8 nasty fast-food ingredients and how you can avoid them
My Fellow Inebriates,
‘Tis the season for resolutions. (Nope…no announcements here.) Whether our body-obsessed culture rubricates them, or whether they simply represent a failure of imagination, most resolutions fall under the health-and-fitness banner. You can’t swing a cat in the gym after January 1, unless of course you go early (that the Resolute go at all is a triumph; don’t ask them to show up at 5:00 a.m.) nor can you switch on any media channel without receiving advice on achieving svelteness, buffness, hotness, or whateverthehellyouwantness. Yes, New Year’s resolutions combine all the frenzy of want-it-now binge/purge behavior PLUS a dose of moralizing condescension. Fuck up your resolution in the first week and people will laugh forgivingly. Fuck it up in February and they’ll pat you on the back for trying, all the while happily welcoming your failure as proof your goal was too epic and that an intelligent person wouldn’t have bothered in the first place, except to garner attention, you douche.
Yeah, so I bloody love New Year. It’s sort of like being in a global room with a bunch of bulimics trying figuratively to barf up the entire last year while praying to Jesus or whoever wrote The Secret. Advice comes fast and fastidious (ha!)—no more wheat, no more bacon, no more eating after 7:00 pm…if it was fun, say good-bye to it, at least until next week (or February, douchebags).
None of which I have any right to say. The only thing I ever gave up was Bejeweled, because it was hurting my paw. Truly, more power to anyone who decides to ring in a life change with the New Year—you’re stronger than the average bear. (And yes! You can do it. If you put up with reading about LBHQ, you can do anything.)
The LBHQ resolutions…
No one in the house had any intention of making a resolution, so my mum assigned us all one:
- P: Stop putting/leaving things on the floor.
- V: Go to the bathroom alone; really, there is nothing scary in there, unless you count the toilet. (OMG, my fellow inebriates, I definitely count the toilet.)
- Dad: Be on time. (Meaning: be early.)
- LB: Stop coming up with reasons to drink.
- Herself: Stop wasting time typing for that bear. (OMG!!)
Those resolutions all suck.
- Putting things on the floor is the best way to thwart a vacuuming effort. If Mum has to move a whole bunch of toys and clothes, she’ll consider her work done and not make the additional effort of vacuuming. None of us wants to hear that machine. Miss P is smart.
- The toilet is legitimately terrifying. Who knows—maybe Glen Bear went down the toilet, which would explain its reluctance to swallow big things lately.
- My dad lives for the adrenalin rush of making a 35-minute drive in 25 minutes. Take that away and there’ll be nothing left but porn.
- Yeah, right. My parents love my justifications for drinking.
Those resolutions make me want to reflect on some typical ones. For instance: “Eat better.” Marvelously vague, not to mention qualified in relation to whatever gluttony 2012 featured, “eat better” is nevertheless one of the most popular goals for January. But “eat better” than what? What the hell does it mean?
You should see the stuff my mother cooks. You’d count me fortunate to be a bear and therefore banned from the dinner table. Broccoli, corn chowder, zucchini, stew—you’d wish you could have some astronaut pellets instead, or even some rabbit pellets. Nobody at LBHQ needs to worry about pushing away from a table laden with delicious foods. Mum’s got that covered without even trying.
But what about fast food?
P and V would love some fast food. Like any kid who’s been to McDonald’s once, their blood forever courses with its secret addictive ingredient. They can spot the Golden Arches from an inhuman distance, even while claiming they can’t spell because the blackboard is too far away. They don’t get fast food very often, but when they do, they pine for it long after the fact. What freaky things are in fast food? And should we resolve to cut them out for 2013?
1. Duck feathers and human hair
Yum! That’s where food scientists get L-cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid used in bread products to make the dough more workable. Although it can be synthesized, most is obtained from duck feathers and a small percentage comes from Chinese women who sell their hair to chemical-processing plants—you won’t find that on any product label. McDonald’s hot apple pie? Duck feathers. Mmmmmm. L-cysteine is actually pretty normal and non-scary, and it can even fight hangovers by counteracting the aldehydes produced during alcohol metabolism—you just might want to know the source.
This doesn’t freak me out too much, people. Food chains like Wendy’s and Taco Bell use it as an anti-clumping agent. But I mean…it’s just sand. If my parents would only save up and take us on a tropical vacation, we’d accidentally consume a ton of sand—in our margaritas, etc. All good.
Plant-derived cellulose thickens, stabilizes, and otherwise bolsters the texture of all kinds of fast food. Not scary at all. Aren’t we supposed to eat a plant-based diet?
Eight little syllables and you’ve got a silicone that prevents fry-cook oil from foaming. Good, right?
5. Tertiary butylhydroquinone
Not to be confused with LBHQ, TBHQ is a petroleum-derived preservative found in 18 McDonald’s products. The FDA limit is 0.02 percent of a food’s oil and fat content. Be careful not to eat more than 5 kg of McNuggets, though—you’ll hit the threshold for symptoms such as delirium, nausea, vomiting, and suffocation. Eat a 25-kg McNuggets serving and you’ll die (well, presumably you would anyway).
6. Ammonium sulfate
It’s a soil fertilizer and a yeast feeder…without this additive, those yummy fast-food breads would cost a fraction of a penny more. Mmmmm!
7. Insect-derived dyes and shellacs
Just when you thought fast food couldn’t get any more appealing, consider the special beetle secretions and excretions that give candy and baked goods their high shine and vivid colors. Crushed female cochineal insects impart a ravishing red to meats, sausages, marinades, dressings, jams, pie fillings—you name it. Not that eating bugs is such a big deal—we ingest bugs all the time. Think of all the aphids that come in a bag of frozen broccoli. Think of bugs so small you can’t see them. No biggie, right? Right!
8. Pink slime
Mechanically separated meat paste—which McDonald’s disavowed in 2011—is a meat-and-bone slurry treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria, then loaded with artificial flavor to mask the additive’s taste. Salami, bologna, hotdogs usually feature a generous pumping of pink gloop. Who wouldn’t want that? And it’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe).
As impossibly yummy as all this sounds, it hasn’t inspired a new resolution to start eating solid food, my fellow inebriates. Clearly, the best way to avoid (at least mostly avoid) these eight weird food additives is to eschew solids and stick to alcohol.