Dana Dlott: ‘It’s not really true the dressing you wrote about has zero calories. The imitation bacon bits have calories. The FDA has some legalistic rules about labeling that allows the company to say zero. I believe you don’t count calories from the spices. However it is close enough to zero for government work. Salad dressing is supposed to be oil, vinegar and spices. Vinegar has few calories and the spices are defined to have zero calories, so the oil which makes it creamy is the problem. This stuff is an example of modern food technology. If you take sugars, starches or oils and turn them into long chain polymers, they become difficult to digest, and if you do it right they can taste good but being indigestible have no calories. In this stuff the creamy texture is provided by a cocktail of ingredients including cellulose gel (cellulose from wood or grass is a starch polymer that is indigestible by people but yummy to cows), other starches that are also modified, and some other polymers such as modified alginate which is extracted from seaweed. I notice they are using sucralose for sweetening, which is a polymer of sucrose (table sugar) that is also indigestible but which tastes more like sugar than most other artificial sweeteners.
‘If you asked 10,000 scientists, only 10 of them would say there is anything to worry about in this stuff. Of course these 10 are in the news all the time. The two main concerns, they say, are eating this indigestible stuff can cause some kinds of stomach distress. Of course eating a lot of fat also does this. Also they say this stuff can stick to various vitamins and carry them out of the body. That is the kind of stupid thing that somebody desperately searching for a reason to not like something might say. So eat up, be happy. If the stuff upsets your stomach don’t eat it any more.’
Dan Critchett: ‘Aw, c’mon Andy, you know why food sellers whose product ISN’T fat-free, calorie-free, or carb-free get away with saying that their product IS: they make their serving size small enough so that it contains fewer calories, fat, or carbs PER SERVING than the FDA requires them to disclose. My favorite is Pam, the cooking spray: it’s 100% oil, 100% fat, but advertised as totally ‘fat free.’ How? Because a serving size is a one-second spray. (Try it some time, see if you can really spray it for only one second. Impossible. What a scam.)’
John Kasley: ‘Here’s a link to a page that answers your question about Walden Farms. (What a great name for food which is totally artificial.)’
I DON’T KNOW – WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING TO YOURS?
Pieter Bach: ‘Oh, Andy, WHAT have you been doing to your rhubarb! I hope someone told you the green part at the bottom is POISONOUS (no government program on this one, just trust me, I come from farmers) and that you have to COOK it with a little sugar – brown is actually better than white, here – to get it to taste good. How’s your stomach? Rhubarb was for centuries part of the physicians’ natural remedies lists, and was prescribed as an emetic. ‘Prescribed’ and ’emetic’ are important terms to note. It is high in oxalic acid, and the vitamin and mineral content is released by heat, the same as spinach. It used to be an important part of the spring tonicking, along with castor oil. It is combined with strawberries in pies because the iron content of strawberries (quite high) is made more available by the oxalic acid; you could, of course, combine strawberries and spinach, but I don’t think that would bake up very tasty. Think of rhubarb as a vegetable that is not improved by salt, and class it with shchav, French sorrel, and what we used to call ‘sour grass’ (Argentine oxalis), in terms of minerals. It goes well with goose and duck, because in culinary terms it lightens the fat content of the meat and makes it more digestible.’
☞ Only a man of true dedication to his readers would poison himself with frozen rhubarb chunks and then struggle to his post to tell the tale. (The truth is, I took one taste and tossed it. And as Charles will tell you – he has seen me eat food five years past its expiration – I don’t toss food lightly. Stick with the frozen sour cherries.)