Fun is Fine, But it’s Not Food

There’s a big difference between nutrition and entertainment. Food is nourishing. It’s what we’re eating when we choose stuff that’s loaded with color and fiber, such as vegetables and beans, nuts, fruits, seeds, and whole grains. Fun, on the other hand, is nothing like food. Fun items (which we tend to call by interesting names like “junk food” or “fast food”) are made with products like white flour, white rice, corn syrup, corn starch, commodity oils (soy, corn, cottonseed) and, of course, sugar, which you find in practically everything that’s ultraprocessed. Continue reading


The Commodity Compromise

In life, one always has to choose between quantity and quality. If your goal is to obtain an item of the highest possible quality, then it doesn’t matter how much you get. Like a sample of uranium. When it’s quality you’re after, it doesn’t matter whether you end up with a microgram or a kilogram. The issue of its purity is not negotiable, so the amount is secondary. But when it’s quantity you seek, it doesn’t matter whether the end result is purity or perfidy, perfect or problematic. Continue reading


Fake Fruit Food

A few months ago I wrote about the “high margin-to-cost” breakfast cereal business. I have a few more thoughts, this time not specifically about the product itself, but about the pervasive use of fruity words in the naming of those breakfast cereals. Continue reading


Chocolate Mousse

What follows is a true story. It really happened, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Just over 13 years ago, on a snowy evening in January 2003, my daughter and I went out and brought home the sweetest, gentlest, 8-week-old Labrador Retriever puppy. She was a chocolate lab, and so we named her Mousse. Mousse played ball; Mousse cuddled with the children; Mousse helped me to weed the garden; Mousse stole food from the kitchen table when she thought no one was looking; Mousse hung out with the chickens and enjoyed visiting with our friends and neighbors, both human and canine. Mousse became family, and all was well. Continue reading


The Trans Fat Ban

This past summer, some 50 years after concerns were first raised about a possible link between trans fats and heart attacks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of trans fats in processed food items, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” in human food. Processed food manufacturers will have three years to reformulate their products or request an exemption. This action is expected to prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks a year. Multiply that by 50 years. Continue reading


The Real Meaning of “Breakfast Cereal”

Let’s talk about something I said a few weeks ago: It started with the term “breakfast cereal.” I put it in quotes for reasons that I’ll get to below. I also made the point that the term “breakfast cereal” reminds me of phrases like “TV dinners,” and “Lunchables,” whatever that means. Whenever marketers tell me what to eat and when to eat it, that’s a very bad sign. Actually it’s more of a clue. And that’s the subject of today’s post. Continue reading


A Commodity-Based Diet

A few months ago Michael @Ruhlman lent me a captivating new book written by Chef Dan Barber and called The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. In 2009 Time Magazine named @DanBarber one of the 100 most influential people in the world. I’m a little bit chagrined to admit that I am still reading this book, primarily because it makes me think so hard that I can only get in a chapter at a time before I have to set it aside and think about what the author just said. Continue reading


On #Commodity and #Terroir

Today we’re going to talk about commodities. What is a commodity? When goods and services are traded on the grand scale for other goods and services, they become “commodities.” One characteristic of a commodity is that its price is determined not by quality, but by demand. The greater the demand, the greater the market. That’s what determines whether an item is a commodity. Continue reading