I could not put this book down. Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner is a must read. It is an eye-opening and educational look at modern food and food production, the country’s attitudes toward food, and just how big the role of science is in food creation and production. I found several pieces of information in this book disturbing including the production of soybean oil, the sources of vitamins, the creation of natural and artificial flavors, and the processing of breads and cereals.
I have to say that frankly, I am appalled at the amount of processing, chemicals, and alternatives go into our food supply. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of additives in food, some of which are approved for human consumption and some that have not yet been tested, nor are required to be. I am grateful to have made the choice to be vegan and to eat as much organic, whole food as possible, but I still buy some things that have labels, like pretzels, tortillas, cereals, and vegan milks.
Soybean oil, it turns out, is very difficult to get out of soybeans so it is highly processed. I just read the label of the Whole Foods Organic Pretzel Sticks that we were munching on and now they are in the garbage. My husband is no longer allowed to eat bagels from Starbucks. When I went to the Starbucks site a week ago, I found the list of ingredients for their plain and multi-grain bagels, which contained soybean oil and other things that are not bagelworthy. I wanted to link to the ingredient list on their site, but when I clicked on the multi-grain bagel, I got this instead. That’s strange.
Vitamins that are mass produced or added to foods come from synthetic or animal sources. For example, vitamin D is made from the oil of sheep’s wool and it is added to milk. Note, that means that cow’s milk is fortified with sheep’s wool. The non-dairy milks I buy are made by Pacific Foods. They also have added vitamin D, but they are all vegan. It says so right on the label and confirmed via email to the company. If you are concerned, email the company, like I did, to get concrete answers. We deserve to know what goes into the food we buy and the brands we trust.
I have always read labels and I never buy things with ingredients I can’t pronounce. But, now, I am taking this one step further. I am not willing to compromise my health or the health of my family for any convenience, even if it means making my own tortillas, which, I think would actually be fun and not too difficult. Ingredients: flour, salt, water and oil.
Melanie Warner sums it up at the end of her book by saying that if people made better food choices, the entire system would have to adjust due to the simple economic principles of supply and demand. Melanie, shout this from the rooftops! This is the new battle cry!
I know it takes time and a little forethought to cook at home. And I know that we are all busy, but if we all got together on this, we can fix a broken system and change attitudes about time well spent. Because believe me, there is nothing more satisfying than sitting down to a home cooked meal made with love and compassion.