In medieval times, radical monks would take fasting to the extreme, wanting to avoid food because food brought pleasure. Because one needs to eat in order to live, the monks wanted food that was tasteless, providing no pleasure. So they ate things like gruel. It’s unfortunate for these monks that they didn’t live in 2015 where soy fillers are used in the modern food supply, rendering it tasteless.
I recently had a craving for ice cream. I settled on strawberry cheesecake from Turkey Hill. This used to be one of my favorite flavors–until now. Granted, this product is called frozen dairy dessert. The texture of this was like frozen Cool Whip. The red swirl was red but it was like red food coloring, not like a strawberry syrup with bits of strawberry. The cheesecake pieces were hard, flavorless squares that felt more like frozen breadcrumbs. Let’s look at the ingredients: MILK, STRAWBERRY SWIRL (CORN SYRUP, STRAWBERRY PUREE, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, WATER, TAPIOCA STARCH, CITRIC ACID, SALT, XANTHAN GUM, GUAR GUM, LOCUST BEAN GUM, RED 40, NATURAL FLAVOR), CHEESECAKE PIECES [SUGAR, WHEAT FLOUR, CREAM CHEESE (MILK, CREAM, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, SODIUM PHOSPHATE), SHORTENING (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN & COTTONSEED OILS), PASTEURIZED EGGS, CELLULOSE, SOYBEAN OIL, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, PECTIN, NATURAL FLAVORS, SALT, XANTHAN GUM], SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, NONFAT MILK, WHEY, CREAM, MALTODEXTRIN, CELLULOSE GEL, POLYDEXTROSE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, PROPYLENE GLYCOL MONOESTERS, GUAR GUM, MONO & DIGLYCERIDES, CELLULOSE GUM, POLYSORBATE 80, CARRAGEENAN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN D3.
Granted, this product is called frozen dairy dessert. I also got a Turkey Hill ice cream, key lime pie. It had the exact same Cool Whip texture and hard breadcrumb pieces. Ingredients: MILK, CREAM, KEY LIME SWIRL(CORN SYRUP, WATER, SUGAR, LIME JUICE, NONFAT DRY MILK, BUTTER, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, GUAR GUM, XANTHAN GUM, YELLOW 5), CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GRAHAM PIECES(WHEAT FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, CORN SYRUP, MOLASSES, HONEY, SALT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), WHEY, NONFAT MILK, CELLULOSE GEL, CELLULOSE GUM, MONO & DIGLYCERIDES, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL FLAVORS.
Cellulose gum–this is what they used to sell to dieters to expand in the stomach and make one full, thus stifling hunger.
In his book Let the Meatballs Rest, Massimo Montanari, professor of medieval and food history at the University of Bologna, Italy, cites a 2008 La Repubblica article that reported that Kim Jong-il experimented with a remedy to combat hunger in North Korea by adding soy flour to noodles so that people would feel full, or bloated, and be less hungry. Interesting how in a free country like the United States, our food is now full of these same fillers like cellulose, soy, and carrageenan. Is this how the U.S. is combating obesity, by taking away our freedom for foods in their traditional state? Not only do these ingredients affect the flavor of food, they affect the texture, the mouthfeel, creating an unfulfilling experience that the medieval monks would have loved.
I don’t want Turkey Hill to think I’m picking on them. They have premium ice creams, but I sure won’t be eating them after the delicious key lime pie ice cream and strawberry cheesecake frozen dairy dessert. I had a Reese’s peanut butter cup on Valentine’s Day. Wow. Oily mouthfeel, claylike peanut butter filling. I tried a Girl Scout cookie, which I haven’t had in years. Same ew mouthfeel. I’ve written about the ubiquity of soy in our food in another post, so there are any number of products with this emulsifier, oil and flour. I wasn’t happy to find that even the 365 brand at Whole Foods uses soy in its products–like the jarred tomato sauce. I’d like to point out here that I shop the perimeter of the store and, for the most part, eat clean and fresh. If I have the occasional splurge, I want it to be good–I want the pleasure that the monks were trying to avoid. I don’t want the creamy in my cream cheese thinned out with carrageenan. Because that bad mouthfeel and taste will also be imparted to anything I make with my cream cheese, including cheesecake.
While the monks were trying to avoid pleasure in the Middle Ages, the peasants were trying to survive. After bringing potatoes back from the Americas, the European upper classes introduced them into the peasant diet. They thought it would be a great filler to keep them full. At that time, the prevailing thought was that peasants, or the lower classes, were coarse and vulgar and therefore, their stomachs could handle intestinal problems caused by foods that are hard to digest.
And so here we are in 2015. The monks of the day are probably the people who workout and eat clean, foregoing pleasure for the appearance of their bodies, now synonymous with health. But they are not the important ones in my discussion. The upper classes are on the cutting edge–on par with the scientists of North Korea experimenting with soy flour to satiate their people. They are the FDA, the USDA, the policy makers, BIG FOOD, etc. And who are the peasants? Why, you and me. We are the peasants who are not supposed to notice that food doesn’t taste or feel the same. We are not supposed to notice when this same food causes us intestinal issues or other medical problems because it makes us fuller, i.e., less obese, and saves insurance companies money on obesity-related illnesses (or so we’re told). And what to do about those intestinal issues? Well, thank goodness, we have BIG PHARMA waiting in the wings to provide a solution.