You can learn some very disturbing elements of the food supply in 94 minutes. I confess I would have enjoyed having a pause button in the dark in the theater. There were some depressing statistics.
While there were 50,000 FDA inspections in 1972, there were only 9,164 inspections in 2006. If cows eat grass for 5 days, they can shed 80% of the e-coli, yet the system gears cows to corn, something they don't naturally eat, and what leads to antibiotics in the meat.
Yes, I took notes in the dark theater. You might find it handy to do the same. That being said, the movie is also entertaining.
We see a Hispanic family struggle with time, money, and convenience. As tempting as it would be to hope this was exaggeration, their example seemed to mirror millions of Americans from all walks of life.
We meet some farmers even though the voiceover guy tell us in the beginning of the movie that while the image on food is agrarian, it's a pastural fantasy. Our food, by and large, comes from huge corporate farms. We meet a few farmers who represent thousands of farmers in really bad shape due to corporate pressure.
We meet one natural farmer from Virginia who was brilliantly eloquent in summarizing the problems and solutions of the food system. I really needed that pause button and a rewind button for some of his most poignant quotes.
For those of us who rail against the current U.S. food system, you see the visible signs of corporate dominance in quashing even simple solutions for improving food quality, such as Kevin's Law.
I promised I would check in with another reflection on Paris. The news has delayed this latest chapter.
In the last chapter, I noted that quality food was cheap. What I didn't note was that quality food was plentiful.
The good news is that there are many more options for quality in food than we've seen in recent years. But there are still two barriers to more people buying higher-quality food: money and convenience.
In Paris, money might be an issue but convenience is no excuse. Finding quality food is not difficult in Paris — baked goods, meat, fruits, vegetables — really good stuff and easy to find. There are lots of places to get food. I saw a fruit/vegetable stand in a Metro station. Walking down the streets, you can see chicken roasting as you walk by.
They say there are more restaurants per capita in Paris than just about anywhere. But the fresh food is all around, too.
And that food is really, really good. The highest quality of food in the U.S. still pales in comparison to what I had in Paris. I grew up on strawberries in Southwestern Michigan, even bending down to pick them myself (and eating them fresh off the vine). However, the strawberries I had in Paris were better.
The cheese was better. Both tarts I had were better than anything resembling them that I've ever tasted. Even two American icons — the McD's hamburger and Coca-Cola — tasted better in Paris.
When I went to Paris, I wanted to find out whether the theory was true from the French woman who said if we eat like the French, you won't get fat. But given the quality difference in food, you pretty much have to live in France to eat like a French person.
But if the food is so good, why are the French so diligent about portion control. Well, we eat lots of crap in the U.S. because it doesn't fill us up. High-fructose corn syrup "works" in soft drinks because with it, we never feel truly refreshed.
When the food is really good, a little bit goes a long way. I never got mega full in Paris, and I ran around the city a lot, but never got the in-between meals hunger or the late at night hunger.
For a number of sociological reasons, our best food in the U.S. will never reach French standards. It would help if we could set a higher standard, if for nothing else, to increase the quality of the bottom of the barrel.
You may have even seen the commercials for Pepsi Throwback. But unless you've been paying attention, or read this blog back in April, you may not know of the short-time phenomena known as "natural sugar" Pepsi and Mountain Dew products. And has there been any promotion for Mountain Dew Throwback?
The Throwback products are available for a limited time (about another week longer). And they aren't easy to find in the store. So is this experiment being done on the up and up?
PepsiCo would say "yes," because they have to. But they could have done more to let us know. The idea that soft drink manufacturers would be more eager to incorporate sucralose than sugar, despite a huge outcry for the product and the willingness (likely) to pay a few pennies more for the experience, seems anti-capitalism at its finest.
If you do find the soft drinks, are they worth the extra effort? To get the biases out of the way, I haven't had much Pepsi in my life, even when I massively drank soft drinks. But I do remember the original taste, mostly due to a recent exposure to Kosher for Passover Pepsi. Though I drank more than Code Red than the flagship at the end, the unmistakable pleasure of regular Mountain Dew has not been forgotten.
I bought 20 oz. bottles of each, mostly so I could try it over several meals. For my tastes and health, a little bit is great, but a lot is too much for me to handle.
The Mountain Dew Throwback was everything I thought it would be. Beautiful, simple, classic, very nice. The right amount of sweetness, a point not to be underscored.
I can't say the same for the Pepsi Throwback. I couldn't get a sense of the taste of the product. It was certainly better than any high-fructose corn syrup drink, but I didn't get the full Pepsi taste of old. Maybe hard-core Pepsi fans can pick up a difference, but my taste buds are pretty sensitive.
If you are looking for a sign of what I thought of the products, I bought two more Mountain Dew Throwback 20 oz. bottles and zero Pepsi Throwback bottles.
I did appreciate the 1970s jive to the Pepsi spots, reflecting the last major era where sugar was in soft drinks and not high-fructose corn syrup. The funny part about this montage of spots is that this is more the vibe I wanted to promote these products, but haven't seen on the mainstream commercials. Would have been fun to see a commercial for Mountain Dew Throwback.
But it felt sad that a couple of generations have gone by that don't remember what that was like. Let's give those who want that full-time the freedom in a capitalistic society to choose which one they like better. Even the younger people will pick a life without high-fructose corn syrup.
In the less than six months he has been in office, we have seen that President Barack Obama cares about eating well. He and his wife Michelle have dropped more than enough hints that eating well and even growing good food is important.
How can one think about eating good food and yet occasionally going for a cheeseburger? Someone who understands the "balance of food" gets that you can generally eat well, but occasionally treat yourself to something that is not as healthy. Everything in moderation.
During President Obama's first fast food trip, he was mocked for his use of mustard. Of course, mustard is much healthier than ketchup. On this trip to Five Guys, he ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers, and mustard. Forgetting the impact of the cheese in both occasions, Obama did order vegetables and left off high-sodium condiments such as ketchup and pickles.
Obama did snack on peanuts while waiting for his order, not a bad choice for a snack as long as it's in moderation.
Both times Obama got fries, and fries are potentially worse for you. But again, everything in moderation. And it does seem like the Obamas are smarter in their fast food trips than former President Bill Clinton with his jogs to McDonald's.
Of course, most of us don't eat like the president. We don't have a chef in-house who will cook what the First Family wants at a whim, nor do we eat at state dinners, sometimes in foreign countries. But most of us do go out for a fast-food run once in a while.
You walk in and see sacks of potatoes covering the front of the establishment, like a old-time bunker from World War I. There is a sign saying where today's potatoes come from.
I had read an earlier review of the place that wasn't flattering to the hamburgers. The sign above ordering noted that the burgers were juicy and well-done. As much as well-done normally means dry, there was skepticism. Despite that, I ordered a burger with sauteed mushrooms (cheese was not a good option, especially with a current personal sinus outbreak) and a regular fries.
I received a gigantic amount of fries, fresh-cut and very potatoy. They stayed hot for awhile. I can't say they are the best I've had or even the best in the city. They are fresh, and if you only have about 10-15, are tasty. But they aren't exciting, and I got rather bored rather easy. By contrast, I could eat Steak and Shake fries by the handful and never get tired of eating them.
The burger was better than expected. The fine print on the "juicy and well-done" is that the burgers are thin. I got a "little burger," which was 3.5 oz. It was quite good and I did enjoy eating that.
If you like a lot of fast food that is higher quality for a decent price, Five Guys is worthwhile. But it would help if there was a smaller fries portion. Eating the fries alone would be something I would rarely do.
In maintaining the need to eat better, I feel temptations for an occasional burger and fries. And it's always good to pick somewhere that does it better than the average fast food run. Most of the time, I eat quite well. But occasionally, I like a little fun. Just like the president of the United States, all of us looking to find our own "balance of food."
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.