Slow Food And Slow Salsa.

30 Jan

A salsa gigolo does not live by salsera alone. He also needs food, but what food should he eat? To answer this question, I found myself reading this book,
The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan ».

The book is written in 3 parts. The first part is about the industrialized food chain, and “corn people”. The second part is about the organic food chain, and “grass people”. The third part is about the author hunting and gathering his own food.

Part I

Pages 18-19:
… For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn.
(HFCS = high-fructose corn syrup. The other acronym that figures prominently in this part of the book is CAFO = Confined Animal Feeding Operation.)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Pages 18-19

Not a lot of gory details, but a lot of interesting research. For me, the main insight is the corn. I never realized how much of what I ate, or what I ate ate, was corn, and specifically “number 2” corn. I also never realized the political, environmental and economic issues in growing corn for the industrialized food chain. This book has made me want to eat less corn and corn by-products.

I almost never eat fast food, salty snacks, or cereal, so I’m ok here. The only time I drink pop is in a salsa club, but I drink a lot of frozen concentrated juices at home. Both are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, but this should be an easy fix. I’ll just switch to beer. The hard one to fix will be the meat and dairy products. Everything from beef and chicken, to milk and eggs – They are all grown on corn. I think my eggs actually come from Manitoba! I suppose it’s easier to feed chickens where they grow the corn.

As an aside, when this book was written/ published, in 2005-2006, the price of corn » was less than $2/ bushel. Today it is about $4/ bushel, due to the spike in demand for ethanol, among other things ». The demand for ethanol won’t go down, because it is a required additive in gasoline », so this increased cost of corn will drive-up costs in the industrialized food chain. I guess this is why food prices are still high, even though fuel prices have come down. On a $-per-nutrient basis, I wonder if it now makes sense to switch to organic foods.

Part II

Pages 248-249:
… As far as both Joel and Bev are concerned there isn’t a whole world of difference between Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. Both are part of an increasingly globalized economy that turns anything it touched into a commodity, reaching its tentacles wherever in the world a food can be produced most cheaply, and then transporting it wherever it can be sold most dearly.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Pages 248-249

I am very susceptible to supermarket marketing, but I have never really been hooked by the organic food movement. This part of the book differentiates between organic food that has been produced by an industrialized food chain, and food that has been grown on a local farm that fosters the symbiotic balance between grass, animals and trees. The insight for me here, is that all “organic” foods are not created equal, and that the food that is the most organic may actually never get to be labeled organic, because the organic movement and even the word, “organic”, has been co-opted by the industrialized food chain.

Any organic food is probably more nutritious than non-organic food, but the net environmental benefits are questionable if the organic food is being shipped to Toronto from California. Winter in Canada is probably not the best time to be complaining about where my food is being grown. I should simply be thankful that there is an efficient system that allows me to buy oranges in Winter, organic or not. Nevertheless, this book has made me want to eat food that has been grown on a local farm. It has also made me want to learn how to farm. Here’s a link to farmers’ markets in Toronto ». Some of these markets are open year-round, and some are even located near salsa clubs.

Part III

Page 332:
… When Joel noticed a PETA bumper sticker on the man’s car he figured he was in for some unpleasantness. But the man had a different agenda. He explained that after being a vegetarian for sixteen years he had decided that the only way he could ever eat meat again was if he killed the animal himself. So Joel grabbed a chicken and took the man into the processing shed.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Page 332

This part was the author’s philosophical introspection about whether or not he should be eating meat. In the process of his introspection, he hunts and kills a wild pig, which he writes about with some gory details. Suprisingly, this part of the book will make an eat-meater feel ok about eating meat. I doubt it will change a vegetarian’s mind though, considering the author’s son remains a vegetarian. I have always been ok about eating meat. Who am I kidding, I love meat. Just the thought of meat, fresh meat, makes me salivate. But this part of the book has made me aware of some of the philosophical issues surrounding the eating of meat.

Final Thoughts

I think in anything, one can draw analogies to anything else. I read this book, for the reason this book was written. But I also couldn’t help but to extend some of the thoughts to salsa. For example, I was tempted to analogize about the corn and corn by-products in processed salsa; or the industrialized salsa food chain that has co-opted salsa music and Afro-Cuban movement to make it convenient for culture-cringed inhabitants of cold countries to consume a co-opted culture (This was brought to you by the Letter ‘C’); or the different ways we strive to purify ourselves in salsa, in pursuit of authenticity, without knowing what is what, until we come to terms with our striving and our ambitions and realize that slow salsa with fresh meet salsera is the most nutritious kind of salsa there is. I tend to submit to temptation.
Salsa Gigolometer 80


9 Responses to “Slow Food And Slow Salsa.”

  1. Zucchini Breath January 31, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    Go vegan, ditch the corn.

  2. Maria February 16, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    I really enjoyed this book. I’ve been vegetarian most of my life, so I felt even better about my diet when I learned that cows are not biologically designed to eat corn, which makes them sick, which is why they mix antibiotics (and beef tallow…yech) into their feed. I was raised in Iowa where we were taught that corn-fed beef was a good thing. That said, this book helped me understand that just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t make you all that virtuous. The chapter about locally grown, sustainable farms was the most compelling one. I am trying to visit my local farmer’s market more and buy the produce at the grocery store that are labeled as local.

  3. salsagigolo February 16, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    Yeah, tell me about it.

    Companies are also tricky in how they substitute HFCS into established brands. I used to be a die-hard drinker of Welch’s frozen concentrated grape juice. Then a few months back, they changed the packaging, and I noticed 2 things: the volume of the container was a little less, and the taste was different. It didn’t taste as grapey. I inspected the label – I never had to do this before, because I trusted Welch’s – and lo’ and behold, glucose-fructose was one of the first items listed. I looked at the label again, and I noticed that gone was the 100% fruit juice claim. I don’t think it said ‘fruit drink’, either. It just said Welch’s grape, or something like that. I visited the company’s website, hoping to find some reassurance there, but I could not even find this pseudo grape juice listed. Maybe it’s only available in Canada. Who knows.

    This left me confused a little, and I continued to buy this pseudo grape juice for a few months, but I knew something wasn’t right. More importantly, the juice just didn’t taste as good, and I no longer felt it was good for me. It was not until I read this book, that I finally understood my confused feeling, and that what I was feeling was actually ‘betrayal’. Betrayal by a long-trusted brand.

    I’ve now switched to Minute Maid Fruit Solutions » frozen concentrated juices. Costs a little more, 30 cents more per can, but I at least know this is 100% juice. I don’t think this is available in the US. Minute Maid is owned by Coca-Cola, and as far as I know, Coca-Cola might have a stake in Welch’s. So I’m wary about feeling too smug about making this switch. Maybe some salsa-dancing Welch’s exec will stumble upon this post and bring back the good stuff.

    Well, this is the end of my rant on juice, but I was really disappointed with Welch’s. Such a good product … turned not so good.

  4. Maria February 16, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    Is the HFCS industry showing these insidious ads in Canada? They are all over TV here in the US

  5. salsagigolo February 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    I haven’t seen that ad here, since I watch YouTube more than tv. But according to this:
    the ads are reaching Canadian viewers.

    The info from the clip says HFCS is banned in Canada, but based on the link above, I’m going to guess that here in Canada, it’s just being called ‘glucose-fructose’.

    That ad, by the way, was almost perverse. As a male, I felt strong sympathy for the female actress, and the first thing I thought was, “Take the popsicle, idiot.” Now, if it was the man offering the woman the popsicle … would that sell more popsicles? 🙂

  6. bobbette March 9, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    just watch out for the fish gelatin, as well as medicinal ingredients, in minute maid so called 100% juice fruit solutions….

  7. salsagigolo March 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    Ok, so you just made me look at the label again: Mango-Orange-Passion with Omega-3 has, among other things, “encapsulated fish oil (refined fish oil [anchovy and sardine], fish gelatin, sodium phosphate, sodium ascorbate, canola and sunflower oil, natural flavour, soy tocopherols, citric acid)”, as well as “hydrolyzed soy lecithin”.

    I’m not on a vegetarian or restricted diet, but you’re right, I’m not too keen on the canola and sunflower oils, or the additives derived from soy. Since it doesn’t specify, the soy might be from genetically-modified beans. Otherwise, the source for fish oil seems ok, since anchovy and sardine are low on the trophic scale.

    The other flavour, which I like somewhat less, is Goji Mixed Berry. This only has added vitamins. I guess I’ll be drinking more Goji from now on.


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