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The gospel of food

Posted: November 6, 2015 10:15 a.m.
Updated: November 6, 2015 10:15 a.m.
From gluten-free to paleo, we have become downright evangelical about food. But all that knowledge can be paralyzing. From gluten-free to paleo, we have become downright evangelical about food. But all that knowledge can be paralyzing.
From gluten-free to paleo, we have become downright evangelical about food. But all that knowledge can be paralyzing.
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Have you heard about that report that says eating cured and processed meats such as bacon, ham and sausages is akin to smoking?

Of course you have. It was all over Facebook and the cable news channels.

BLT lovers everywhere cried in remorse.

Bacon is not alone in the leprous camp of food. Every week, there is a new study: Rice contains traces of arsenic — don’t feed it to babies! Corn raises blood glucose. Wheat strains have been compromised — drop that loaf of bread.

With so much food and so many choices, and armed with so much knowledge, we have become evangelical about food. There are the latest christened saints of food, such as kale, pomegranates and coconut oil, and the sinners, including hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup.

We have food healers, who preach about their life-changing diets and hawk their books, blenders and grill tools like Bible-thumping preachers.

Instead of the seven deadly sins, we have the dirty dozen — the vegetables and fruits most likely to be laced with pesticides.

These days, it seems we talk about our food choices like we used to talk about our religious affiliations: Are you gluten-free, dairy-free, free-range, vegan, paleo or Atkins? Are you part of the local movement, the slow-food movement, the green-smoothie movement or the raw-food movement?

Has your diet been saved by spinach? Or Greek yogurt?

Heaven forbid you offer cake to someone who is gluten-free, or a burger to someone who is vegan.

Last week, as part of a leadership activity in my son’s fourth-grade class, I brought in a bag of candy corn, that good, old-fashioned confection laced in corn syrup that surely has been a staple since the Pilgrims landed.

Half the candy went untouched. The kids told me they were allergic to corn, corn syrup, peanuts, anything manufactured near peanuts, and food dye.

It was the way the kids told me about their allergies that surprised me. There was a holier-than-thou attitude, a pious presumption against bringing something so monstrous into the classroom. One kid started reading the ingredient list out loud like it was the Apocrypha.

I am not making light of serious allergies or casting aside a real concern for how Americans eat. Obesity, diabetes and heart conditions are nothing to sniff about, and the more we educate people about food choices, the better.

It’s just that I am part of the generation that grew up on SpaghettiOs, pigs in a blanket and Kraft macaroni mixed with hot dogs. During my seventh-grade year, I ate the same thing for lunch every day: a double pack of Little Debbie Nutty Bars and a red slushy.

My children find this wildly shocking and hilarious, especially since, as they will tell you, I am as fanatical as the rest. We don’t buy soda or Doritos or even presweetened yogurt (too much sugar) or eat a lot of processed foods in general.

But sometimes, even for us fanatics, all this evangelizing can be downright paralyzing.

Just walking into the grocery store these days can feel like a walk through Dante’s nine circles of hell. I’m stepping on heads wherever I go. Pretzels are refined carbs. Beef jerky contains nitrates. Flavored rice cakes have sucrose. Potatoes raise the blood sugar too much. Produce should be locally sourced. Too many greens can cause alkaloid buildup. Soy-based products inhibit estrogen. Skim milk has added thickeners, but whole milk has such a high fat content. Eggs were just moved to purgatory, but they could be back any minute. Canned foods contain BPA on the lid lining. Microwave popcorn is like a walking bag of cancer.

Are you hyperventilating yet? There isn’t a safe choice in the bunch!

Food, the very thing that is supposed to keep us alive, is simultaneously killing us.

So I head home with a bucket of oats and a bag of carrots and we munch our desolate dinner, washing it down with tap water, which, by the way, contains trace prescription drugs and, according to the World Health Organization, also causes cancer.

The other day, my kids were telling me about the latest 3-D printer that prints food, including meat.

“Actual meat?” I asked them. “Like beef or chicken?”

“Oh, no, Mom.” The meat, they told me, is made of — get this — algae and bug powder. It’s incredibly high in nutrients, and, at last check, was not found carcinogenic by the WHO.

So there we have it. Moses might be shocked to learn that some of the plagues and scourges of his day would become the food of the future.

Heaven help us.

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