Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What’s in a Bread?

Only in America... people order double cheese burgers, a large fry, and a diet coke...

“American food is horrible. It is greasy, overly sweet, and is packed with chemicals and preservatives. Fruits and veggies taste like plastic, they can last for a year in the refrigerator and chickens are boosted with steroids. You’ll get fat in no time,” – one of my dearest friends told me after spending a year in the US. (Just for the record, she gained about 15 pounds here and was never able to get rid of them.)

Before I stepped my foot on American ground, I made an oath to stay in shape. It is all about willpower. I am not going to eat junk and greasy foods. I’ll stick to fruits and veggies (even if they taste like plastic!) and will avoid overeating. I know I can do it.

God is my witness - I tried.
But… I physically worked for 10-12 hours a day (I was a housekeeper in a Catholic Summer camp in WI) and I was hungry. For the first week I didn’t eat any of the standard meals which usually included hotdogs, cookies, hamburgers, chips and soda. I ate tasteless fruits and veggies, that came with the meals, drank 2% milk (that I thought tasted like water) and water (juices were way too sweet), but I was still very hungry. We didn’t have a car and there were no buses in the area, so little by little I started eating what everybody else ate.

The result? You tell me…
This is me one week before coming to the US.

Me 6 months,50 hamburgers, 25 pounds and 2 hair colors later. USA:

There were many things in this country that shocked me (some in a good way, some bad). I got used to and accepted most of them, but food in America is something I still cannot understand.
When you buy bread in Russia, or Poland, or anywhere in Eastern Europe the listed ingredients are: flour, water, yeast and salt. Sometimes, there will be some spices added to it, but that’s about it.

It is a great mystery for me why to make bread in America you have to include half of the periodic table elements.
Here is the list of ingredients of supposedly healthy 100% whole grain Wonder Bread:

Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup (why oh why?), soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate.

Or even a better one - Home Pride Wheat Bread: Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Water, Sweetener (High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar), Yeast, Wheat Bran, Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Molasses. Contains 2% or Less of: Soybean Oil, Salt, Butter, Salt, Sweet Dairy Whey, Butter (Cream, Salt, Enzymes), Maltodextrin, Honey, Corn Syrup, Calcium Sulfate, Soy Flour, Dough Conditioners (May Contain: Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Dioxide, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Mono and Diglycerides and/or Datem), Yeast Nutrients (May Contain: Ammonium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Ammonium Phosphate), Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Vinegar, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color), Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness), Soy Lecithin.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to put anything I cannot pronounce into my mouth.
For more than a year I didn’t touch American bread. MAYBE, if it tasted OK, I would have overcome my fears and ate it, but IMHO it tasted awful. Sweet, soft, smelly and mushy, it tasted more like Oxy Clean than bread.
I even tried baking my own (for those who know me well you know what a deed this was), but it didn’t go so well.
Later I discovered that there were alternatives to this life-time lasting bread in plastic bags. Some local bakeries and Panera Bread were an answer to my prayers. Pricey, but still cheaper than driving all the way to a Russian store which was 80 miles away. I was happy and relieved, but never stopped wondering about the mysterious ingredients in the Oxy Clean bread.

After being here for five years I found out that you can buy almost anything in America, you just need to know where to look. And make big bucks to be able to afford it.

The other big food related wonders for me were: milk, fat-free stuff, high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil and turkey-sized chickens.

But I’ll write down about them a little later...


Faith said...

I can't believe that you actually typed those ingredient lists. You're insane. And now I'm hungry for fresh bread!

Happy Mama said...

haha, no I am not that crazy. I copied them from the internet.:-)

Sean said...

High Fructose Corn Syrup - This is a killer on the diet. It's like in everything.
I just buy tea and drink that or water.
I'm sucker for a good hamburger though. It is my weakness.
Living in america eating wonderbread and things like that were the norm, but I do remember eating the flat bread while growing up in Iran. That was so much better than any bread I've ever gotten here.
I think a lot of those ingredients also involve putting vitamins in everything. I think our poor bodies are over vitaminized to death.
Great hearing about your bread experience...I'll have to look for alternatives now.

Michelle Riggs said...

Oh not fair. ;-) Now I am stuck in the hospital and craving really good bread.

Hmmm maybe if I talk my daughter into wanting some,I can get someone to bring it to us. ;-)

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

In Kaz, I ate a flat, round bread that was cooked out in the open on the streets. I don't know how to spell it except phonetically: Ta-bah-non? I lived on it while I was there and loved it.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh my goodness. That is incredible. I love your perspective as someone coming into our country because so many of us feel this way, too, but don't notice as much as it's all we know!


Debbie said...

Yes, we make it hard to be healthy in this country, don't we? Found you through 2nd cup of coffee. It is nice to find your blog.

Happy Mama said...

Thank you, guys, for your comments. You are so kind!!!
I was expecting that everyone will be throwing tomatoes at me.:-)
This is very encouraging and now I am less afraid to write more.

Your sincerely,
Very Happy Mama

Darlene said...

uuugh. I know. It is just garbage what we eat, girl. When I was in Italy, I ate like a cow, and lost weight! I swear it was because my body knew how to digest the REAL ingredients.

I wish I were more disciplined in this area. But some days, I go for easy! sigh. my poor thighs...


Bethany Streng said...

oxy clean bread! oh, that was hilarious! (and sad. us americans are gross!)

planetnomad said...

I hate the kind of bread you buy at Safeway or Albertsons--the kind with all those ingredients. Is there a Trader Joe's near you? They have affordable healthy bread.
You are right--American mass-produced food is gross. But you can find really good local food.