by Michael Moss
[Not to be confused with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, or Animal, Vegetable, Junk, or Hunt, Gather, Parent… I think I’m forgetting another one – but it seems to be modern times’ replacement for “My Year of…”]
A bit rudimentary and repetitive. The subject here is Big Processed Food. They make stuff that’s really bad for you. If one company tries to do the right thing and stop selling such salt-sugar-fat-laden bombs, they will simply lose market share to other companies that still sell the junk. The prevailing attitude is, therefore, that they offer healthy options alongside the traditional bombs; the consumer may pick what she likes; and people like the bombs. So whaddaya gonna do?
None of this is earth-shattering, so Moss bases his book on the quality of his reporting and the stories he unearths. My favorites are about instant pudding and Cheez Whiz. Instant pudding: I always pass this in the supermarket aisle and think to myself “maybe I want to make pudding sometime.” I know instant pudding isn’t a nutritional powerhouse, but it’s always felt to me like pudding mix, cake mix, etc. were one cut better than buying products already pre-made. At least you’re making the thing. You have a bit more control and knowledge about its inputs and freshness. OK, so maybe the kind of pudding you cook has something going for it in that regard, but when I read Moss’ historical bit about instant pudding, and about the chemicals they have to add to allow milk to turn into pudding without applying heat, I was entirely put off forever.
Cheez Whiz: created in the 1950s, Moss interviewed one of its creators, who has stayed a lifelong fan – almost. He and his wife would put it on everything, often ending the day with a glass of wine and a few crackers slathered in Cheez Whiz. One day this gentleman opened a new jar to make one of his usual Whizzy snacks, and pthththt! It tasted like axle grease! What had they done to it? He scanned the ingredients list, no mean feat, as the Whiz had always sported something like 27 different ingredients, and then discovered, they had taken the dang cheese out! Yes, Cheez Whiz originally could legally have gone by the name of Cheese Whiz, because it actually used to have cheese. Now… just whiz.
Moss explains everything and gets a bit too rudimentary at times, as noted. For example, in the salt chapter, we get a brief introduction to the history of salt, and as I quickly read through it, I thought, “I sure hope he doesn’t tell us how golly gee whiz did you know Romans were paid in salt and that’s where the word salary comes from??” D’oh! Yes, he did feel obliged to inform us of that.
And repetitive. Those 100-calorie snack packs of Bad Foods like chips & cookies – they don’t work! People just open more packs! We had to hear about this multiple times. I think this is a bit of a sweeping condemnation, by the way. For all the people who litter the ground with multiple wrappers of 100-calorie packs, I’m sure many instead have benefited greatly from being able to indulge in moderation. I’m a big fan of moderation myself.
I’m still giving this three stars, cause hell, who doesn’t like to curl up with some good food readin’. ( )