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What is "processed"?

It all started with a simple question: Could I go without processed foods for 30 days?

Sure, I thought. I'd done a similar 30-day challenge before (buying no prepared foods like bread, sauces, etc. for a month), and while it was difficult, I learned a lot. So, I said to myself, what exactly does "processed" mean?

Then the fun began. 

I like definitions, and bounderies. You can't break a rule (on purpose) until you know what it is, and it's better if you know where it came from and why it's there. I've heard my entire life that "processed" foods are bad, we should all eat fewer of them, and that obesity/poor health/malnutrion/low resale value of your car are all the fault of these damn processed foods. 

Like many things nutrition, "processed" is most often defined by the "I know it when I see it" test. Cheese puffs? Processed. Apples? Nope. Hot dogs? Oh yeah. Cookies? Well, that depends on what kind. How about cheese? Those yellow squares have to be, but what about a block of cheddar? Does it matter if it's made by hand and sold at twice the price at Whole Foods?

But what, exactly, makes those foods processed? Is it the ingrediants? Many of the definitions I've found specify one of two tests (if not both) - you have to be able to recognize and pronounce all the ingredients, and it has to be something you could make in your kitchen. But if I can't pronounce or don't recognize something, does that make it processed, or just mean I'm uninformed? And I certainly can't make most breakfast cereals at home (Make a corn flake. I dare you), or cheeses for that matter. But neither is commenly placed in the "processed" pile.

Maybe it's what happens to the food - tearing it down, recombining, adding some fillers - that makes it bad. But that would lump hot dogs in with everything with flour in it - that can't be right. Almost all food preperation requires similar steps unless you're eating raw, so I'm not liking this defintion either. 

Perhaps a food's "closeness to nature" is the best way to judge. Fruit off the tree? Awesome. Same fruit in a can - "processed"? Maybe. Meat off the bone of any animal you killed? Assuming cooking isn't "processing", you're in good shape. How about milk? Sure, if it comes straight from the cow to your glass. But almost all milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to keep it from separating, both done through some funky processes. And that's how I like it, thank you very much. 

In the end, there isn't a good definition, because "processed" or not isn't the right way to look at our food. We need to see how food is prepared, what's lost or retained via processing, and eat everything in moderation and as part of an overall healthy diet.


Quick question for everyone to ponder over and argue about: Outside the actually staff members I know, just about everyone I've met who I'd consider pretty hardcore vegans and vegetarians doesn't care for the practices of PETA. I happen to find them very, very entertaining, but a lot of people think they go to far.

What's your take? Are there specific things they do that you don't like? Are they generally a good group? Often I'll talk to people who say they hate PETA, but can't give me any real reasons. Do you have some?

Question of the day

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What have you never tried (culinary-wise) that you're curious about, or scared to try? Why?

Recaps and More Water

Yesterday's Cupcake event was fun, even though we had two "forgets" and one "late" - still, it was nice to see friends I don't get to see often. We'll definitely do another one of these soon. I'm thinking Mondays at lunchtime (and in the evening), as I do a lot of my baking on Sunday night...

For a little further discussion on water, I've decided to boycott Brita because they're evil horrible scaremongers. Well, they produced this, at least:

Remember, kids: water from clean-looking-but-often-parasite-infested streams is great, and you should drink it. But the water from your tap is horrible and evil, and you need our filter to save you from it, and make it more like the parasite-infested stuff.

If you haven't noticed, boycotting is second nature to me. I have entire countries on my shit list. I can even make that today's question: What, if anything, do you actively boycott? Extra points if it's food-related. 

What are you reading?

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Try as I might, I'm realizing that I can't hope to post an extended recipe entry every day - and like I've said before, that's OK. But I can try to broaden my horizons every day, and you can help:

What other food blogs are you reading?

I have a few friend's sites to the left there, but truth be told, I'm not really someone who reads a lot of stranger's blogs (though comment on my site once, and you're not a stranger anymore). That said, I'd like to find some. Vegetarian-themed is fine, and I like baking, but I think there's value in all sites, as long as they're not meat-only. What are you reading that's funny, or inspirational, or just plain good?

A post a day? Really?

My friend Cyn, writer of the much-prettier-than-tofufighting Furey and the Feast, has given herself a challenge - post every weekday in March.


I post every weekday at my "regular" blog, Lemme tell ya - it's not easy. There tends to be enough general stuff happening in my life, however, to fill up a few sentences every morning - sometimes 4, sometimes 20. But food blogging tends to be a little more intensive, with more photos, more documentation (recipes, reviews, etc.) and a more narrative feel. All that takes time, doubly so if you want a dash of quality thrown in.

Being a masochist, liking a challenge, and needing an excuse to get the ball rolling here, I'm going to try the same thing. Some days will be big posts with pictures, recipes, and commentary. Others might just have a mini-review of a new product or restaurant. And some days, I might just ask you a question and fill my self-imposed quota.

It is still my site, after all.

So let's get started with the quota-filling question: What foods are you reluctant (or just plain unwilling) to try/use? It could be for any reason: I don't use eggplant because it always tastes bad to me, and I'm allergic to it's family (though I love a lot of the other members). As a vegetarian, this tends to make my life a little more difficult than it needs to be. Alas, for cooking there's always zucchini, which can often be substituted well.

How about you?

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