07 October 2010

Eat Real Food

A couple of months ago, I had a PR pitch land in my inbox, with an offer to send me (on dry ice, I guess) a frozen meal in a bag, the supermarket version of a dish from a mall chain restaurant. I toyed with the idea of accepting the frozen product, preparing it, and snarkily ripping it to shreds, for you, dear Readers. But I decided that I couldn’t live with myself for even having it in my house. I wouldn’t buy it, and I don’t want to eat it, and I don't want to feed it to my kid, and I never eat in those kinds of mall chain restaurants anyway, so why would I want to try it at home? And because I don’t want to give them any undue publicity, I’m not even going to name them.

I did, however, go to their website to check the ingredients list for one of the varieties, their General Chang’s Chicken, just to see.

  • Broccoli
  • Fully cooked crispy battered chicken breast meat [chicken breast meat, water, corn starch, potato starch, soy sauce (water, soybeans, wheat, salt), tapioca maltodextrin, sodium phosphate, garlic powder, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), egg white powder, ginger, xanthan gum. Fully cooked in vegetable oil (soybean oil, canola oil)]
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Red bell peppers
  • Soy sauce (water, soybeans, wheat, salt)
  • Concentrated chicken broth
  • Garlic
  • Canola Oil
  • Corn starch
  • Ginger
  • Chili paste (red chili peppers, distilled vinegar, salt, xantham gum)
  • Hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Oyster flavored sauce [water, sugar, salt, oyster extractives (oysters, water, salt), modified corn starch, caramel color]
  • Sesame oil
  • Caramelized onion juice concentrate
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Spice

You like that? That label is impossible to read, what with being printed in all caps and full of nested parentheses, which is why I took the time to type out the whole list for you, dear Readers. Yum, yum, yum. Oh, I suppose you could argue that it's not *that* bad, but do I want to be eating chicken that was raised in some god-awful factory farm, prepped and frozen a dozen moons ago, doctored with xanthan gum and caramelized onion juice concentrate, containing more sugar than soy sauce?

Furthermore, look at this picture. Isn't it pretty? Doesn't it look like it's got lots of red peppers in it? Yes, but look up at that ingredients list again: this here General Chang's Chicken has more sugar than red peppers. That's a lot of sugar, and here we could spin off into the whole industrial-food-complex-added-sugars-equals-American-obesity business, but we won't because it's been said in plenty of other places.

What it boils down to is this: I want real food - a fresh chicken from a clean local farm, with a side of broccoli from my CSA. And you should too.


Anjali said...

Amen. I do, too. (OK, but not the chicken part since I don't eat meat. You know what I mean.)

Life As I Know It said...

Well said! We are a healthy, organic family here...
I think a bigger problem is the cost of food. Good food is expensive. Crap food is cheap.
Many don't have the option to buy free range or organic all the time (or at all). I wish this would change, but I don't see how it can with the way the current food industry works.

And- wow - did you see the sodium content in that chicken dish?!?

bipolarlawyercook said...

I ate the leftover fish stew I made from last night for lunch today in the breakroom and around me everyone else ate the high-processed meats from the cafe and went "eeew, fish chowder." Now, I'm not saying the egg-cheese-sausage-muffin thing doesn't have its place. But not next to fresh coconut lemongrass cod stew.

kathy a. said...

yeah, the sodium content is way over the top. 48% of the daily recommended dose???? /faint/

it is really stunning, looking at sodium contents alone. a slice of cheese can be 9% of rda, and so can a slice of bread. why sodium is so high when so many of us end up watching salt because of high blood pressure, that's a mystery. we don't need that much salt.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We all should.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

We're super-sodium conscious in this household, so like Kathy said -- the sodium alone puts this out of reach for us. However I do let my son eat Progresso soup as his after school snack, because it's easy and all things considered healthy -- I just make sure he waters it down -- after-school snacks are my downfall!

Just last week I bought my very first locally-raised chicken. It took a long time to find a source for local chicken... My brother-in-law is coming over Friday night to teach me to cook it properly.

mayberry said...

Pretty sure there's no xantham gum in the poultry in my fridge right now ...

Anonymous said...

Gah! I applaud your decision. I, too, would never eat that, or the restaurant dish it is based on.

Gina said...

Fresh chicken from a local farm is so awesome. I never had it until I was an adult and I was shocked by how much better it tasted.

YourFireAnt said...

Maggie, I wish you'd been with us Tuesday night when Michael Pollan gave a speech to a quite sizable crowd in the Rosamund Gifford Series (of authors invited to speak, a fundraising effort for our central library). He was great. And your blog post would've tickled him pink.


Liz Miller said...


FreshHell said...

Yuck. I never eat stuff like this either (and wouldn't anyway because of the meat but that's beside the point). I'm glad you didn't cave.

Bron said...

I don't like food that pretends to be a healthy choice but in so many ways isn't. If you're going to be unhealthy, you shouldn't try to pass yourself off as anything found in nature. This chicken dish, no. Oreos, yes. From time to time.

InTheFastLane said...

I agree...I also wish it was easier and cheaper to purchase healthy stuff rather than crap.