gm corn

Michelle Obama & Olive Garden Forge Cartel of Hypocrisy

Michelle Obama Ice CreamIn her squabble with childhood obesity First Lady Michelle Obama has partnered with the fast food equivalent of the sit down restaurant industry, Darden Restaurants.  Darden is the parent company of such culinary counterfeits as Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse.  The crux of their accord centers around a reduction in calories and sodium – 10% over the next five years and 20% within ten.

The meaninglessness of this partnership is many faceted.  So much so that it is hard to figure out where to start but let’s begin with the obvious.  The agreement between Darden and the First Lady is, in every sense of the word, nonbinding.  Should Darden fail to satisfy their end of the bargain there is no penalty.  It is simply a pledge.  Not to mention that there is a very real possibility that in five years Mrs. Obama will no longer be the First Lady.

For Darden’s part this is likely about surviving the ever slowing economy.  In exchange for pledging to reduce calories and sodium they receive a ton of free publicity.  There could also be tax incentives for “the pledge” as recent history has proven that companies willing to support the President have been absolved of any tax liability and/or granted waivers from the President’s oppressive health insurance laws.  No doubt another win for the Orlando-based dining corporation is that though support for the President has waned greatly since inauguration day, Michelle Obama Eating a Cookiemany are still faithful to Mrs. Obama.

Heck, I still like Michelle Obama.  Although I am starting to realize that her efforts such as the White House organic garden and other partnerships with huge fast food chains are largely politically motivated one cannot argue with the positive things to come from them.  More communities are planting gardens and parents are more aware of what they feed their kids.  Regardless of the motivation, the outcome is positive.

Presumably Darden is counting on “the pledge” to convince parents that their food is suddenly healthy.  While reducing calories is a step in the right direction calories and sodium are the least of the dangers of the Darden menu.  The quality of ingredients in use at the typical Darden restaurant is on par with the GMO saturated fare you find at most of the giant fast food chains.  It’s just dressed up on a plate instead of crammed into a bag.

Chief among the gastronomic affronts is Darden’s use of farm-raised imported seafood.  Both Asian farmed shrimp and Chilean farmed salmon contain lethal amounts of toxins.  This is the result of using chemicals to fight infection and illness in farms that contain populations hundreds of times more dense than what is found in nature.

These chemicals are banned from use in the US but are also Michelle Obamaeating French Friesmanufactured here therefore the Big Ag companies that make them have a vested interest in the unfettered flood of imported seafood.  That is why Big Ag companies like Monsanto have “invested” so heartily into the Obama White House and have been rewarded with cabinet posts for their most influential lobbyists like Michael Taylor (FDA), Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General) and Tom Vilsack (USDA).

The disastrous result this influence has had on our food system has meant ever increasing regulation on domestic, sustainable and organic foods and a dangerous lessening of the regulations over factory-farmed, imported and highly processed foods.

Under President George W. Bush a paltry 2% of imported seafood was inspected, however under President Obama that number has dropped to 1%.  Furthermore that scant 1% is checked not by trained inspectors from the USDA or FDA but rather from agents of the Department of Commerce – the same people charged with conducting the US census.  This is quite disconcerting considering that Red Lobster is the largest seafood chain in the US and they haven’t used US shrimp since 1971.

Michelle Obama eating more Ice CreamIt is a little suspicious that the timing of this initiative between the White House and one of the world’s largest restaurant conglomerates occurs just days after lobbyists from the chain restaurant industry (including Darden) petitioned that they be allowed to accept EBT cards (food stamps) for payment on restaurant purchases.  Fast food establishments were added to the list of businesses allowed to accept EBT cards right around the time a number of them decided to make token attempts to lighten their menus.

It seems that if the First Lady were genuine in her goal to improve the diet of American children she would first encourage her husband to severe his ties, both financial and political, with Big Ag companies, effectively closing the Monsanto revolving door.  Then she should focus her energies on reforming the food stamp system so that EBT cards can only be used to purchase whole foods – no canned foods, bags of chips, bottles of soda, no fast food or frozen dinners – just fresh produce, proteins and dairy.

The dirty secret of the childhood obesity epidemic is that the majority of President and First Lady boarding Airforce 1children who fall into this category live in households of the bottom 15% of wage earners.  Their parents are either employed on a part-time basis or not at all.  As a result they have ample time to cook meals from scratch but instead are loading down the cart with processed, high calorie, ready-to-eat foods.

Another thing that Mrs. Obama needs to do to prove she is earnest about childhood obesity is set a better example.  There are literally hundreds of pictures on the Internet of her gorging on junk food like French fries and ice cream.  It is starting to detract from her mission.

I don’t fault the First Lady for eating those foods; they are delicious.  I certainly don’t begrudge her any weight gain.  I, like many Americans have long fought the battle of the bulge.  However, if Mrs. Obama continues to package herself the First Lady of Healthy Diets she has to set an example.  Her well-documented weight gain from the campaign trail to today is startling and threatens (see for yourself below) to undo the good work she has already done.

The First Lady needs to make a decision, either champion a healthy lifestyle or eat whatever she wants but the hypocrisy has got to stop.  America is sick and tired of an administration that repeatedly sets rules that apply to everyone except themselves.  That is after all why we fought a Revolution in the 1770’s.  For more about the Obama/Olive Garden pact check out this article from AP.

Michelle 2007 Michelle 2011

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Fast Food Permeates the South

The South has a culinary tradition so rich that without it the sum of “American Cuisine” would be little more than turkey and genetically modified corn.  That is why I was so disturbed by a recent piece by Zagat entitled 40 Fast-Food Capitals.  The gist of the article was to find the 40 most fast food dominated cities and it is not a list anyone should ever want to be on.  Sadly, seven of the top 10 cities and half of the list are in the South.  Even worse ten of the 40 are in the five states that constitute the Third Coast.

I can understand a high concentration of fast food establishments in locals that depend on tourism so Orlando, Miami and Tampa you get a pass.  Jacksonville, not so fast.  Shame also cloaks the Texas cities of Lubbock, Plano and Houston.  In Alabama, Birmingham (#10) and Montgomery (#15) as well as Baton Rouge, LA (#7) also bring a dishonor to themselves.  Congratulations to Mississippi who didn’t have a single city scratch the list, the same for tourist heavy New Orleans and Mobile.

As a resident of Alabama I have taken great pride in the back-to-back football national championships and Heisman Trophy winners won by the student athletes at the University of Alabama (2009) and Auburn University (2010).  But I am equally embarrassed that Birmingham and Montgomery are in the top 15.  In Birmingham there are 73 fast food “restaurants” for every 100,000 residents and Montgomery has 62 per 100K.

This is so disheartening to me.  America, and the Third Coast especially, have no reason to be in such a hurry.  20% of us don’t even have jobs so clearly we have time to make a sandwich.  I am not saying that we abandon them altogether but we must exercise moderation.  We owe ourselves better.

It’s hard to see the draw of fast food anymore.  The two things fast food offered – speed and convenience – went away decades ago.  As has actual food at many of them.  Taco Bell was recently under fire for using unapproved genetically modified material in their taco shells and for only having 80% beef in their 100% beef taco filling.  Well Taco Bell has admitted 80% but independent labs have found that the number is closer to 36%.  Virtually everything you buy at McDonald’s and Burger King is more corn than whatever they call it – according to The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan it was revealed that the Chicken McNugget is actually 56% genetically modified corn.

And just so you know, genetically modified corn is not real corn.  GM corn has proven to be the source of two decades worth of e coli outbreaks.  GM corn, in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), is also the root cause of the nation’s obesity epidemic as well as the increase in liver disease, pancreatic cancer and type 2 diabetes.  In this era of corrupt government it should come as no surprise that Monsanto, the company that invented GM corn, has purchased itself a rather large office space in Washington – they call it the USDA.

Think about that the next time you duck into the drive-thru.  I’m not saying don’t order, just think about it.  Here’s another short video from our pals Burger and Soda:

How E Coli Entered Our Food System

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I am a chef and food activist but admittedly not a scientist.  Still there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that e coli entered our food system via genetically modified seeds, specifically corn.

e coliTo make corn that was resistant to their “Round Up” weed killer, Monsanto Chemical Company developed a way of changing the genetic structure of corn so that “Round Up” wouldn’t hurt it.  The way they got the genetic modifications into the seed germ was to piggyback it on an obscure bacteria found in feces and soil.  That bacteria was e coli.  This is a well known and well documented story that has been mentioned in documentaries like King Corn and Food Inc. Monsanto does not deny that they use e coli in their GM products but they do deny that it is connected to the outbreaks of the past few decades.  The time line of outbreaks corresponds perfectly with the introduction of GM seed into the food system.

Cows are fed this e coli laced GM corn.  Corn is not a natural food for cattle therefore it takes their stomachs longer to digest than it would natural foods like grass or hay.  A cow’s stomachs (they have four of them) are the absolute best breeding ground for e coli reproduction.  Now the bovine scat is teeming with the deadly bacteria; this scat is then sold as fertilizer all over the world.  That is how it finds its way to produce like spinach, cilantro and sprouts.  Since these foods are commonly eaten raw there is no heat application to kill the e coli microbes.

As far as prevention of e coli dosing simply spray all of your produce with a combination of water and white vinegar.  The vinegar will kill most any bacteria including salmonella and e coli. From the The Vinegar Institute:

Add 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar to 1 pint water and use to wash fresh fruits and vegetables, then rinse thoroughly.

E coli symptoms according to WebMD:

  • Severe stomach cramps and stomach tenderness.
  • Diarrhea, watery at first, but often becoming very bloody.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Soy Makes You A Sissy, Literally

When I was a young man growing up in rural Alabama it seemed my friends or brother were always sticking some kind of food in my face with the assertion, “that’ll put hair on your chest.”  Likewise I often heard my father refer to something as, “sissy food.”  More than once I’ve heard that real men don’t eat _______.

Soy Cartoon by Natalie DeeSoy was one of the things real men don’t eat.  Except, of course, as soy sauce.  Some how that’s butch.  But soy milk, soy nuts and especially soy burgers have always meant an immediate revocation of one’s man card.  Well, there has been a lot of scientific data recently that suggests soy actually does have an effeminating effect on men.

In a 2005 study the Journal of Nutrition reported that soy protein is inferior to casein protein (meat) for building muscle tissue.  That one is a no brainer.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that protein from a legume would build more muscle than protein from actual muscle.  The universe just doesn’t work that way.  But it was nice of the Journal of Nutrition to prove it on paper for all to see.

In a recent Harvard study submitted by Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Sc.D there is a significant amount of evidence that soy protein decreases testosterone while increasing estrogen.  This leads to lower sperm counts and Gynecomastia (he-hooters, papa’s tatas, man-mories, dude boobs, man teets, gentleman jugs, etc.).  It appears science has actually proven that soy really does turn you into a girl.

Now my question is did pre-Monsanto soy have the same effect?  The majority of the soy growing on this planet today is the result of the genetic mutations of a chemical company in St. Louis, MO.  Monsanto has genetically modified soy beans to survive it’s chemical herbicide Round Up and, as they did with their frakencorn, have made sure that their frankensoy has infected virtually all of the soy farms on the planet.

The only cultures to largely incorporate soy into their daily diet before the 1970’s were those in Asia.  I don’t recall anyone ever referring to Asian men as effeminate.  Certainly you wouldn’t call Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or Jet Li a sissy.  Same for Yao Ming or Sammo Hung so it kind of makes you wonder if it’s the GM soy that is in fact the problem.  Of course we can’t exactly compare the two since Monsanto has all but eradicated non-GM soy.  At the same time, there has long been a 10 percent higher incidence of erectile dysfunction in Chinese men so maybe Monsanto’s genetic modifications aren’t to blame.

I don’t think anyone should abandon consuming soy but like we are finding out with everything on earth the key is moderation.  I might suggest keeping your soy milk and soy nuts but getting rid of tofu.  Let’s all be honest here for second shall we?  No one likes tofu.  Quinoa Veggie BurgersAs you folks who always profess your love of tofu know, deep down in the places you don’t want people to see your internal voice screams “yuck!” every time you eat that crap.

What must be addressed is that this information is yet another blow to the rapidly collapsing house of cards about the safety of vegan diets.  After all vegans rely heavily on soy to replace the protein their body is supposed to get from animal sources.  Sure they can consume other legumes for protein but few are as versatile as soy.  Could this mean the quinoa burger is the next big craze?  Maybe and I bet it’ll beat the hell out of a tofu burger.

For more on the health risks of veganism check out this experiment by independent health researcher Matt Stone or the shocking article by a self-described, “hardcore, self-righteous and oh so judgmental vegangelical” entitled Vegan No More.  The revelation that veganism was killing her has actually earned death threats from all of those meat-is-murder vegans.  For more about the new findings about soy you can check out this extensive article by Jim Thornton of Men’s Health Magazine.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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