A few weeks ago, I went on a rant of a few things that irritate me, like cantaloupes and steak searing. Well, I slept poorly last night due to a series of frustrating, annoying, and terrifying dreams, and since I feel like soap-boxing AND it’s a post day, I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone.
- Evaporated Cane Juice
Every time this term pops up, I simultaneously want to burst out laughing/beat someone with a burlap bag full of kittens.
Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t have anything against ECJ personally, it’s the term I loathe. You’ll most frequently find it in the ingredient list of pretty much anything in the ‘natural’ section of your local mega-mart, but it also makes appearances in the ingredient list of foods in the regular aisles.
Evaporated Cane Juice. It sounds healthy, right? An all-natural, plant-based sweetener; oh, kinda like Stevia, right? Maybe it’s the juice of Stevia stalks or something, which is then evaporated, so it must be like Truvia, only without all the artificial sweeteners used to bulk it up. WRONG!
You heard me – evaporated cane juice is a fancy, healthful-sounding name for the same flippin’ sugar that people get their panties in a twist about. THE. SAME. THING.
Now, before you chime in and tell me that it’s not, that ECJ is actually a syrup, and that it matches up exactly like this…
Milk --> Evaporated Milk --> Powdered Milk, so therefore
Cane Juice --> Evaporated Cane Juice --> Sugar
…and since ECJ doesn’t do through the whole bleaching process that white sugar does, it is healthy, allow me to arch my eyebrow at you in almost-patient exasperation.
First of all, despite its liquid-y sounding name, ECJ is just as dry and granulated as The Great White Sugar Demon everybody loves to hate (though it does have a slight dusty tinge to it). It’s more processed than raw sugar, less than white, BUT IT’S STILL SUGAR!
Why does it bug me so much, seeing as I love sugar regardless of its bad rap? Because it’s pretty obvious that when it gets put into an ingredient list ::coughSmartBalanceOmega3PeanutButtercough:: the manufacturer clearly thinks I won’t know it’s sugar, especially if I’m looking for a sugar-free peanut butter (of which there are few). Manufacturers acting like I’m that easy to fool piss me off, but even more so when I know that they’re right to do so, because 90% of average-joe buyers out there probably have no idea that refined white sugar IS half-a-tiny-step from evaporated cane juice.
- People Freaking Out About Artificial Flavorings
Have you ever been chillin’ and had someone come up to you with a mega-phone and start screaming in your face about all the artificial flavors in [insert random item here], and how artificial flavors were invented by Hitler to fund concentration camps, but now that he’s dead the money goes to fund feline abortions in Islamic countries?
The scoop on artificial flavors is complex, and it does involve a lot of white lab coats, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Flavor, natural or otherwise, is an intricately balanced compound of up to thousands of particular chemicals that affect taste and/or aroma, and in order for an artificial flavor to taste exactly like whatever it’s trying to emulate, it has to have the exact same chemical profile. Seriously, not even one atom off in a giant hyper-molecule, or it will not only NOT taste like what it’s supposed to; it might taste like the complete opposite. Or it might be poison, which is often not tasty at all.
This exactitude means that good artificial flavoring is often much healthier and SAFER than all-natural flavoring. In spite of people loudly freaking out about it. How is that even possible?
Artificial flavors have to be manufactured, and since every step of the process is controlled, and since the only thing the lab is after is Flavor X, they aren’t going to make anything BUT Flavor X.
Natural flavors, on the other hand, didn’t evolve simply because they knew we’d find them super-yummy. Nor is the flavor we’re after ever the only chemical compound produced by whatever natural source we get it from. This means that in addition to all that oh-so-natural apple flavor, there’s also cyanide - the poison of choice for angry women everywhere (100 years ago). It means that there’s a healthy dose of wood grain alcohol (the single biggest poisoning agent of The Prohibition) in that completely-natural vanilla flavor you love so much, and pay extra for because it’s totally not artificial.
Add to that that both natural and artificial flavors are still blended by some scientist-type dude in a lab, and it becomes pretty clear that excellent artificial flavors are not only cheaper, they are orders of magnitude safer for human consumption than their natural counterparts.
- Crappy Artificial Flavors
As much as I appreciate great artificial flavor, I absolutely despise crappy artificial flavor. If your best rendition of a flavor, as a professional Flavor-ologist, tastes like a toddler-picture of the flavor was crumpled up into a ball, rolled past a test tube, and then that test tube was carried (uncapped) in my sweaty armpits as I walked from Calcutta to Timbuktu, just hang up your lab coat and safety glasses and go home. Really. We’ll ship your personal items to you.
What’s more, in addition to committing hate crimes on innocent tastebuds everywhere, crappy artificial flavors just HAVE to be fueling the fire of the people I mentioned above. I mean, if it tastes like poison, is manufactured by someone who’s whole job is to get flavors EXACTLY right, and even a tiny mistake can literally turn a perfectly good flavor into ACTUAL poison, there aren’t a whole lot of reasonable explanations left.
And let’s be brutally honest here – if you suck at your job that much, there’s always blogging. It doesn’t pay a whole lot, but you rarely accidentally kill people, and you almost never poison people (except for trolls – but they aren’t people, so it’s cool).