Sunday, April 10, 2011

Consumer Watchdog: Chocolate

Let me start by saying I love chocolate. It's been a passion since I was a child. There are certain treats I remember fondly and even though I don't eat them on a regular basis, every now and then I will indulge.  One by one, these cherished childhood treats have let me down. Well, really, it's the manufacturers.

When did it become OK to replace sugar with high fructose corn syrup and cocoa butter with hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. I know they are cheaper and more shelf stable. But they don't TASTE the same. Not only that, but they are even worse for you, health wise, than the natural ingredients.

Then there is the underhanded way these manufacturers are trying to put one over on the public. How? They shrink the size of the product, wrap it in the same size packaging and charge us the same price. Snickers, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, etc. They have all shrunk over the years. The ingredients have changed. Now, finally, it's reached the point where I no longer like the taste. The ratios are wrong and they taste artificial and waxy.

So I switched brand loyalty a number of years ago. I started eating certain imported and specialty brands of chocolate. Until THEY sold out. One sold their brand name to a US based chocolate maker so that company could make and sell their products. What did Hershey do to my decadent Cadbury chocolate? They started making it with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.  Did the taste change? Hell yes, it did! Not to mention the downsizing of my beloved creme eggs. Boo Hershey!

My focus hovered around Godiva, Lindt and Ghirardelli chocolates. Good stuff! I was super pleased when Lindt bought Ghirardelli in 1998. Better than being run by Quaker. I'm not super fond of giant food conglomerates buying up my favorite snack food start-ups and then changing the recipes to suit their high-volume, cheap focused policies (remember SmartFoods?! The formerly yummy cheesy popcorn treat is forever ruined for me.)

When my local supermarket started carrying Lindt and Ghirardelli products on their shelves, I was thrilled. At first. Easy access to something that used to only be found in upscale department stores or by mail order? Yes! But wait... Why does this Ghirardelli square taste odd? It doesn't send me into chocolate bliss. Not like my first taste in San Francisco back in the late 90s. Oh no!  High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils?!

Even my beloved Godiva - Belgian, expensive, pretentious... they now use partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil. Ick.

So now I am on a search for a new chocolate company. One that CARES about what goes into their products. I don't mind if I have to pay $5 a bar or more. You hear me chocolate manufacturers??? Spoil me! Make a decadent treat with all natural ingredients that costs me an arm and a leg to buy. I don't care! It's worth it!  I want to let that little square melt on my tongue and taste the jungles of central America. Not artificial flavors and fake fats. Even better? Made with guaranteed Fair Trade ingredients. No child or slave labor! Ever! You hear me Africa?

Yes we American's love our chocolate. But I bet a lot of us would give it up if we knew who was picking the beans and how much of the natural rain forest was cut down to make room for cacao plantations using unhealthy growing practices. It's pretty ugly.

Now I should rant about tuna. Well...I guess I'll save that for my next episode.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sweet!

Life handed me a sack full of lemons...so we made lemonade! Really, it was the husband with the lemons (at the insistence of my youngest.) He learned fast how hard it is to squeeze lemons by hand.

Mistake #1 was storing the lemons in the fridge overnight. Brr! Not good for the arthritis or sensitive little hands. #2 was misplacing the hand juicer (and the food processor.) Found the little hand juicer when there were 3 lemons left to squeeze. Max didn't want to try the new twist and squeeze method and just watched me like a hawk.  #3 was thinking sugar packets would be a good way to control the amount of empty calories we dumped into our mixture. Watching your 4 year old rip open and dump packet after packet can raise the blood pressure to unsafe levels. Not to mention making the walk through the kitchen feel rather gritty. I promise I fished all the paper scraps out of the jug.

The sugar packets, really, were a mixed blessing. Some of us like our lemonade on the sour side (Max), some like it medium sweet (Tyler), and some just a tad sweeter still (John and I).  So the jug in the fridge is super sour. Ready for ice and more sugar.

Want some lemonade? Nothing like fresh squeezed. Enjoy it now. This little experiment in kitchen science won't happen again any time soon. Heh heh.