Adam's Corner

Homogenized Plastic Mass: It’s What’s For Dinner

I’m not completely opposed to junk food.  For example, the occasional leftover French fry scavenged from the plate of a dining companion, or the deep fat-fried Snickers-bar-on-a-stick at Redbone’s in Davis Square, Somerville.  Those, I feel, are worth it.

But for the most part, I just wonder why.  I mean, really, why eat most of the crap that’s out there?  Having been raised on good food, I’m constantly amazed that people would crave, say, a Fenway Frank over the much-more-delicious Coleman organic hot dog.  Or a white-flour-Crisco-crusted corn-syrup Cool Whip pie, over something with whole grains and actual fruit and soaring peaks of whipped cream.  For the most part, natural which is to say: “real” just tastes better.

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to cheese.  I love cheese.  I respect cheese.  I write love sonnets to cheese, in all its cheesy beauty.  So you can imagine how shocked and offended I was when, for the first time in my more than 30 years, my taste buds experienced the day-glo dairy mucous extrusion that’s splotched over lukewarm tortilla chips & called “nachos” at a movie theater.

What is this industrial waste?

That’s not a rhetorical question!  What, exactly is nacho spread made of?  To answer that question, here’s an excerpt from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21: Food and Drugs.

Part 133 CHEESES AND RELATED CHEESE PRODUCTS Subpart B Requirements for Specific Standardized Cheeses and Related Products

§ 133.179 Pasteurized process cheese spread.

(a)(1) Pasteurized process cheese spread is the food prepared by comminuting and mixing, with the aid of heat, one or more of the optional cheese ingredients prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section, with or without one or more of the optional dairy ingredients prescribed in paragraph (d) of this section, with one or more of the emulsifying agents prescribed in paragraph (e) of this section, and with or without one or more of the optional ingredients prescribed by paragraph (f) of this section, into a homogeneous plastic mass, which is spreadable at 70° F.

…then follow a few paragraphs involving advanced dairy mathematics…

(a)(6) The weight of each variety of cheese in a pasteurized process cheese spread made with two varieties of cheese is not less than 25 percent of the total weight of both, except that the weight of blue cheese, nuworld cheese, Roquefort cheese, gorgonzola cheese, or limburger cheese is not less than 10 percent of the total weight of both.  The weight of each variety of cheese in a pasteurized process cheese spread made with three or more varieties of cheese is not less than 15 percent of the total weight of all, except the weight of blue cheese, nuworld…

…down a few more paragraphs, the code gets multisyllabic for us…

(e) The emulsifying agents prescribed in paragraph (a) of this section are one or any mixture of two or more of the following: Monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium pentaphosphate (sodium hexametaphosphate), sodium acid pyrophosphate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, calcium citrate, sodium tartrate, and sodium potassium tartrate, in such quantity that the weight of the solids of such emulsifying agent is not more than 3 percent of the weight of the pasteurized process cheese spread.

I could go on.  And on.  But you get the point.  Do we really want to eat a food that requires three pages just to define?  Anyone interested in reading the rest of the three-page definition of “Pasteurized process cheese spread” can find it on-line at http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov.

And while you’re at it, you could probably find “hot dog” on there as well.  But, really, why give yourself nightmares?

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