Liam’s Lowdown: The things we do for our parents

Our food may not be what we think it is

After I became a journalist, my dad started making requests.

Well, they were more ideas for exposés—stories that would shake the foundations of our country. No, nothing relating to why presidents of taxpayer-funded universities make double the salary of the prime minister or when the cost for a barrel oil plummets, why don’t prices at the pump follow, or even why is a cooked chicken at the grocery store sometimes cheaper than a raw one.

No. My dad wanted an exposé on whipping cream.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the list of ingredients for whipping cream. Not that long ago, it would have listed one item—cream.

Food is kind of a big deal in more family. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Today, that list has grown. Dairyland whipping cream now has cream, milk, cellulose gel, carrageenan and cellulose gum. Adulterated cream is the new norm.

Not long ago, my dad phoned the Dairyland customer service line and demanded answers. The agent hung up after accusing my dad of shouting. My dad didn’t have his question answered.

So, my dad wanted me to try. You can only keep telling your 73-year-old father you’re busy for so long.

I phoned Dairyland this morning and asked why there are the additives. I tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible.

“One moment sir, I can look that up for you,” the agent said merrily.

I hear the pecking of a keyboard and murmurs of conversation in the background.

“The cellulose and carrageenan are for stabilizing and thickening. It helps the cream last longer,” said agent with finality.

Carrageenan is made from red seaweed and cellulose comes from the cell walls of plants, such as wood. Both are used to make foods thick and creamy, without adding fat. With ultra-pasteurization, the cream can become less stable and harder to make a voluminous airy dessert. According to Google, the additives make whipping cream less prone to spoilage.

Interestingly, many countries, such as France, still add nothing extra to their whipping cream.

I thanked the Dairyland service representative for the answers. I knew my dad would be disappointed.

It’s getting harder to find one-food items. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

However, my dad did have a point. While food is changing, there are food items we assume will stay static and have single ingredients, such as flour, yeast and salt.

Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour has wheat flour, benzoyl peroxide, amylase, ascorbic acid, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. Fleischmann’s Tradition Yeast has yeast and sorbitan monostearate. Even Sifto table salt has salt, calcium silicate, sodium thiosulphate and potassium iodide.

Everything has something to make it thicker, fluffier, longer lasting and be anti-caking.

In George Orwell’s 1984, staples like bread, gin, tea and chocolate were almost impossible to get. There were only substitutes: bread was “dark-coloured,” gin was “oily-tasting,” tea was blackberry leaves, and chocolate was “dull-brown crumbly stuff that tasted, as nearly as one could describe it, like the smoke of a rubbish fire.”

As additives and preservatives in foods continue to grow, it might not be long until the eaten outlasts the eater.

Liam Harrap is a reporter with the Revelstoke Review.

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