Where am I eating?

Last night while driving home, I passed a young boy selling tomatoes along the side of a back-country road. Having been raised on a back-country road myself and having had a lemonade stand and having had slung tomatoes at passing cars, the site struck several cords of nostalgia with me.

I pulled in a lane just past him to turn around and buy him out of his stock, but alas, I only had $2. Damn my credit card reliance!

I’m sure the tomatoes would have been tasty and, if asked where they came from, he probably would have turned around and pointed to a nearby field or garden. It’s nice to know where your food comes from. The thing is that we don’t have a clue where most of our food comes from.

Food doesn’t come stamped with a “Made in” label. I never knew how scary all of this was until I listened to this story on NPR’s Here and Now. Countries exporting food to the USA don’t have to meet any certain standards. It is the responsibility of the USDA’s 450 (that’s right only 450) inspectors to make sure the food we’re getting isn’t laced with rat poison, or feces, or the feces of poisoned rats. In total, they inspect a fraction of one-percent of all foods imported into the USA.

The scariest part of the Here & Now interview is the discussion about China. China was shipping us something, and that something had too-high levels of something not good for us. The USDA informed the Chinese company. What did they do? Instead of taking out the something that’s not good for us, they added another chemical that would fool the USDA’s test.

As for the Chinese killer dog food – the Chinese company was trying to cut a corner by including less protein (apparently protein is expensive) in the dog food, but more of a chemical that would fool tests into thinking that there was a sufficient amount of protein in the food. This chemical just happened to be lethal to Fido.

If food came with “Made in” labels, I would be looking at them and thinking twice before I bought something “Made in China.”

For more on where our processed food comes from, you should check out “Twinkie Deconstructed” by Steve Ettlinger. Steve traces all of those multi-syllabic ingredients on a Twinkie wrapper to the places of their origin, a sort of “Where am I eating?” quest. I just started the book and, for me, it’s a bit too technical for my enjoyment, but it is pretty cool to learn that Twinkies and bombs have more in common than that they will kill you. They share ingredients!

And if you are looking for more Ohio produce Nostalgia take a peek beyond the cut.

Excerpted from a recent column for the Dayton City Paper:

As a kid you learn fast that beans are absolutely no fun. They tangle around your feet and leave welts on your legs.

Corn is somewhat better. My brother and I launched countless expeditions into fields of corn to find baseballs and Nerf boomerangs. We never found them, but it was fun searching for a while. With a little imagination a field of corn could be some alien planet, but mostly it was just a boring field of corn.

When you look at a list of the most exciting produce in the Midwest, tomatoes have to be at the top. When you’re eight, there’s nothing quite like acres and acres of shiny red projectiles. But all it takes is one time, one perfect lob at a glistening white Cadillac traveling down Ellis Road at 55 mph, and your days of playing with tomatoes are over.

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Lynne says:

Ahhh…those were the good old days. However, some stories are best told be one’s mother. Don’t you think?!?!! I don’t know how you summed up the tomato throwing/Cadillac incident in so few words.

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