Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Really? You Want to Eat That?

My parents (all of them, of course) are currently travelling through the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. And in related news, McDonalds has brought back the McRib. Confused? I promise you that there is a point and a connection. Bear with me.

My parents are not the type of people to let life pass them by. They are active participants in all that they survey, and are fully determined to leave this earth with no regrets. Thank God they have been blessed with the means and the health to do much of what they choose, and I as their daughter could not be more proud.  While they certainly enjoy a relaxing senior's cruise from time to time, to sit on a beach and watch the waves, they are in their absolute glory when their travels take them to some exotic locale where they can immerse themselves in local culture, traditions, and food. Hence this month's trek to the rain forests of South America and to the birth of Darwinism. Here was last evening's text message exchange as they checked in with their nervous offspring.

Mom: Great day. Bird watched and hiked in jungle. Panned for gold and rubber-tubed down the Napo River. I jumped in and let the tide carry my down the river. Having a wonderful time.
Dawn: You daredevil!! Who are you and what have you done with my mother?
Mom: This trip is so exciting. Have pictures of tarantulas and Dad holding a scorpion. Today we found a boa constrictor and Other Dad put it over his shoulders. So much more fun than seeing churches and cathedrals. Love.

I want to be them when I grow up. I want to live life to the fullest and jump into a river slide like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. I want to hold tarantulas and watch the sunset over the Amazon and I want to still be able to do all of this in my golden years.

So what does all of this have to do with McDonalds and its infamous McRib? Well....first some background.

The pressed pork rib-like sandwich was first introduced by Mickey-D's in 1982 and quietly disappeared again three years later. It has sporadically shown up ever since usually to great fanboy squeals of delight and brilliant marketing. It has developed a cult-like following and has generated Facebook pages, a Twitter account, and McRib Locator Sites. But, it is a cornucopia of everything that is wrong with twenty-first century eating. As Time magazine analyzed this week, the McRib is about as bad as it gets for knowingly putting a noxious substance into one's body.
If you haven't indulged in one yet, here's what you're missing: azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80 — those are just three of the 70 ingredients (34 in the bun alone) that go into the BBQ pork sandwich, according to the restaurant's website.
These components are in small enough quantities to be innocuous. But it's still a little disconcerting to know that, for example, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes, is found in the McRib bun. The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England's Health and Safety Executive classified it as a "respiratory sensitizer" that potentially contributes to asthma through occupational exposure.) The U.S. limits azodicarbonamide to 45 parts per million in commercial flour products, based on analysis of lab testing.
I am often stunned that anybody would eat crap like this. Fried butter at state fairs, burgers using donuts as buns, and sandwiches with enough fat and salt in them to bloat entire fleets of dirigibles have become a normative part of North American eating habits. We should all be crying "Uncle".

I am not a food prude. I have my vices. I like an occasional Diet Coke even though I know it is made of shit. I love my share of french fries and onion rings just like everybody else, and I have often stated in this space that chocolate is like air to me, but I like to know what I am eating and where my food is coming from. If I can't pronounce the ingredients in my daily fare, then I certainly should not be ingesting them. And for the most part, I try. It is a matter of health and welfare for me. I want to live long enough to safari in Africa and climb the volcanoes in Hawaii. I honestly have a hard time believing that anybody would choose eating a McRib over health and vigour in their later years. You cannot tell me that at the end of our days we want to say "I'm glad I passed on that trip to the Great Barrier Reef, but I loved me my pork sandwich!!" Some day I want to be able to take a picture like this one my mother sent me last evening.

1 comment:

  1. Will definitely be reading every day this month. I too, want to be like your parents! Pass on my regards.