowl, fill it with water, and add about 2 tablespoons of salt.  Let them soak from 12 to 24 hours.  They will swell up.  Drain them and dry them.  I prefer to dry my nuts in a dehydrator as it’s easier than my oven.  I never burn the nuts, which are expensive, in the dehydrator.  I got a cheap one for about $30.  But, it’s plastic, and since I use it all the time and since I’m learning that plastic off gasses around heat, I’m saving for a good metal dehydrator.   You can read all about phytates in Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig’s NOURISHING TRADITIONS, which is a book that, among many other things, attempts to recover lost food preparation practices.

Anyway, here’s how you make yogurt so that you don’t even have to dirty a pan.

Milk–I use a half-gallon at a time.  And, of course, I’m using “real” milk.  Try to find milk that is NOT ultrapasteurized as it might not culture.  Ultrapasteurized milk is cooked milk; it’s a dead product.  You can read all about it in my essays.

2 packets of “yogamet”–which is a dried cultured yogurt product.  It comes in a box.  Inside are individual packets.  Look for it in the cooler section of a natural foods store or Whole Foods.  Trader Joe’s might have it.  After your first batch of yogurt, save about about 1/4 cup of yogurt for your next batch.  Yogurt you’ve cultured yourself begins to make the thicker, custardy yogurt that is so delicious–though all the yogurt you make will taste really good.  One packet will culture one quart of milk.

Find a big bowl–non metal–that will hold your milk.

Turn on the oven to 200 degrees, and when it reaches that temperature, turn it off, put your bowl inside and cover it with a plate.   (No plastic or foil please.)  Close the door and go to bed.  In the morning you will have yogurt.  On very cold days, sometimes mine is still too runny.  I put it in a warm place (like under a cabinet light or on the stove or back in the stove with the oven light turned on) and give it more time to jell.  You’ll know if it’s still too runny.  It will not spoil if you leave it out until it jells, and it will jell eventually, as it’s cultured.


Greek yogurt is just yogurt with some of the whey–a clear liquid–drained out.  You can make yogurt cheese by draining off all the whey.  Whey is full of protein, though, so when you drain off the whey, you are leaving the milk solids and fat behind, and they need protein to process properly in your body.  So, don’t eat too much Greek Yogurt.

I often drain some of my yogurt to get some whey.  I use it to culture sauerkraut (see that recipe elsewhere on this blog); put some in homemade mayo to culture it so that it lasts for weeks in the refrigerator; use a few tablespoons when soaking dried beans, grains, or flour; and so forth.  Whey is an amazing preservative and a detoxifying agent.   You can drain yogurt by putting a paper towel, a napkin, or some cheesecloth in a colander, putting in some yogurt, and placing the collander over a deep bowl to catch the whey.  I put a plate over the colandar.  Whey keeps for weeks and weeks in the refrigerator.  And yogurt cheese is great drizzled with honey and served with dried fruit (dates!) for a dessert.  Or, drizzled with olive oil and herbs for a spread.

Most prepared yogurt in stores is not only expensive, it is full of additives and sugar.  It is “jelled” with pectin, for instance.  And, the smooth taste comes from seaweed additives.  It won’t even drip out whey.

Wait until you taste your own yogurt.  You’ll understand what has been lost.  And, now, found.

Mainely Tipping Points 14: Good Fats, Bad Fats

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Mainely Tipping Points 14

Good Fats, Bad Fats


Since the late 1970s, Americans have been encouraged by nutritionists, doctors, the government, and industry to eat less fats, especially the saturated fats once traditional in the American diet.  Yet, according to Dr. Mary Enig, an expert in the chemistry of fats, and Sally Fallon, both of the Weston A. Price Foundation, saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50 percent of our cell membranes and are what give our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.  Saturated fats play such an important role in the health of our bones that at least 50 percent of our dietary fats should be saturated.  And among their many other benefits, saturated fats enhance our immune systems (“The Skinny on Fats,” http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats.html). 

Today, Americans are deficient in the healthy fatty acids which support the healthy functioning of their bodies.

Beginning in 1980, the government recommended a diet which substituted carbohydrates for healthy fats and which has resulted in national obesity and chronic disease problems—as many scientists of that era feared.  The fats Americans now consume most often are denatured, highly refined, highly unstable, and are too rich in omega-6 fatty acids. 

So, what kinds of fats are healthy and necessary for humans?  Caroline Barringer, writing in the current July/August 2010 issue of WELL BEING JOURNAL and drawing on the work of Enig and Fallon, walks readers through the healthy fats terrain in a few short pages  (“Fats:  Safer Choices for  Your Frying Pan & Your Health,” 30-38).  You can buy a copy at Good Tern, Fresh Off the Farm, or online.  Enig and Fallon’s fully comprehensive information is available on-line.  See, especially, “The Skinny on Fats” and “The Oiling of America” at http://www.westonaprice.org

Understanding the chemical structures of fats and what industrial processing does to those structures helps one begin to understand which fats are dangerous and why.  Remember, Barringer reminds, that all fats are combinations of the following fatty acids.  For instance, beef tallow (which most of us use only to feed our birds in winter) is very safe for cooking and frying and is 50 to 55 percent saturated fat, 40 percent monounsaturated fat, and only 3 percent polyunsaturated fat.

Saturated fatty acid (SFAs) molecules are straight so can stack together tightly, which is why they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.  The straight nature of SFA molecules makes them very stable, even at high temperatures, and they do not turn rancid easily.

Monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFAs) molecules have a slight bend.  They can still stack closely, but not as tightly as saturated fatty acid molecules, which is why they are liquid at room temperature, but semi-solid when refrigerated.  MUFAs are relatively stable and do not turn rancid easily.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) molecules have two bends.  They cannot stack together well.  They are unstable, even at room temperature, and are easily damaged by heat, light, moisture, and exposure to oxygen.  They require refrigeration and turn rancid quickly and easily.  Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids are in the PUFA category.  But, consume only small amounts of some PUFAs and only if they are organic, unrefined, first cold-pressed or cold pressed, or expeller pressed, or extra virgin. 

 Industrial processing methods affect radically the structure of fats.  Traditionally, Barringer notes, seed and nut oils were extracted by pressing.  Industry crushes the seed/nuts; heats them to 230 degrees or more; presses them using high-pressures to squeeze out all fats, which generates further heat; and uses hexane (a solvent) to extract the last bits of oil.  (Hexane, a petroleum derivative, may cause infertility and central nervous system depression.)  Industry attempts to “boil off” the hexane, but some remains.  If the seeds/nuts are not organic, the hexane acts as a magnet for the chemicals sprayed on the nuts/seeds.  So, the final product is rancid, refined so no nutrients remain, and poisoned. 

Further, Enig and Fallon explain that the damaged molecules form “free radicals” with edges like razor blades.  Barringer notes that these free radicals “wreak havoc on the body, attacking and damaging DNA/RNA, cell membranes, vascular walls, and red blood cells,” which, in turn, leads to further problems.”  

Some of these highly processed oils, which are mostly PUFAs,  then undergo hydrogenation, which transforms oils that are liquid at room temperature to solids, which extends shelf life.  Margarine and shortening, for instance, are hydrogenated PUFA oils.  (MUFAs and some SFAs can be hydrogenated.)  Tiny particles of nickel oxide are added to the oil, then the mixture is exposed to hydrogen gas in a high-heat, high-pressure reactor which chemically straightens any bends in the molecule.  These altered molecules are trans fats.  Now, the oil is thin, watery, and smells foul as it is rancid.  Multiple thickeners and fillers are added, and the oil is steam cleaned (more heat) to remove the odor.  The grey-colored oil is bleached.  The resulting substance is vegetable shortening.  Artificial colors and flavors can be added to produce margarine. 

Our bodies, Barringer explains, do not recognize these kinds of fats as foods.  If we consume them regularly, “we lose the ability to utilize healthy fats properly.”   Further, when healthy fatty acids are displaced by these highly processed fake fats, our bodies become subject to cascading, serious health problems, like cancer, diabetes, birth defects, sexual dysfunction, heart disease, and poor bone health. 

So, Barringer warns, avoid trans fats “like the plague”—which is not easy because the FDA allows industry to claim “zero trans fats” when trans fats are present.  Read labels and look for hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats.  Do not buy products where the following words appear on the label:  refined, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or cold-processed (which is not cold- pressed.)

The safest fats for cooking are lard (pork fat); ghee (melted butter with the milky solids skimmed); tallow (beef and lamb fat); chicken, duck, and goose fat; coconut oil (organic and virgin); and red palm oil or palm kernel oil (organic and virgin).  You can, also, combine these fats.  Barringer likes coconut oil (92 percent saturated fat with powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties and lauric acid–a medium chain fatty acid found in breast milk) combined with ghee or lard.  (I buy coconut oil by the case online from Wilderness Family Naturals.)  Barringer says red palm oil has a “pungent, paprika-like flavor” that is “best suited for roasting root vegetables,” like roasting red and white potatoes; red, yellow, and orange peppers; fresh garlic, and herbs.

Properly pressed olive oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and sesame oil are good for stir-frying.  Peanut oil should have limited use as it has a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acid. 

The following oils are unsafe for any kind of heat exposure:  vegetable/soybean oil, corn oil, flax oil, hemp oil, pine nut oil, pumpkin oil (roasted or raw), safflower oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil.  These oils are almost 50 percent omega-6 fatty acids and should be consumed in moderation.  It is hard to find unprocessed versions.  Also, corn and soybean oil should be avoided as they are likely to be genetically modified and are grown with heavy pesticide levels.

Barringer, like Enig and Fallon, concludes that canola and cottonseed oil are unsafe to consume under any circumstances.  Canola is a highly processed industrial oil and does not belong in the human digestive tract.  Plus it is almost entirely a genetically modified crop.  Cotton is “one of the most genetically modified, pesticide-laden crops in America.”  And, asks Barringer, “when did cotton and its seed become a food?” 

Butter, especially real butter, is practically a medicine.  Butter, Barringer explains, is a cofactor that allows our bodies to utilize effectively calcium and other minerals we consume.  Butter contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in small amounts in a healthful ratio.  Butter contains conjugated linoleic fatty acids (CLA) for better weight management, muscle growth, and protection from cancer.  Butter contains the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K that help us absorb the trace minerals it also contains, among them zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, and manganese.  Butter contains butyric fatty acids that provide “proper inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to help us heal effectively.”  And, the fat in butter “enhances brain function and increases cell membrane integrity.”    

Eat organic butter!  Eat lots of it every day, especially if you can find raw butter.  (But, not with a lot of bread, which is a carbohydrate.)

Mainely Tipping Points 15: Rearranging Deck Chairs on theTitanic: The Proposed 2010 USDA Food Guide

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Mainely Tipping Points 15

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic:

The Proposed 2010 USDA Food Guide


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have jointly released the proposed 2010 food guide to a fire storm of criticism.  But first, let’s review recent government food guide history.   

 The USDA presented a new food guide plan and pyramid design in 2005.  It will be considered current until the 2010 guide replaces it.  The 2005 graphic is fronted by a triangle composed of colorful triangular stripes representing five food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans).  Some triangles are bigger than others.  The front triangle is backed by a triangular set of steps with a stick figure climbing upwards.  A USDA web site (www.mypyramid.gov) allows an individual to enter personal information so that one of twelve personal pyramids is assigned.    

 Luise Light, hired by the USDA to design the 1980 USDA food guide, published WHAT TO EAT:  THE TEN THINGS YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW TO EAT WELL AND BE HEALTHY in 2006, which in part describes how USDA  political appointees manipulated Light’s proposed guide to favor industry.  Light warns that with the 2005 food guide the USDA is trying to please everyone, makers of junk food and proponents of nutritionally important foods.  The 2005 guide, warns Light, is built around calories, which translates that “all foods are good foods.”  One has only to count calories, even junk food calories, to be healthy. 

 But, Light explains, by shifting “the emphasis away from best food choices to a new food democracy where every food is equal,” the USDA ignored “research over the last ten years” that shows “the types of foods, ingredients, and eating patterns that are beneficial for health and weight” (85-86). 

I believe this strategy also removes responsibility from industry for producing unhealthy foods.  By emphasizing individual choice, it becomes the individual’s responsibility not to eat that which makes him or her fat or sick—even though highly processed fake foods, tainted foods, and chemically poisoned foods fill national supermarkets. 

Light explains that “more than half of all consumers in a nationwide survey” responded that they were confused by the new pyramid.  Yet, the USDA allocated no funds to promote the new guide.  Rather, the USDA planned to task industry with helping to educate Americans about food choices.  Light notes that the Idaho Potato Commission immediately announced that carbohydrates, including potatoes, are the best fuel for muscles. 

 But, Light reminds, in reality, the food guide was never meant to be “a tool for health promotion based on the latest scientific studies about healthy eating.”  And, she asks if it isn’t time that nutritional questions are “answered by knowledgeable, independent authorities without a vested interest.”  Right now, people are “told different things at every turn by physicians, teachers, dietitians, the government, and food marketers” (85-86). 

The government released the 2010 proposed food guide this spring and scheduled public hearings and organized a web site for public comments.  Criticism involves, in part, the fact that the proposed guide not only continues down the path that has produced a national obesity epidemic and chronic health problems, it ups the ante on its unscientific position regarding dietary cholesterol and saturated fats by further lowering recommended daily levels.  Under the new rules, one cannot eat an egg.  Or, cheese.  Yet eggs—nature’s perfect food–have sustained humans for thousands of years.  And, properly prepared cheese is a nutrient-dense food.              

Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), in the winter 2009 WAPF quarterly journal WISE TRADITIONS, agrees that the 2005 guidelines were “not based on science but were designed to promote the products of commodity agriculture and—through the back door—encourage the consumption of processed foods.”  The 2010 guide, Fallon writes, is an exercise in rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.”  Indeed, Fallon notes, “putting the USDA in charge of the dietary guidelines is like letting the devil teach Sunday school (“President’s Message,” 2-3).   (See www.westonapricefoundation.org for extended analysis.)  

Fallon notes that the “USDA-sanctioned industrialization of agriculture,” has resulted in “a huge reduction in nutrients and increase in toxins in the American diet.”  Government food guides “have caused an epidemic of suffering and disease, one so serious that it threatens to sink the ship of state.”  The 2010 proposed guide is “a recipe for infertility, learning problems in children and increased chronic disease in all age groups.”  And, Fallon notes, while a growing number of Americans are figuring out what’s wrong with government-sponsored nutritional guides, millions in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and schools are trapped in the “Frankenstein creation” which is “a tragic and failed experiment” (2-3).   

 The American diet, Fallon notes, contains widespread deficiencies in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E.  But, Fallon explains, “there is no way for Americans to consume sufficient quantities of these critical vitamins while confined to the low-fat, low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie cage of the USDA dietary guidelines” (2-3).  

The WAPF argues that dietary cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D and that our cells need cholesterol for stiffness and stability.  And, the WAPF warns that the USDA committee is ignoring “basic biochemistry” that “shows that the human body has a very high requirement for saturated fats in all cell membranes.”  If we do not eat saturated fats, the body makes them from carbohydrates, but this process “increases blood levels of triglyceride and small, dense LDL, and compromises blood vessel function.”  Further, high carbohydrate diets do not satisfy the appetite, which leads to higher caloric intakes, bingeing, rapid weight gain and chronic disease.  This diet is “particularly dangerous for those suffering from diabetes or hypoglycemia, since fats help regulate blood sugar levels.”

The USDA committee’s solution, Fallon explains, is to “eat more `nutrient- dense’ fruits and vegetables.”  But, Fallon notes, “fruits and v”egetables are not nutrient-dense foods.”  Nutrients in plant foods do not compare with “those in eggs, whole milk, cheese, butter, meat and organ meats.”

Fallon points out that some USDA committee members are concerned with “the choline problem.”  Choline is “critical for good health and is especially necessary for growing children.  If choline intake is too low during pregnancy and growth, brain connections cannot form.  And, if choline is abundant during developmental years, the individual is protected for life from developmental decline” (2-3) 

Excellent sources of choline are egg yolks and beef and chicken liver.  Fallon notes that the National Academy of Sciences recommends amounts of choline consumption that violate the USDA’s proposed cholesterol limits.  So, she argues, “while we watch in horror the blighting of our children’s lives with failure to thrive, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, autism and mental retardation, the committee is sticking to its anti-cholesterol guns.”  

Analysis on the WAPF web site details how the USDA committee has swept “the dangers of trans fat under the rug by lumping them with saturated fats, using the term `solid fats’ for both.”  This categorization hides the “difference between unhealthy industrial trans fats and healthy traditional saturated fats.”      

Also, notes the WAPF, the USDA committee has promoted “an increase in difficult-to-digest whole grains,” without specifying that all grains, nuts, seeds, and beans need to be soaked to remove the powerful antinutrient phytic acid.  (More on this subject later.) 

I agree with the WAPF assessment that the 2010 guide should be scrapped and that “the committee members should be replaced with individuals who have no ties to the food processing industry or to universities that accept funding from the food processing industry.”  I’ll bet Luise Light does, too.

Tipping Points 3: When Did This Happen?

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(You may want to read my essays in order.)

Tipping Points 3

April 3, 2010

When Did This Happen?

 I began reading food labels after passing out at my neighbors’ dinner table from a food reaction.  For  two decades I had been shopping the outside aisles of the supermarket where whole foods supposedly lived.  But, I had not questioned the sanctity of dairy products beyond ice cream—which often now included more than the five basic ingredients many food writers recommend as the watershed between real and fake foods.  Whip cream, I thought, for the cobbler I was planning. 

 The text on the front of the package of the All Purpose Whipping Cream read “super fresh” and “ultra-pasteurized, ” which meant raw milk had been preheated to just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit and then thermally processed to a temperature at or above 280 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two seconds.  Ultrapasteurization, which is suddenly more common, cooks milk.  This product lasts longer on the shelves–six months in an unrefrigerated aseptic (airtight, sterilized) container and up to 50 days in a refrigerated plastic milk container. 

The ingredient label read exactly as follows:  “cream, carrageenan (helps hold the whipped cream peaks), mono and diglycerides (made with vegetable oil, helps put air into the cream as it is whipping), and polysorbate 80 (made from corn oil, helps create stiff peaks).”  Wow, I thought, whipping raw heavy cream makes glorious peaks that last for days.  And, they’re not only killing the nutrients in the cream by cooking them, they’re cutting back on the cream and substituting seaweed and cheap highly processed vegetable oils.   

According to Dr. Mary Enig, a biochemist who is an internationally recognized authority on fats (Know Your Fats), the intensive processing of these vegetable oils breaks down their chemical structures into parts that act like razor blades in human veins and tissues.  These broken structures are the free radicals that cause heart disease.  

Enig is a scientist who since the 1970s has tried to tell the public how dangerous trans fats are, how untrue the lipid hypothesis used to demonize the animal fats people have eaten for centuries is, and how unhealthy the vegetable oils used to substitute for animal fats are.  When Enig tried to expose the scientific flaws in the lipid hypothesis, her work was successfully suppressed, and she never again got any funding.  She is associated with The Weston A. Price Foundation.  And, together with Sally Fallon, she wrote Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat (about healing diets).  Her lecture, The Oiling of America, delivered by Sally Fallon, is available on DVD.        

 Googling the ingredients on the AP cream carton shows that carrageenan is a gel-like thickening and stabilizing agent made from seaweed.  Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant (aids the blending of two liquids, like fats and water) and an emulsifier (helps the surfactant to blend).  Mayonnaise, for instance, is an oil-in-water emulsion made possible with the lecithin emulsifier in egg yolks.  Polysorbate 80 substitutes for egg yolks.  And, mono- and diglycerides are fats made, usually, from highly-processed soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or palm oil.  They, too, act as emulsifiers.  And, they keep most baked products from getting stale.  In other processed foods, such as ice cream, margarine, instant potatoes, and chewing gum, they serve as stabilizers and give body and improved consistency. 

 Dr. Enig writes mono- and diglycerides are not just made from oils–they are the waste by-products of oil industry processing.  They are modern, cheap substitutes for lard and butter and, apparently, for egg yolks.  And, while they can be trans fats and do have some caloric value, industry is not required to list either condition on a label (WAPF web site).  

So, AP ultrapasteurized whipping cream is not a “super fresh” food—an oxymoron of stunning proportions.  It is a fake food.   

When did this happen?

Ann Vileisis, in Kitchen Literacy, describes how food additives have long been a problem in America.  As more people relocated to cities in the early 1900s, the food industry turned to preservatives to cut spoilage and reduce costs.  They used solutions of formaldehyde, salicylic acid, borax, and boracic acid, all of which “mask the natural signs of decomposition that had traditionally signified danger to cooks and eaters.”  The Pure Food and Drug Act, which required labels listing ingredients, was passed in 1906 after some of the largest manufacturers recognized that under the act, which would supercede state and local regulations, they could develop national markets that could and did squeeze out local and regional markets (126-134). 

Almost immediately, the distinction between man-made ingredients and “natural” ingredients became a political football.  Eventually, the act allowed the use of “artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives as ordinary parts of the American diet.”  The average shoppers of that era could not evaluate easily the additives on labels, so they came to rely on the government to protect them.  And, they use brand names as a marker of quality (126-134).

 But, The Pure Food and Drug Act did not prohibit the “inclusion of toxic ingredients in medicines,” and in 1937, a company used the untested drug sulfanilamide to treat streptococcal infections.  Sulfanilamide killed “more than a hundred people, mostly children,” which led to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which required drug manufacturers to test toxicity and report findings to the FDA before a drug could be sold.  The act did not include provisions for toxicity testing for pesticides or food additives (177-178).  But,  Michael Pollan writes in In Defense of Food, and this is very important, it did require that the word “imitation” be listed with regard to “any food product that was, well, an imitation” (34-36). 

World War II shortages jumpstarted the creation of processed foods, which grew from about 1,000 products prewar to 4,000 or 5,000 new products postwar.  By 1950, one in four women worked outside the home, so there was both a loss of time and energy to cook and more money to buy processed food products (Vileisis 187).

The key shift to fake foods occurred in 1973 when industry succeeded in overturning the imitation label requirement.  Pollan writes that the change was not made by Congress, but by the FDA, which simply repealed the imitation labeling requirement within the depths of “a set of new, seemingly consumer-friendly rules about nutrient labeling.” The document stated that “as long as an imitation product was not `nutritionally inferior’ to the natural food it sought to impersonate,” it “could be marketed without using the dreaded `I’ word.”  The “regulatory door,” writes Pollen, “was thrown open to all manner of faked low-fat products:  Fats in things like sour cream and yogurt could now be replaced with hydrogenated oils or guar gum or carrageenan, bacon bits could be replaced with soy protein, the cream in `whipped cream’ and `coffee creamer’ could be replaced with corn starch, and the yolks of liquefied eggs could be replaced with, well, whatever the food scientists could dream up, because the sky was now the limit” (34-36). 

This process of nutritional equivalency—an equivalency decided by industry in collusion with the government, birthed the fake foods that now fill our supermarkets.  And, in turn, this process created a huge experiment that utilizes human subjects eating fake foods.  Look around you:  the experiment is not going well.

What we can do is eat the nutrient dense, whole, organic, local foods available in local markets, farmers’ markets, and our Community Shared Agriculture (CSAs) programs.  Support these markets, support local farmers, support eating foods in their natural seasons, and healthy food will return.  These foods may cost more, but you can make different decisions about what is really important in your life and give up something else in order to buy good food that nourishes your body.  Cheap foods are, in the end, enormously costly in so many ways, not the least of which is your own health and well being.