Saturday, December 17, 2011

December Reading: on Food

Fed up with Lunch by Sarah Wu. In which a public school speech pathologist undertakes the unenviable task of eating a year's worth of school lunches.

Did you eat school lunch? Both the DH and I went to public schools, and had working parents who were too busy or modest to pack home lunches for us. DH told me the summer lunch he packed when he worked as a yard boy consisted of rice and a can of Vienna sausage!

If my mom had packed my lunch, it would probably have been PBJ, lunch meat and processed "American" cheese or - worst! - "deviled meat" on white or "brown" Loves bread. Anything "meat" in the previous sentence was probably beef and pork "parts" - anything from the tail to the snout, and in-between. And not in a good way, as "snout to tail" means today.

When I think back on school lunch in Hawaii, I remember fondly Spanish rice and sloppy joes. I still crave those comfort foods, but rarely make them. I've forgotten the worst of them, but the desserts were fabulous - big almond cookies with a red (probably #40!) dot, squares of shortbread and cream puffs.

I probably only had TWO cream puffs in my whole elementary school career. They were praiseworthy AND unforgettable!

Back to the book: much of the food Sarah Wu ate was preprocessed. A lot of it included chicken "nuggets" and meat patties. Of our own small family - two out of the three of us have always been suspicious of the chicken "parts" - beaks and feet?! - they may consist of. The book suggests only 50% may be chicken something, the rest "filler" - whether wheat, soy or corn.

And the beef may have hormones and antibiotics. When you feed cattle - ruminants designed to graze on grasses but are instead given a diet of cheap and plentiful corn to fill them up, they get sick and are given antibiotics. The author references food source guru Michael Pollan for this.

The author offers ways to increase the nutritional value of lunches, and to introduce fresh ingredients. School lunches have few fresh vegetables - they spoil too easily. But now, even the DH's cafeteria has a salad bar.

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