I have been pointing out that although we feed our families basically the things we grew up eating--things we like and hope that our spouse and children will like--many of us don't realize that what is in the packages that we bring home is just not the same as what was in them a generation ago.
I remember the coffee that my mother-in-law used to buy--every week the same brand. She would put on a pot of coffee every time I came over to her house, and since we lived next door that was often. Every Saturday morning I would drive her to the supermarket and she would pick her shopping list items off the shelves.
But the ground coffee that you buy today, no matter what the brand, is likely to contain some substances besides ground coffee beans. Like what, you ask? Like sawdust! Like ground chicory (that isn't listed in the ingredients) and even ground-up coffee plant parts. The food industry has discovered that they can make more money if they "cut" the ground coffee with other substances. Have you ever made a pot of coffee like usual, but it seemed weak or didn't taste very good? Well, truthfully it could be the water, but in reality coffee processing is not an honest industry.
You need to buy whole-bean coffee if normal coffee is what you want to drink, and you need to buy a coffee grinder. There are even electric pots that will grind a quantity of beans, add the water that you filled in the reservoir, and brew the coffee. All you have to do is load it and turn it on. An example of this machine is the Cuisinart DGB-550BK Grind-and-Brew 12-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker, which is available in Tucson's various home-oriented stores like Super Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Other machines of this type can be found anywhere that has a large department for kitchen appliances, like Walmart in Tucson.
For those of us who buy olive oil, look for 100% statements on the label, or you may get oil that has been diluted with other oils. The ever-popular orange juice can be diluted with plain water and sweetened to cover the difference in flavor (with the awful High-Fructose Corn Syrup), or it can contain other juices such as tangerine and grapefruit. That would be fine if it's what you wanted, but the idea is that if you buy something that says it contains orange juice, that's what should be in it.
So get a ten-dollar plastic rotary juicer and you'll get orange juice, all right, as well as lovely citrus cocktails that contain what you like. I love the combination of tangelo and grapefruit juice--try it.
This past month there has been quite a flap on cooking web pages about the substitution of cheaper types of fish for the premium brands. I read once that tilapia is substituted for red snapper, but I find that doubtful, and you should too if you know what tilapia looks and smells like compared to snapper. I tackled this situation long ago by buying frozen fish at Sprouts in Tucson, and it comes from Iceland. And any of the health-oriented stores that have a butcher counter can discuss with you where they source their fish, and ease your mind.
I would also urge you to get a pepper grinder and use whole peppercorns, just to guarantee that you don't get the adulterated substance that is sold as ground pepper. Grinders are quite interesting these days--have you noticed Giada de Laurentiis' electric grinder that she just touches to dispense the pepper? The Chefs Catalog online has the one I want: solid copper, nickel or brass with a handle and stainless-steel gears. If you want a grinder that you can bequeath to your heirs, that's it, although it will set you back around $90.00.
But the worst of the lot is what is done to fruit juice to make it look appetizing: "clouding agents." These make the juice look like you squeezed or juiced it at home, but what can be in there is plastic, and to make matters worse, it is a phthalate, which is known to cause cancer.
You see how mothers can buy pricey, homey-looking juice and give it lovingly to their children, only to be devastated and incredulous when the child comes down with leukemia--even though they bought so-called premium brands? The hideous rise in childhood afflictions, including birth defects, is not a coincidence today. In countries where industry runs unchecked by environmental controls we are seeing hideous deformities such as the famous Girl With Eight Limbs, a child who was born in India. She was actually conjoined twins, but one of them could not survive because of the exact way the twins developed before birth. I don't want to go into detail because it is sickening; just suffice it to say that the surviving baby is living a comparatively normal life and will get even better as she gets older.
I will never forget the documentary about her, and how her mother cried for eighteen hours straight, completely distraught and inconsolable during the surgery. The parents could do nothing but wait until the doctor came out and said that she had survived.
But look, you have to take care of yourself and those who look to you for their daily bread, because the food industry in America just now is entirely irresponsible. Just today I saw that an American fast-food chain has been found to be serving horsemeat in their restaurants. Drat, just when I was beginning to think the scandal had not crossed the Pond.