Thursday, August 09, 2007

What Is REAL

A new Best Foods mayonnaise commercial touts that their brand is "real" and that we should all eat more real foods.

Whether Best Foods tastes any better than other brands, I don't know, but I certainly agree with the sentiment. We live in such an over processed, nasty food world, that sometimes I ache for tomatoes just picked from the garden instead of their red, cardboard-tasting counterparts at the grocery store.

I'd give a lot these days for a bite of my dad's famous rainbow trout, caught and cooked the same day with his own special recipe. (Beats any freeze-dried halibut you're trying to pass off as food.) And for birthday cake? Mom's Finnish cake recipe, complete with moistening the layers with lemon juice and filling them with fresh jam. (Forget that artificially-colored atrocity at the grocery store bakery.)

I grew up with a mother who was way ahead of the health-food curve (and by way ahead, I mean something in the neighborhood of light years). My family was pretty much seen as the freaks of the neighborhood, and it wasn't unheard of for Mom to tell us not to mention that we ate raw honey instead white sugar, because people will think we're weird. (They did.)

She had read enough scientific literature to know well before the general public did that butter is better for you than margarine. (If I haven't mentioned it before, Mom is a bibliophile, only not so much with novels. The woman reads and reads every piece of non-fiction, especially about nutrition and health, that she can get her hands on.)

We never had margarine growing up (and I still can't stand the taste of it—I can hardly believe there are people in the world who can't tell the difference between butter and that nasty goo). But I had friends (even as an adult, I've run into them) who insist that margarine is better for you.

But we didn't even buy Crisco. "Shortening" to me meant butter. Most people I knew thought we were crazy.

It wasn't until about five years ago that the term "trans fat" became common when referring to the fat in margarine and shortening. At last, Mom was vindicated.

Like most of the country, Hubby grew up on margarine. It was cheaper and, as far as the family knew, healthier. For special occasions like Christmas, his mother would indulge in butter—and what a treat it was! So you can imagine his reaction when he married me and I put my foot down, insisting we'd always have butter, thank you very much. (Butter all the time?! Score!)

Recently, I asked a neighbor if I could borrow a cube of butter. She said yes, and I sent one of the kidlets to pick it up. He came home with a cube of margarine. I had half a mind to call her back and say, "I asked for BUTTER, lady! This isn't BUTTER." I didn't use the cube; I couldn't. We just made something else for dinner.

Same goes with other "real" foods. The fake variety just doesn't cut it. In addition to real butter, I grew up on homemade whole wheat bread that was so hearty it broke our toaster. (Dad, child of the Depression, jimmy-rigged the thing so it still worked. But you had to poke a homemade "key" into a special hole he drilled to make the toaster go down.)

Another real food I prefer is brown rice. It is real. White rice, while tolerable, is FAKE. You have to strip all the good stuff off the brown rice to make it white, just like you have to strip all the good stuff off the wheat kernel to make white flour.

My manic protestations to the contrary, hubby still prefers white bread and white rice. But I've converted him to other things over the thirteen years we've been married.

My biggest success has been getting him to genuinely appreciate—of course—REAL chocolate.

Whoops. As if one chocoholic in the family weren't enough.


Heather Moore said...

I agree. The other day I was at a family dinner and someone offered me "carb-free" chocolate. Ughh. With all the preservatives and fake stuff, I decided I'd rather just eat the real thing.

I grew up on margarine too, but now use butter.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I can answer this question for you -- yes, Best Foods is the very best. I will not let any other brand into my house. I don't care if they're giving the other stuff away free -- it tastes like white slime. We're Best Foods all the way.

Josi said...

Yup, like Tristi said, Best Foods is the best. I recetly bought thier light variety, and it's not the best. I think I'm willing to keep my hips in order to have real mayo--the Best real mayo out there.

And Amen on the butter! I was raised on Margarine and then as an adult discovered butter. I can't remember the last time I bought margerine.

You're mom rocks. I had many of the same treats you did as a kid, but it was in the name of economy rather than health, but it was still there and boy am I grateful.

I'm still working on brown rice, however :-)

Emmie said...

This post made me smile! We never had margarine either (for the same reason), and I still refuse to bake with it. Homemade wheat bread was a staple, as well as dad's fresh fish. My in-laws tease me about making everything from scratch, but cake from a mix and frosting from a can? Sacrilege!

This post also made me think of the time I bought apricots a few months ago, and something seemed wrong with them until I realized I was used to eating them sun-warmed from the tree in my parents' backyard. Maybe if I stuck one in the microwave for a few seconds . . .

Luisa Perkins said...

Annette, I have to put my foot down. I am well and truly FREAKED out by this information. How can we be so much the same?!? I know; I should be used to it by now.

I'm so very sorry, Tristi and Josi. Homemade mayonnaise is so much better than Best Foods that it's almost not worth comparing. It's easy to make, too.

You should read Real Food, by Nina Planck. It's terrific. It would be preaching to the choir, but very validating.

Unknown said...


Nice to find another "real" in my sphere of friends.

Real beats fake any day. The first time my husband had BLTs made with tomatoes and lettuce from our garden he was shocked at the difference. It's like the difference between cubic zirconium.

Annette Lyon said...

Em, I'm with you on the apricots. When my parents' tree finally died, I mourned long and hard (even though I had been out of the house for a decade).

Luisa, Let's up the freak factor: I didn't mention that Mom always, always, made mayo from scratch--largely for health reasons, because she could control what went into it. I really should get her recipe.

I'll admit here (a bit sheepishly) that in spite of my ideals, I don't always do things from scratch, because I don't always have the time. But when I do . . . oh yeah . . .

An Ordinary Mom said...

I try to be as real as I can and as real as my student budget allows :) !! I grew up in a house, too, where my mom was an amazing cook. I still crave her homemade wheat bread ... she even ground her own wheat!

There is definitely nothing better than real chocolate.

I enjoyed this post!


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