Browsing "food"
Oct 31, 2006 - food, media, observations    No Comments

It’s not healthy, so don’t use it … DUH!

It appears that Kentuky Fried Chicken’s latest press release has pushed the company’s visibility to new heights throughout the media, with BusinessWeek, the LA Times, and the Toronto Star (to name a few) blathering on about this earth-shattering news. I’ve even been hearing it on BBC Radio all night … and yet, I wonder whether the decision to eliminate partially hydrogenated soybean oil from their restaurants was driven by a true concern for the “American Obesity Epidemic” or a desire for massive (and, when you factor the blogosphere in, free in many cases) publicity.

When it comes right down to it, if it ain’t healthy either don’t use it or don’t use so much of it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: it won’t taste the same. That’s the primary reason/excuse the major food franchises have given for not moving faster on this whole issue (and others): the product won’t have the same taste customers are familiar with, and they’ll sell less product until customers either accept the change in flavor or they gain new customers.

That isn’t rocket surgery either: any cook worth half his salt … err … sodium substitute … knows that if you change an
ingredient in a recipe you will alter the flavor in the final product. This applies not only to the ingredients you put in the food you’re making and the things the food comes in contact with during the cooking process, like the oil you’re frying in.

While it may be a “bold move”, I suspect the move was more political than “conscientious citizenship” (there’s a move in New York to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants).  But, what does all this really mean? Good question. I’ve no clue, but here are a couple observations:

  • Fear of falling profits may have (um, I hear a duh on the wind) factored into the decision not to move faster … but the irony of the whole thing is that you can bet that the very same stock holders who demand their stock perform (and would sell if it didn’t) will probably be the first people to complain about the change in the taste of the food and stop buying the food (which would reduce sales … which would reduce profits … which would reduce stock performance … which … you see where I’m going with this).
  • KFC is just one of the properties owned by Yum!, with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Long John Silvers being sister franchises (this is why you’re seeing “combo stores” with two of these franchises in a single location sharing a common inside counter and drive through window). Wonder if any of those brands still use trans fats … and, if so, are they planning on changing things anytime soon? Remember that trans fats are commonly used in things like dough and oils to prolong shelf life.
Sep 14, 2004 - current events, food, stupidity    No Comments

Atkins is counting its own carbs … and laying off employees

In a recent release, Atkins (the ‘low carb’ giant) announced it would be laying laying off an undisclosed number of its 370 employees (check it out here). This came out after an anouncement the previous day about the company’s bank debt being priced down.

Things don’t look good, but (I hate to say it) I’m happy … as it indicates some intelligence creepy (albeit slowly) back into the population. While I can’t argue with people who’ve had success at weight loss and (even more importantly) maintenance after loss utilizing the Atkins system (or similar systems, like the South Beach Diet) … I still have to ask the basic question: Is a diet that cuts a particular type of food out a good thing … or would a better thing be to get off our collectively flabby butts and excercise a bit?

I mean really, folks: low carbs … carbs … things like bread and pasta and such … things that are consumed in abundance in Europe … and I’ve got to wonder what the overall health of the Italian and French populations are when compared to us in the states. I seem to remember articles awhile back that showed that France consumes more wine per person than the US does, yet has lower cholestrol and fewer heart-related health issues than we do. Makes you wonder if it’s because of our lifestyle … not the food we’re packing into our mouths.

Actually, I think it’s a combination of things:

Excercise (it’s all in the mind)

The national excercise of the U.S.A. is the “12-ounce curl” or the “channel-changer flick”. We’ve taken the concept of “picture it in your mind, and it will happen” to an extreme (just look at the plethora of half-hour infomercials touting “lose 30 pounds in 20 seconds just by frowning” or “get six-pack abs … and still drink that six-pack!”). I know I feel more toned after watching 30 minutes of aerobics … guess I don’t really need to do them then, right?

Fast (from lips to hips) Food

It used to be that “fast food” meant “good food prepared and delivered quickly”. If you believe that definition still holds, then have another Big Arch Delux, lardboy (remember those things? I think they topped out at the same amount of fat and calories as the entire daily consumption of Tuvalu). If you want to swear off fast food permanently, check out Fast Food Nation, a romp through the side of the industry you never really wanted to know … but probably should.

My point is simple: “Fast Food” is neither “good food” nor “good for you food”. Period. That’s one of the reasons I became a personal chef, to provide a more wholesome (yet convenient) alternative to the world of “meat” patties (they ain’t real meat … or, at least, not meat you’d really wanna eat) and fries.

“If I can (blame/sue) someone for my problem … it’s no longer my problem”

Let’s face it: American society is litigious … any way we can make money off our own stupidity, by gum, and we’re’a gonna do it! Pour hot coffee in your lap while you’re driving … it’s clearly the fault of the guy who gave you the coffee (not your own clumsiness … never that). And when it comes to food, we’re no different. One guy ate nothing but fast food for a month and gained 30 pounds … another guy did the same thing and didn’t … what’s this mean? Simple: we must force restaurants to put nutritional information on the menus (critical assumption: we actually read and understand it), because the restaurants are feeding us too much bad food … never mind that the concept of “family sized” portions is based on a family of humpback whales, we demand to get our money’s worth.

And if we can’t … sue ’em. It’s the next best thing to the lottery.

Ok, ok … ’nuff of my high horse … I need a bacon double-cheese burger.

Aug 13, 2004 - current events, food    No Comments

The (French) Kitchen’s Closed …

Julia Child passed on in her sleep last night, according to her publisher (here‘s a link to the story on MSNBC). She was 91.

I’d love to say “I met her once …” and relate a touching, personal story but that’s simply not the case. I, like most of the rest of the food-loving world, knew her only from afar: her cookbooks, TV programs, guest appearances on Emeril Live, and so forth. So, I’ll forego a long winded eulogy and simply say,

“God bless, Julia … you will be missed.”