Real Stuff

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

I am not a food or nutrition “nut”. (And I can’t imagine I’d ever be accused of being so.) But I do keep moving more and more toward making sure that I and my family are eating actual food. Both because of health, and because of taste!

However, there are some holiday traditions (and family traditions) that transcend the “eat real food” principle.

Cool Whip would be one of them.

Much of the fluffy white stuff was consumed atop much pumpkin pie over the past two days (and likely more will be today). There was mention of perhaps purchasing real whipped cream, but that idea was quickly chastised, and Cool Whip was the one and only choice.

And I do admit, it does not taste bad. But as I sampled it, I thought, This doesn’t even have any milk in it, does it? To my surprise, it does: Skim milk and a small amount of light cream. Still, when you see the rest of the ingredients—and you know that whipped cream, at least from scratch, is just whipped heavy cream, and maybe vanilla—you do begin to wonder why anyone would put this substance inside their bodies…

Friday was leftover day, and that meant copious amounts of turkey were consumed throughout the day. Well, what is turkey without mashed potatoes, right? Due to other events scheduled for the day (Ian’s playing in a hockey tournament, and he had two games on Friday!) there was not time to properly address the lack of mashed potatoes problem. Being resourceful—and apparently lax in principle—I grabbed the box of instant mashed potatoes we had sitting in our pantry. (I think it may have been a gift from some friends last Thanksgiving!)

As I was making the fake potatoes, I thought of several things. First, Jen and I used to eat these regularly when we were first married. I think that’s because, second, my Mom used to make potatoes from a box when I was a teenager. (Maybe younger, too.) She makes the real stuff for all holiday family gatherings, now, though. I don’t think I made real mashed potatoes until just a few years ago. Now that’s all that I make, exclusively (…except when we have this box, and we’re in a hurry.) 🙂

When they were finished and I whipped up the little flakes into what resembled mashed potatoes (though somewhat plasticky/rubbery) I recounted those thoughts to my kids as we ate them. Again, they didn’t taste bad—in fact, our eight- and six-year olds sang their praises—but all I could think about was what a bad substitute they are. And I wondered, too, if the list of ingredients could be as crazy as Cool Whip?

Well, let’s have a look at the two pseudo foods I’ve mentioned here, shall we?

Cool Whip

Water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut & palm kernel oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, (<2%...) light cream, sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, sodium polyphosphate, beta carotene (color).

Instant Mashed Potatoes

Idaho® potatoes, with emulsifier (mono and diglycerides from vegetable oil) and preservative (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfite, citric acid, mixed tocopherols).

Note: The potatoes we had were the Aldi brand, Chef’s Cupboard (I think), and not Hungry Jack. But I figured they’re close enough for the representative photo.

After I read those lists of ingredients to the kids, I got out the bag of potatoes and read the “ingredients” on that: Potatoes. (And we had mentioned that whipped cream is just cream, again, one thing, with maybe some flavoring.)

“Which of those sounds more like something you would eat?” I asked with a knowing smile.

“The potatoes,” said a chorus of children in confident unison.

So my final question here is, what is wrong with us? Why do we put that stuff in our bodies? Is it only because it’s cheaper? Easier? Is it really because of the taste? (I can answer for my wife on the whipped topping question: YES, the TASTE!) 🙂

I find it so fascinating that we treat our bodies this way. It’s not really that difficult to make mashed potatoes from real ingredients, nor obviously to make whipped cream (you just, whip… cream?) but our culture makes icons out of the fake stuff. Fascinating.

Well, aside from some family and holiday traditions that just can’t be broken, we will continue towards eating more and more real stuff. (Including things we grow ourselves!)

And I imagine our bodies will thank us for it.

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