True story: This week we were due for grocery shopping. I usually hit four stores total on grocery day. Before I was ready to go to the third store, Dom offered to round up our Kroger items (the need for beer and/or milk usually gets him somehow involved). He and Aaron headed to Kroger armed with the list of items I typically buy there. Such dears.
Much later that evening, after dinner and cleaning the kitchen and everything else that has to be done in a day, Aaron marched into the kitchen with a brand-new tub of Blue Bell ice cream. I eagle-eyed it as if aliens had just invaded my home. Aaron proceeded to explain: “Daddy said this would make you mad, but he bought it anyway.”
I was livid. LI. VID. Is all this consumerism and change of conscience really just a joke? I turned and walked away, overdue for a little time on the backyard swing (provided the mean neighbors aren’t cussing each other in their own backyard. That really invades my “chill” plans in a totally unacceptable manner.)
When I finally approached Dom about the ice cream, he explained to me that nothing tastes as good as Blue Bell, and that’s that. Was it really so wrong for him to seek a little happiness in a tub of Homemade Vanilla? And what was it I didn’t like about Blue Bell anyway??
Without the ingredient list in front of me, I couldn’t tell him. I mean, I’m a conscientious consumer but I don’t have a photographic memory. As I explained to my soul-mate who was looking at me like I’d just cancelled Christmas, something about the ingredient list was a red flag for me. And anyway, why the hell didn’t he know how to read labels, huuuhhhhhhhhhhhh???
It was a sore subject for three days. This afternoon in a very demure and non-threatening manner, I brought the ice cream tub to Dom and asked if he wanted my explanations on why I don’t buy it anymore and really don’t want the kids eating it. He looked skeptical, but was at least willing to hear me out.
“Milk, sugar, cream…all perfectly fine. Not organic, but relatively natural products if you can overlook all the antibiotic residue most likely entering your system as a bonus. High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup…why do they need to put so much corn into the ice cream? Did you ever wonder that? Do you think corn belongs in ice cream? Besides that, these corn products are 90% guaranteed to be genetically modified products of Monsanto (and thereby resistant to Roundup, which means no matter how filtered the end product, it still comes to the consumer with traces of pesticides.) Natural and artificial vanilla flavor…what do they use to make an artificial flavor? Chemicals. ‘Artificial’ means it was created in a lab, and chances are it was created with petroleum.”
He blinked a few times and nodded that he understood. I continued with the list of stabilizers and emulsifiers – which I generally recognize as safe, but still I wonder why they need so many different ones – and ended with my explanation of the final ingredient, annatto color. “Annatto is a naturally occurring substance typically used to give color to cheese. The problem with annatto is that, even though it is natural, it is an allergen for many people. Not the sniffly, sneezy type of allergen, but one that induces headaches and other random symptoms. I truly believe annatto is the reason Aaron doesn’t like cheese. Something about the mainstream cheeses turned him off. Annatto was a common ingredient in all those things that he liked at one time, but doesn’t eat anymore.”
Please understand I am not on a campaign against Blue Bell. I generally could never completely stomach their vanilla ice cream, but other flavors with all kinds of unnatural colors fit my formerly non-discriminating palate just fine. (I was a complete fool for Mint Chocolate Chip in our salad days.) I just think that the only way to hold our food companies to a higher standard is to not buy the crap that they sell. We have to actually demand better ingredients. They’re not going to get the picture if the “crap” keeps getting votes at the checkout line.
I have a kick-butt vanilla ice cream recipe, and I plan to keep it fresh and on hand at both my home and my mother’s home for when the kids want to eat ice cream. And hopefully, everyone in my house will someday come to appreciate the more wholesome varieties for what they don’t have.