I don’t know who Panera’s Senior VP of food Dan Kish thought he was impressing when he made a big announcement about getting rid of high fructose corn syrup, but I’m glad he’s comfortable in his station as America’s midscale dining side chick when we find ourselves in a town without a Five Guys.
“We’ve had countless meetings with Pepsi about it,” Kish bragged. “And we’ve said with you or without you, we are getting high-fructose corn syrup off our menu.”
Kish says he wants a healthy menu like the one his grandmother cooked growing up on a farm. Which, growing up in farm country, I know is bullshit. Prove me wrong, Panera. Cook for me the healthy ways our salt of the earth grandparents cooked. The day your employees smoke unfiltered Pall Malls and behead a live chicken in front of me before frying it up in a skillet dripping with lard, I’ll order a soup and half sandwich.
High-fructose corn syrup is everybody’s boogeyman lately, from Michelle Obama’s fitness campaigns to a broken Jamie Oliver weeping on the floor of a West Virginia school cafeteria, chubby fingers wriggling over his prostrate body for another slice of pizza.
It’s an easy target. It’s in everything, from soda to cookies to bread to cereals to ketchup. It’s not “natural” according to the FDA. And it’s probably contributed in immeasurable amounts to an obesity epidemic so deep and wide that it threatens to bankrupt families and, uh, multiple nations’ entire health care systems. But so what?
Humans haven’t eaten “natural” food since we crawled out of the caves. As Neil deGrasse Tyson himself would tell you, messing with nature is why we’re on top of the food chain. We breed fruits and vegetables to be bigger, sweeter, and produce more edible parts. You think God made that banana you’re slicing over your morning oatmeal? He did if your God’s a dude in a white lab coat with “Chiquita” stitched on the pocket and a Masters in Agricultural Sciences from Cornell.
Hey, I don’t know you. Maybe you say fuck millions of years of evolution rewarding us for craving delicious fat and sugars. Maybe you know better. Maybe you’re one of those people that wants to put the dolphins in charge. Maybe you know some other species that could paint the Sistine Chapel, conceive of string theory, and conquer the moon with nothing but a case of Tang and the computing power of a first generation smart watch? Fascinating.
I seriously doubt Coca-Cola would spend millions funding the hydrationologists at The Beverage Institute of Health and Wellness if they didn’t want to get at the truth about corn syrup. A FAQ on their website clears this right up. “Of course, all calories count, whether from sucrose, HFCS, or any other source,” they write, obviously. “Unfortunately, consumer confusion and concern about HFCS continue to be fueled by a widespread lack of understanding regarding the meaning of its name, its actual composition and its similarity to sucrose.”
Good word of the BIHW not enough for you? I’ll play your game. Oh, hey, who’s this, it’s my good friend Mr. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest speaking to a little publication you might have heard of — Time goddamn Magazine. I’m not sure your co-op has the budget for a subscription along with the Weekly Worker and Magic Purple Crystal Healing Quarterly. Last time I checked, the publisher said you couldn’t buy a copy with good intentions.
“The special harmfulness of high-fructose corn syrup has become one of those urban myths that sounds right, but is basically wrong,” Jacobson said, and you better strap the fuck in before this next line of sugar-coated scientific truth blows you out of your hemp-stinking sandals like a bag of Pop Rocks in a cola can. “Nutritionally, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose may be identical.”
Take your time and read that again if you need to. I get your vision might be a little blurry right now. As long as you’re rubbing the Big Buddha Cheese out of your eyes, maybe take a gander towards the heartland.
It’s gorgeous out here. And that’s not just the natural beauty of field after field of waving corn stalks, that’s the intangible glory of a shitload of red-blooded American farmers getting up at the ass crack of dawn every morning because they had balls big enough to say to themselves, “I think it’d be pretty fucking sweet if every year five or six states grew enough food to feed the entire Southern Hemisphere.” And if they get rich doing it thanks to federal corn subsidies, produce some green fuel with ethanol research, and keep gummy bears cheap and plentiful, then it seems like a win to me.