Thursday, November 19, 2009

Betty Croaker vs. My Inner Food Nazi

I have a confession. Or rather, I have quite a few, but they all boil down to my inner food nazi. He has been making more and more appearances lately. I've debated whether to post something about it, but I think if the mission statement of BigMan is that it is a blog about putting time and care into the things that I eat, then I think I ought to speak up. Most days that just means doing a good job sauteing some chicken and then occasionally spending all day cooking for loved ones. This is a little different.

Let me start by acknowledging that my inner food nazi takes a variety of forms. There is the judgmental inner food nazi who thinks that people who only eat white bread are crazy and that smoking is probably less dangerous than the average American's eating habits. Not to mention that he judges people who think that the only food worth eating is some form of candy. And there are the people who are afraid to try new things. Or who don't like anything that tastes like anything. I'm willing to confess that I judge those people and that I think their boring eating habits are a character flaw. There. I've said it. I'm sorry. Some of the flawed are my own flesh and blood. I still love them. I'll still be friends with them. But, I hope no one ever expects me to respect their food choices.

But the food nazi gets turned in on myself just as often, perhaps more so. That version of the inner food nazi is sincerely concerned about where my food comes from, whether it is safe to eat, and how I can do my part to make the world slightly better through the choices I make at the check-out counter. Who knows, maybe even be healthier in the process.

And to make things even more confusing, now I've got this little guy coming along and it can be kind of hard to figure out. What sort of foods should we let our son eat? When I was a kid, we ate some fresh foods, but we also ate a lot of trans fat packed, completely processed, garbage food. My family definitely appreciates food in the same way that I do, but not everyday is Sunday and sometimes you're just trying to get home from work, feed everybody, and get the place cleaned up in time to watch Roseanne.

Since then, some things have changed. The first is that food companies seem to be taking more shortcuts than ever. Perhaps I'm wrong and our hamburgers always contained E. coli. Either way, it is a result of the food industry not taking the same time and care that I am trying to. Second, we know more now about trans fats and additives and their harmful effects. Third, there is more that we can do about it. For instance, a lot of people have food co-ops available to them. In fact, click here to see if there is one near you. Fourth, we have more access to information about how some of the animals are treated in many of the huge corporate farms. I'm not going to link to anything there because, frankly, it is too disturbing to watch. Just trust me. Many animals get tortured before we eat them. I don't have a satisfying moral solution to that problem, but I have taken the steps of not eating veal and boycotting banquet foods. After all, you should be skeptical of any sausage that costs $1.33. I just don't think that because I'm willing to kill something and eat it that the living thing that I'm eating should also be tortured in the process. And finally, there is more information suggesting that human consumption of meat has some serious environmental consequences. This is a really cool site that talks about that some and has a nifty idea about how to reduce those consequences.

So, given all of that, I've been in the habit of cutting more and more processed foods out of my diet. First, I cut out fast food. I used to go to Burger King just about everyday. Now, I'm not even sure I would enjoy a whopper. Wouldn't know since I haven't had one in so many years. Next phase was more gradual, but I've really tried to cut out any microwave dinners and processed meals as much as possible. I've noticed that the more I take care about what I'm eating, the better I feel. I know lots of people who say stuff like that about all sorts of things. I have friends who say that running makes them feel great. It makes me want to run up to them and punch them in the nose. And perhaps you'll feel the same here, but, really, I feel better when I don't eat processed food.

But, here is the next big challenge in that effort: how do I cut out even more? Today was not a cooking project day, so I really just planned on making a small pizza from a betty crocker dough mix. Just add water. Kind of makes you think though, no? How can an entire pizza dough be in this package, just waiting for water? Well. It's because it's full of trans fats.

Really, the company should probably be called Betty Croaker. I'm sure if you did a complicated mathematical formula of the estimated number of people who have died from heart disease because of their trans fat consumption, divided by General Mills' market-share (Betty Crocker is owned by General Mills) of trans fat products, it would look pretty bad for General Mills. Anyway, that is more the sort of thing that we'd talk about in Torts class (not to be confused with Torte law), rather than food blogs. It's a bit risque.

My point is just that lots of products made by Betty Croaker contain trans fats. Bacos are an obvious no-no. If I have to explain why Bacos are a bad food choice, then you probably aren't reading this post. But what about some not so obvious ones? Did you know that Bisquick has trans fats in it? Yeah. Pancake mix has trans fat.

Now, it took me a good 15 minutes to get off my high horse. But now that I think I have, here is me doing my little part to make the world a better place. Including in my own kitchen.

This recipe is for homemade pancakes from scratch. And I'm going to suggest something really revolutionary. Let's try it together. I'm going to mix the dry ingredients together beforehand, so that when I'm ready to have pancakes, I can just add my milk and eggs and oil just like I would with a regular mix. So I'll present the recipe first on how to prepare the mix, which I want you to do as soon as you get a chance, and then I'll write out the rest of the recipe which treats your prepared concoction as your "pancake mix." I can't think of any reason why this won't work, and we'll all save 1 gram of trans fat per 3 pancakes. And by the way, I eat more than three pancakes in one sitting. Just putting that out there and hoping that I'm not the only one.

Pancake/Waffle Mix


For the Mix (Makes enough mix for about 24 to 32 servings)
12 cups of all-purpose flour (could also use 6 cups whole wheat flour and 6 cups all-purpose)
3/4 cup of sugar (optional)
1/2 cup of baking powder (OR 3 tbsp baking soda)
1 tbsp of salt

For the Pancakes
2 cups of Pancake Mix (see above)
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3 tbsp of oil (do not use olive oil)

So, to make the pancake mix ahead of time, just mix all that stuff together. Use a sifter if possible. If you don't have a sifter, you could use a clean, dry, whisk. Store in an airtight container. It should last almost forever.

When it's time to make the pancake, just combine the pancake mix with the eggs, milk and oil. Mix well, but not too well. Small lumps are normal. Pour a ladle full of pancake batter onto hot, buttered or oiled griddle or pan. To make waffles, use 1/3 of oil instead of 3 tbsps. The griddle should be hot, and the pancakes should be flipped when the bubbles coming up no longer close back up. Not exactly rocket science.

Serves 4.


  1. There should *totally* be a class on "Torte Law" at school. That would be amazing.

    One thing that always amazes me is how easy it is to make things that taste better than pre-packaged food and are much better for you than pre-packaged food. Take Diana's "cows in a blanket," for example. Your average frozen pig in blanket has 6 grams of fat (2 saturated) *each.* Diana makes them by using 1/3 of a 99% fat free Hebrew National hot dog wrapped in 1/3 of a low-fat pillsbury crescent roll. Now, this is still pretty "bad," as things go, because you're using two highly processed foods. But they have only 1 gram of fat per piece and taste about ten times better.

  2. I make a mix for multigrain pancakes like your mix, then all I have to do is add clabbered milk, a little melted butter, and an egg and I have a nice, nutty pancake.

    Like Mad Prince noted, it's easy, tastes great, and I choose how much fat and salt it contains.

    Every Saturday is "Pancake Saturday." I get up at 5:30, make pancakes, and watch U.S Farm Report. Life is good!