(I Originally wrote it and published in Fog City Journal -Chris Kanthan )
I was at a moderately priced Sushi restaurant a few weeks ago. While I was going through the menu, I saw that they had crab. When the waitress came by, I asked her if it was real crab.
She smiled coyly, and informed me, “It is imitation crab.”
“How come it doesn’t say ‘imitation’ on the menu?” I was puzzled.
“If it was real, we would say ‘Not imitation.’”
“Logical enough. So this is fake crab. Can I pay with fake money?”
She turned cold. “Counterfeit money is illegal, sir.”
I got it. Two lessons learned: One, fake food is legal, but fake money is not. Second, fake food is the default — if it’s real, they will tell us.
The next day, as if by Laws of Attraction, I read an article that said 84 percent of white tuna in sushi restaurants is actually escolar, the snake mackerel fish that causes – sorry for being graphic – oily anal leakage, and was banned by the FDA until 1992. It is still banned in Japan, Italy, and requires warning labels regarding the leaky discharge in Canada, Sweden and Denmark.
And it’s not just fish. Fakeness has become epidemic.
More than 75 percent of honey in the supermarket is not even honey. Just corn syrup, mixed with some chemicals that smell and taste like honey.
I started buying organic honey a while ago, and I could tell it tasted wonderful and different. But guess what? Soon I learned that the term “organic” can be applied to something that is only 75 percent organic. So what I should be looking for is “100% Organic.” Preferably, “USDA certified”. And just when I thought I had found the perfect honey, my friend brought me back to reality saying, “What you also need to look for is the phrase “raw and unfiltered”. And “pure” might be another good word as well.”
If you just get olive oil, you are in for a big surprise. What you need is Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil. (I wonder if the Bible describes Mary as “Extra Virgin”?)
So there are all kinds of adjectives we need to memorize and remember, if we want to get good, real food.
Salmon? Did you make sure it is ‘Wild’, or at least ‘Responsibly Farm Raised with no Antibiotics, or Hormones’? If you get chicken or beef, make sure it is organic. ‘Natural’ doesn’t mean anything these days. And verify the ratings of how the animals were raised. Sometimes it is good to have lower numbers, and sometimes you need to look for higher numbers.
Eggs? Regular eggs are from tormented, sick chickens. And I used to think ‘cage free’ was awesome. Nope. It doesn’t really mean much, in spite of the heart-warming pictures of happy chickens they have on the cartons. So, organic eggs are much better. But, really, you have to get ‘100% USDA certified organic pastured eggs.’
If you are at a fancy restaurant, they will have beef from ‘grass-fed cows.’ Wow, what a concept. Cows have been eating grass since the days of dinosaurs, but now it’s a high-priced novelty! (To be fair, I didn’t do any research on the evolutionary origin of cows).
You like chocolate? Get organic. And also, look for the “Fair Trade” logo. Otherwise, it could be from Africa where big corporations like Nestle make nine year old girls work in cocoa fields for fourteen hours a day.
Of course, always look for anything that says there is no genetically modified stuff. ‘No GMO’, ‘Non-GMO’ etc. are good things to see on labels.
This is crazy! Everything is upside down. Real things should not need adjectives. Altered and fake things should need adjectives.
We should not need an Excel sheet to remember every damn set of adjectives for every single thing we eat or buy.
It’s time to shift the burden to the industry that profits from fake food. Let them have an asterisk next to everything that is not real, and in a box below, let them explain how the real thing has been altered. Let them say ‘filtered, heated, processed, 90% GMO corn syrup honey.’ Chocolate should be marked ‘involves pesticide, child labor, and unfair trade.’ And, of course, imitation crab will no longer be called crab.
Everything real should just be known by its real name. Absence of adjectives should be a good thing.
On the other hand, if the marketing gurus at the food industry really need to have an adjective, here is one: JFF—Just F***ing Food TM. And call me first, please. I have it trademarked.