How appropriate given the season, where lots of sweet things are being consumed, that we have two major bits of news on the sweetness front.
-- New York State is proposing an 18% tax on sugary soft drinks and other sugary beverages. Governor David Paterson is considering such a move to shore up budget deficits.
So if this tax comes to pass, regular soft drinks would have the tax and diet drinks would be exempt. I would love to call this the high-fructose corn syrup tax, but unfortunately, this would also apply to cane sugar drinks, too.
As difficult as it would be to pass this tax, it would be even more difficult to pass one only for HFCS drinks. But it would do two different things: it would force companies to stop playing the "HFCS and/or sugar" labeling game and it would help even the already uneven field for high-fructose corn syrup (regular readers know of the subsidies for corn products and the artificially high sugar prices in the U.S.).
-- The bigger news is that the FDA is allowing stevia-based sweeteners onto the market. Stevia has existed in its natural form, but the FDA wouldn't approve it as a sweetener, allowing it to be bought as a dietary supplement.
Cynics have charged that the FDA wouldn't make a move because you can't get a patent from something nature makes. But there are companies making stevia-based sweeteners that have received a letter of "no objection" from the FDA.
For those who haven't tried stevia, it does have a strong licorice taste. The nice thing about stevia is that it is natural, a concern for those who have had problems with artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame.
The major questions are whether "stevia-based" is completely natural and whether the sharp licorice taste will be muted. Those searching for a natural sweetened drink with few calories may not want to see Ace-K or some equivalent. And unless you like licorice, the strong taste can turn off sensitive American tastes.
When McDonald's first started selling hamburgers under Ray Kroc, they went for about 15¢. Back then, the beef was likely grass-fed free of antibiotics.
Now we have gourmet burgers sold for $7, $8, or $10, again likely grass-fed. The growing trend of gourmet burger places have brought up the point. Yes, they might taste good but are we getting the bang for the buck?
Growing beef the old-fashioned way is gaining momentum, and while it is worth a little bit more money, in these times, is it better to go to McD's and buy a $3 burger? I've been trying out some of these gourmet burger places to find out for myself.
this sheet from Custom Burger in San Francisco. the full sheet is available after the jump.
I do like the presentation: you get a sheet and mark boxes to say what you want. Couldn't tell you how many times in my fast food heyday that I would get cheese or onions when I didn't want it or was missing mustard or ketchup. In the case of Custom Burger, you need to circle the choices. No lost communication when boxes are marked off on a sheet.
The one thing these gourmet burgers get you to consider is enjoying the hamburger by itself not tainted by fries. Oh, these places will still sell you fries and other things. A place in Chicago even has deep fried pickle slices.
Most of my content on this site can't be described as politically extreme. It's about nutrition and how people deal with food. But politics affect how people deal with food, nowhere more so than in the United States.
This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. Both sides have screwed up or avoiding fixing things. Since the spirit of change is in the air, and since things have become worse in the last eight years, I suggest an overhaul of the food system in the U.S.
Millions of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie as well. But I haven't, at least not in a very long time.
Don't know if it was because of the obvious stereotypes or eating with others who didn't care about being traditional.
But this year was different. I had a plate of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, broccoli, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie. And it was fun.
First, the story. I flew into San Francisco Thanksgiving night. I had done Thanksgiving the previous weekend (no turkey in sight) and was just out to have some fun. I had lunch on the plane, but wasn't sure what I was going to do for dinner.
As I toted my suitcase up Kearney from Market Street, I noticed there weren't a lot of places open for dinner. I did see one Chinese place, be so near Chinatown, but it was packed.
I was staying at a hostel, and as I checked in, they asked me if I was staying for dinner. I thought, "well, yeah." I forgot the hostel was having a Thanksgiving dinner. At that point, I would have had just about anything for dinner.
Now in a hostel, you have a lot of people that fall into two categories: 1) they aren't from the United States, and 2) they like things American. There was this excitement over having an authentic American meal.
I grew up on the traditional Thanksgiving meal. A turkey was carved, but there was more people back then. We would have rice instead of mashed potatoes. We ate a lot more carbohydrates back then. But I've fallen out of the tradition.
But it was nice to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for once. It was completely unexpected. The portions were just right with no pressure to consume great amounts of food. I liked that. I easily saved room for a very good slice of pumpkin pie.
In the holiday season, we easily get caught up in the spectacle of food pressure, some of which is brought on by traditions. I usually have chocolate chip cookies at Christmas time, a long-time tradition. And I adjust my eating to reflect this holiday treat.
So there are some traditions I observe, and some I haven't. But the point is to not be hostage to traditions that would hurt your efforts long-term. A little splurging is part of what the holidays are all about.
This is one of the most difficult times of year to "be good." Tweaks in traditions can help, perhaps giving a few traditions up for awhile might help. After all, when you go back to those traditions, you'll have a refreshed appreciation of those times.
There is no right way to finding the balance of food, just your way. My typical breakfast is whole wheat spaghetti with homemade sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and a naturally low-fat Italian cheese sprinkled on top. Works for me.