Other bits and pieces

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 1 of Rays all natural project

Day 1

Okay, I've got to figure this out. How do I go about this. What can I eat? What are the rules going to be? How long am I going to do this? How is my family going to play into this?

I guess the first thing to do is set out some clear definitions as to what I'm really trying to do.

1.Consume foodstuffs of a natural nature.
2.Natural will be defined as those not packaged, processed, or prepared in any manner inconsistent with home preparation using raw ingredients
3.Incorporate this behavior into my daily routines, including travel and holidays.
4.Time Period TBD But, I'm leaning towards a goal of 6 months to a year for a real proof of concept.

I'm going to need to make some lists defining rules for how processed foods can be. Some foods are obvious, some not so much.

It's all going to come down to the ingredients and preparation. I'll say that food that comes in a package can be consumed if it's ingredients are all natural, and that it's preparation is the same as if I'd prepared it myself. (or very close to it) Ingredients are going to be the big one. If it has xanthum gum, it's out. I don't have a ceramic canister of xanthum gum on my counter, so it's unlikely that I'd be using that as an ingredient in anything I'm likely to cook. I could say the same for monosodium glutemate, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrulose, and yellow number five.

I'm probably going to have to take trip the nature store.

Salad dressing will be easy. I make that myself already.

Pasta, for instance; everyone uses dry pasta. I can make my own, but I'm not all that inclined to, and I don't have the time (I don't think).

This is going to be hard.

There are some aspects of this that actually won't be that bad. My family already eats a reasonably healthy diet. I do most of the dinner time cooking, and I do it mostly with raw ingredients. As long as I'm the one making dinner, the ass-pain associated with avoiding packaged products should be pretty transparent to the rest of the family. I don't eat desert. That will make it easy to avoid the retribution from the girls in that I'm not going to have to re-invent that wheel.

Where it's going to be really difficult, at least from what I can see from here, is the other two meals in my day. I have a certain love affair with ramen noodles...especially for breakfast. So, I'm going to miss that.

So, day 1, breakfast...and the log begins. While my body is craving my pre-dawn ramen noodles I have to have something else. I like the hot brothy part, so I'll have a cup of tea. Not so simple..I like sugar in my tea. Table sugar is a highly refined material. Ah!..honey. That's natural. Nothing more natural than bee poop. I'll accept the tea bag. The tea isn't any different than how I would have it were I to grow, harvest, dry, smash and steep my own.

So, the beverage is out of the way, now onto something to eat. Without too much study, I can make this first breakfast pretty easy: Hard-boiled eggs. I can't live off of them forever, so for future breakfasts, I'm going to have to get more clever, but they'll do for this morning. The only problem with the eggs, is the cholesterol. So, I'll probably just eat the whites. I'm might also have some toast. Diana makes bread from scratch in the machine, and doesn't use a box. There might be an issue with how packaged the flour is, but I'm might be okay under the same premise used for the tea; namely, I don't own my own gristmill, so I can let the flour people take care of that... as long as there's no xanthum gum.

The eggs are cool. I'll go peel them now.

And of course, it can't be that simple. By my very nature, the first thing I do once I've peeled the eggs, is open the refrigerator and grab the hot sauce. Wait a minute...better look at the label. What in the blue blazes is cellulose gum? I better look that up. The Internet tells me:

Cellulose gum (CMC) is one of the most common hydrocolloid or thickening agent used by the global processed food industry due to its versatility, ease of use and effective cost-in-use.

Cellulose gum is based on natural cellulose strains such as for example the lints from the cotton seed and its main functionality is to add mouthfeel and texture, stabilize proteins, retain moisture and form oil-resistant films in a vast variety of food applications.


Are you kidding me? Hydrocolloid? Lints from cotton seed? Eww! See, this is where the project can be easy. I don't want to eat lint from cotton seed. Let's look at the Tabasco Sauce. Ingredients: Distilled Vinegar, Red Peppers, Salt. How much salt are we talking about? Back to the Internet.

There a great website I found called www.nutritiondata.com. It has nutritional on all kinds of products that don't have that information readily at hand, including a lot of your raw ingredients.

Basically, considering the serving size (which is driven by the heat level) Tabasco Sauce isn't really even food. 4 grams only contains 1 calorie and 28mg of sodium, which is 1% of your daily requirement. But, 4g is 1tsp. I'm not putting a teaspoon of Tabasco on my hardboiled eggs.

Bottom line: I don't think I'm going to agonize too much over the salt in Tabasco.

After finishing my four egg whites, I find myself craving more food already. It's been about 1 minute and a half. I think I need to go shopping! Now what do I do with these hard egg yolks?

A little later in the morning, Diana finally dragged her beat-up body out of bed. She crashed her Mt. Bike yesterday and is feeling the brunt of it this morning. As she's making coffee, I've undertaken the business of enumerating for her the many aspects of my new project. As we're discussing different foods, and looking at stuff in our pantry, we come across some startling realities.

First, many of the things I had considered natural and healthy in our pantry are not. We commonly employ canned raw ingredients in our cooking. We use canned beans, canned green chilies, canned tomato products (sauce, paste, diced tomatoes), and canned mushrooms. One common component in many of these canned products is calcium carbonate (CaCl2). As I'm reading all these cans containing CaCl2, I'm thinking this must be some essential element of the canning process. Ummmm....not so much.

CaCl2 , according to Dow Chemicals2, is used in a variety of consumer and industrial applications. It has been evaluated as 'a food substance of very low toxicity'. Oh well, that's nice to know. I'm thrilled to find out it's just low toxicity. Personally I'd rather not define the quality of my food by quantifying how poisonous it is. If it has toxicity AT ALL I don't think I want to eat it. But, it gets worse.

The following are the routine uses of calcium chloride. Note: I am listing these in the same order, as Dow.
Deicing agents sidewalks, parking lots, and road treatments
Road stabilization and dust control
Industrial processing as additives in plastics
Drainage aids for waste water treatment
Accelerators in concrete (to speed curing)
Oil and gas well fluids
Misc applications, such as tire ballast, water treatment, hydrocarbon desiccant,
refrigeration brine, food processing agent

To quote the father on 'Everybody Loves Raymond', “Holy CRAP!” It's the last use listed under 'miscellaneous'! I can't believe we're putting this into our bodies!

According to Dow, calcium chloride is Generally Considered As Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration3. In order to garner that pedigree, it basically has to pass muster as being something added to food intentionally that won't immediately kill you. While my research does not turn up any grassroots movements surrounding the conspiracy to poisonous all with this additive, I did discover that ingesting large amounts gastrointestinal ulceration. So, is it safe...more or less, but I think if I can avoid eating deicer I will.

The grocery adventure.

I took the girls with me to the grocery store. Well, first we went to the mall so they could do some Christmas shopping. Funny thing about this time of year; with all the Christmas shoppers, there are scads of merchants hosting little taste samplers of every delectable morsel you can swing a cat at. Go figure, when I'm at my weakest! But, I prevailed. I was tempted but turned my nose up at a sampler of smoothies, avocado dips, cheeses and crackers, etcetera.

After the mall, it was the base commissary. I sent the girls into the PX so they could wrangle some Christmas goodies for their father unhindered. I went grocery shopping. I always try to keep my grocery basket under 20 items at the commissary. That way, I can use the self pay thingy, and not have to feel guilty when I refuse to let the retiree take my groceries out for a tip. For those of you not in the military, you haven't experienced this. Basically, all the baggers work for tips. They are almost exclusively cranky retirees, or Philippino import wives. You tip them for doing what everyone not an invalid does for themselves at every other grocery store; carry your crap out to the car. I refuse to pay someone to do something I don't need them to do. So, when I get up to the register, I tell the beeper person that I'll be taking my own groceries out. That, invariably, earns me a stern stink-eye from the bagger. He/she knows they will still be bagging the groceries, but missing out on the lucrative $5 handshake in the parking lot. The best way to avoid this, is keep it under 20 items and check yourself out.
Anyway, I figure I'm going to need about 45 minutes to sort through, read the ingredients of, and select the roughly twenty items that will sustain me without any diglycerides. (Spell checker doesn't even like that word) 40 minutes later, I'm not even halfway done through the store. This shit takes a lot longer than I thought! I had to pay for what I had; 13 items, and rush out to the truck to meet the girls. Alexis, who hates grocery stores, was now pissed that we had to go back in and not only shop for food, but really shop for food.
Not surprisingly, aside from produce, I found very little at the commissary that I would consider useful to my cause. I am experimenting with canned fish. I'm not sure how I feel about it fitting with my self appointed guidelines, so I'll have to sort that out after some thought. I managed to find sardines that didn't have any additives. But, I was greatly disheartened to note that the only ones I could buy were the ones packed plain, in water. All the ones in nifty sauces were chopped full of things I couldn't even pronounce. I also bought some canned pink salmon, clams, and tuna.
After the commissary, we went to an all natural food store called My Organic Market (MOMs). This gave a little more hope. I was able to find tomato sauce in a can that was just made of tomatoes. But, it was expensive. I failed to obtain tortillas. They had all natural cheese, but it was very expensive. I don't know what I'm going to do about cheese. I like cheese, but it is very processed. I'm going to have to research it a bit and come to a decision.
I was excited when we arrived home to try my new all natural lunch; sardines and grits. It's like some frankenstein combination somwhere between Martha's Vineyard and Butcher Holler. I know; not a good combo. I'll probably develop some better eating routines the further I delve into this, but right now it's survival! I took the liberty of draining the sardines and heating them up on a plate. They weren't bad. Even plain, they didn't taste as overpoweringly fishy as I had expected. I enjoyed making the grits. This seemed more appropriate to my experiment given the cook time; 20 minutes. I can't help but keep thinking about the movie 'My Cousin Vinny' while eating the grits. Having no memory of ever having had a grit before, I was surprised to discover that I liked them. I put a little bit of pepper, and dash of sea-salt on them, and they were pretty tasty. The grits revelation was quite a relief. Here's something I can eat, whenever I have 20 minutes, a pan and some water, and that I like. Grits are acting psychologically like a culinary safety net.
I just burped sardine. Wow. That was nasty. I just grossed myself out. If you smelled that, you wouldn't have thought it came out of my mouth. I might need a separate bedroom, since I think gum and breath mints are probably off my menu.

Now I'm off to make some tortillas.

The tortilla quest went better than expected, which is to say it didn't go all that great, but I think we came up with something edible. They don't really look like tortillas. As usual, I underestimated something. This time it was how difficult the task of rolling little balls of dough into round tortillas actually can be. If you didn't know better, as an onlooker you'd think we were making models of strange cells for a biology class. We eventually worked out a pretty good system of production: Alexis would roll them, I would cook and flip them, and Athena would keep blowing the smoke away from the ever-screaming fire alarm in a vein attempt to keep it quiet. In the end, we had 12 amoeboid shaped pieces of nearly or over-done tortillas of varied thicknesses. They smell good, and we will eat them.


Anonymous said...

Ray, What's the reason for this diet? I think you're okay with most artisan cheeses such as brie, feta and the like. I guess I would consider a cheese like American or Velveeta the only real processed cheese. ..oh, and cheez in a can. For breakfast, I recommend plain oatmeal with cinnamon, about 1/4 tsp vanilla, and some cut up apples. I also throw a few prunes in the bottom of the bowl. Sorry for all the intrusive suggestions; what you're doing just looks pretty interesting. Melissa

Chino said...

The reason is just to see if I can, and for how long. It's remarkably difficult to avoid foods with any additives of any kind. It's not too hard hit or miss, but making sure every single thing you eat is as natural as what the pilgrims would have eaten is no easy task...as I'm already finding out on the first day.

Please provide as many intrusive suggestions as you think up. I'm sailing without a compass here, and I can't eat grits and sardines for the next year!

Kerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerry said...

Ray, honestly some times you can make me laugh so hard that I cry, and right now you did that! Nice breath issues, maybe you can find fresh mint leaves to chew.

Unfortunately for the concept to be reality I think that you are gonna be looking at extra costs if you don't want to give up some of the things that you enjoy, like cheese, which I know I would not be able to give up.

What are you going to do about beer etc??

Derek said...

Hey Ray, just want to help your cause. Good Luck.

Vickers said...

Ray. Honestly, that's cool beans what you're tryin' to accomplish there. However comma I think you have ENTIRELY too much free time on your hands and you're goin' mildly insane as a result.
Which of course leads to your current crazy shenanigans.

Well, either way, best of luck.


jOsHuA said...

How are you going to make natural Twinkies? I didn't think you could live without whipped beef lard?

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