From “local” Lays to Oprah’s KFC promo, hypocrisy abounds in the food world
Nobody likes hypocrites, despite the fact that everyone is a hypocrite to one degree or another: the smoker who tells her kids not to smoke; the closeted politician who works against gay rights; the police officer who throws the book at stoners but who himself gets high. But in the matter of marketing food, hypocrisy reaches a fever pitch.
Take last month’s flap about Oprah Winfrey’s KFC promotion. While the MSM focused on the feeding frenzy that ensued, and the near-riots when KFCs across the country ran out of food or people couldn’t download their coupons from the website, precious few (apart from here on Grist anyway) were commenting on Oprah’s hypocrisy in promoting KFC after she had done so much to promote the cause of animal cruelty prevention. She was even named “Person of the Year” last year by PETA. Yet while KFC continues to buy Tyson chicken, which is raised in heartbreaking conditions, de-beaked and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, Oprah apparently has no trouble promoting the company. Perhaps the greater hypocrisy lies with PETA, though; they’ve refused to call her out on the issue.
KFC is not blameless in hypocrite rankings either, foisting their products as fresh and healthy, hiding the true costs of cheap food, and claiming that it’s cheaper than making the food at home. To their credit, KFC parent company YUM! Brands did cave to the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and their demand for a fair living wage for tomato pickers, but that was after years of protests and even more years of slavery in South Florida.
One member of the list of underwriters on the public radio show Marketplace is what truly pins my ears back though. The Monsanto Corporation bills itself, there and on their website, as “dedicated to sustainability.” Please.
I am a great fan of George Orwell and have read all his books, and so I recognize Orwellian double-speak when I hear it. For the inventors of Terminator Seeds (from which plants grow, but the resulting seeds are sterile), Zombie Seeds (which will not grow until treated with a Monsanto-patented chemical); and Utility Patents on Seeds (giving them ownership rights not just on the seeds but on all their progeny) to stake some claim on “sustainability” may well be the height of hypocrisy.
The Orwellian rebranding does not end there, though. Last month Frito-Lay announced a new ad campaign in five states, beginning with Florida, referring to their Lay’s Potato Chips as “local food.” Strictly speaking I suppose it is since some of their potatoes are grown and fried in Florida. But by this logic, all of us here in Iowa can begin referring to high fructose corn syrup as a local food as well. That’s the same HFCS that the corn processing industry calls “an American agricultural product” in their ads. Local Lay’s are just the beginning of industrial food’s latest foray into absconding with another useful term. They took “natural,” they redefined “organic,” they’re taking “sustainable,” and now they want “local,” all the while changing the meaning of the words instead of their own detrimental practices.
I don’t know if there is another reason for this behavior besides profit, but I doubt it. And I shan’t be hypocritical myself in this regard, as a business owner and father of two kids in college, I am in favor of profit. But when lowering prices increases hidden costs to our environment, our health system, and our security– witness swine flu, possibly to an enormous Mexican hoglot owned by Smithfield–then that is false profit indeed.
So, my hypocrisy? You’ll not catch me at a drive-thru, but I do confess to liking Ramen noodles–and Lay’s potato chips, for that matter. But I also make my own chips at home. Here’s how.
Home-Made Potato Chips
2 “Idaho” russet potatoes, scrubbed clean (or peeled, if you prefer)
2 quarts of your preferred oil (I like peanut oil. Soy is good too, as long as it’s the non-GMO stuff.)
Salt to taste
Unless you are quite skilled with a knife, you’ll want a tool called a mandolin. This has nothing to do with the stringed instrument; a kitchen mandolin is essentially the same thing Ron Popeil used to hawk on late night TV–it dices, it slices, it does almost everything but wash the dishes and walk the dog. Mandolins range from inexpensive plastic versions in the Asian markets to $200 stainless steel French versions. Pick up the sturdiest one you can afford and treat it with respect–it’s very sharp and it doesn’t care what it slices and dices, be it potatoes or your knuckles.
Preheat the oil in a saucepan or electric fryer to 375 degrees, no more no less. Meanwhile:
Using your mandolin, carefully slice your potatoes paper-thin. Place them in the oil just a few slices at a time, for about 1 minute, then remove them to paper towels. Once they have all been pre-fried in this way (it’s called “blanched” in the industry), then refry them – again in small batches – for about 3 minutes until they are crispy. Remove to fresh paper towels and repeat for the rest of the batches. Salt to taste as soon as they come out of the oil.
Another caution: deep-frying can be hazardous. If you are doing it on the stovetop, be sure to use a much larger pan, one that’s deep enough that the oil won’t boil over. Nothing spoils an appetite like a house fire.