It has been awhile since I’ve posted and partially it has been because it seems like I am on a constant rant about the quality and integrity of the extra virgin olive oil that is available in the U.S. Unfortunately, our food sources have many more items that need considerably more monitoring. With the articles last week about the fillers used in bagged pre-shredded Parmiggiano I felt I could not ignore yet another attack on our food quality and our intelligence.
As a cook, I rarely buy pre-shredded cheese of any type, but it happens. I know that buying pre-shredded cheese means the cheese starts out a little stale and I know it is easy for suppliers to use lesser quality grades of cheese to shred. However, last weeks report of how big a percentage of wood pulp is in those pre-packed bags is more than a little disconcerting. I understand they are trying to keep the cheese from clumping, as well as lower their costs. However, the best method is adding wood pulp? That is difficult to believe. It really seems an economic rather than an rational decision.
It is worth noting that the lower priced brands (especially Walmart and Osco) have higher amounts of wood pulp — in one case, up to 8%. But, Kraft, which labels their grated Parmesan as 100% cheese has almost 4 percent wood pulp. How can this be acceptable? It is apparently not enough to read labels, now we must devine what 100% natural means.
I do not believe there is inherent danger in consuming wood pulp, in fact, it would seem wood pulp would be much better for you than many of the chemicals they add to increase looks, anti clumping, and so many other supposedly necessary visual aids. I do think we need to insist that the information be available on the package, not have to rout around the internet to find out accurate information about what we are putting in our families bodies. There can only be concern on the manufacturers side about adding the information deterring us from buying their product.
Convenience is great, but if we are taking that convenience to the extreme of long term harm to ourselves and our families we need to reconsider. And, we are paying a top price for that convenience and should that not include our safety?
In general it is of utmost importance to concentrate on supplying our tables with foods as close to fresh as possible. Eating locally is always less expensive as is fresh. Knowing your sources is paramount.
Expressly Italian was started on the premise that we are offered products less than ideal at the grocery store level as well as the imported products. By personally selecting and bringing the products directly from Italy I know the suppliers. None are large manufacturers. None export product to the United States. I have only olive oils that I know come directly from the source. I still have some of this season’s extra virgin olive oil available. And, truthfully, the olive oils, the honey and even the spices I offer are actually the same or less costly than what is available here.
I often bring Parmigiano Reggiano back with me as well. There is a huge taste difference between what is available here. Not sure why that is, but the flavor is just not as rich. The spices from Campo dei Fiori enable a quick meal at any time with no fillers and lots of flavor. And of the myriad of spice mixes now available I find the spice mixes from Mauro Berardi stay potent much, much longer than anything else. And, they are hand mixed. I do not believe there is dirt, substituted ingredients or any old sticks to be found in any of his spices. Something few other spice providers can claim. If you haven’t tried them, you should. If you are interested in more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are willing to take a few extra minutes to consider the quality of foods you are using, it is quite easy to have the healthiest of meals all the time and for a reasonable cost. Plus knowing you are getting the full benefits of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids and fats you are consuming is satisfying in so many ways.
My advice: Take the time to read labels, search out good sources and stay with them. Be skeptical. Pay a little more for the best available. I think you’ll find that the flavors are more intense, richer and fresher tasting.
Next time: Famous cook, Stefania Apfel Barzini is doing some touring in the United States and doing some private dinners, some cooking exhibitions and cooking classes. I hope to have a schedule soon.