Stop the War on Southern Cuisine!

Bon AppétitApparently, the folks at Bon Appétit didn’t get the memo; the one where the New York media declared 2012 the year of hating Southern Cuisine.  I just received the latest issue of BA today and it is a salute to America’s most import culinary region, the South.

I have often said that the Deep South has a culinary tradition unmatched in the New World.  Dixie is to America what Tuscany is to Italy, what Provence is to France, it is the nation’s gastronomic heart and soul.  And no Madison Avenue smear campaign can ever change that.

Many might think that the current assault on Southern Cuisine stems from the recent revelation that Paula Deen has diabetes.  After all the brainless snobs at 30 Rock and their ilk have certainly crucified her for not revealing her condition until three years after her diagnosis.  Just for the record, Ms. Deen has absolutely no responsibility to disclose any illness she may have.  Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to post the entirety of their medical history online for everyone to read before even thinking to say anything.

But Paula Deen’s illness is just the latest piece of hypocrisy coming from the elitists, yet another salvo of class warfare.  I’m not saying that Southern food doesn’t have it’s faults.  It can be high calorie/high fat.  But eaten in moderation it will never cause diabetes.  Ever.  Plus it’s no higher in fat or calories than the celebrated foods on New York City.

Let’s take a fried chicken dinner – 2 pieces of chicken (one breast, one leg) is roughly 550 calories and 24 grams of fat, mashed potatoes adds 240 calories, 9 grams of fat and the biscuit is another 130 calories and 6 grams of fat.  That’s 920 total calories and 39 grams of fat.  Yep, that’s pretty hefty.

PizzaNow let’s look at one of those giant slices of New York style pizza.  It contains upwards of 7oo calories and nearly 40 grams of fat.  Just one of those famous Coney Island hot dogs has more than 550 calories and a whopping 32 grams of fat.  A big deli-style Reuben has over 900 calories and 60 grams of fat.

None of those numbers include sides.  But since we’re on the subject, which do you think is healthier collard greens or potato chips?  French fries or black eyed peas?  The point is no one cuisine in and of itself is harmful.  The secret to eating healthy is moderation.  If you eat and exercise in moderation you don’t have to count calories or watch your fat intake.  Like Paula said on NBC’s Today Show, “I’ve always said, ‘Practice moderation, y’all.’ I’ll probably say that a little louder now.”

So with that squashed, I think I’ll go fix some fish and grits.

Sara Lee’s (Not-so) Heart Healthy Bread

As America continues it’s struggles with obesity more and more people are looking for healthy alternatives in their diets.  Folks are monitoring their caloric intake, their carbs and fats too.  One of the places that many are trying to “health out” is in the bakery.  As a nation we are finally learning the benefits of whole grains.

According to the good folks at the Mayo Clinic:

All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, various vitamins and minerals, and are naturally low in fat. But grains that haven’t been refined — called whole grains — are even better for you. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. So whenever you can, choose whole grains over refined grains.

The nation’s major bakers have responded with a plethora of healthy bread alternatives including whole grains, fewer chemicals and more organic ingredients.  Nature’s Own, Arnold’s and Nature’s Pride all are companies specializing in bread that is better for you.  Some of the larger baking companies like Wonder, Bunny and Sunbeam have tried to provide healthier if not actually healthy alternatives to their established products.

Then there’s Sara Lee.  Most have grown up thinking of Sara Lee as high quality, wholesome foods but that may not be the case.  First off, Sara Lee is not a bakery or a food service company.  To quote their own website, “At Sara Lee Corporation, our business is brands.”  Brands?  It isn’t food?  Hmm.

If memory serves, isn’t Sara Lee the only bread company, sorry brand company, to ever have to recall it’s bread because of metal shavings?  But that was just an accident and accidents happen right?  It wasn’t an accident.  Accidents are unpreventable.  Mistakes, however, are born from ineptitude and that was one doozy of a mistake.

(Not so) Heart Healthy by Sara LeeLet’s take a look at Sara Lee Heart Healthy Plus 100% Whole Wheat Bread and compare it to another popular healthy bread the 100% Whole Wheat from Nature’s Own.  According to the nutritional label on Sara Lee’s Whole Wheat each slice contains 80 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (0 grams of saturated fat but there is no listing of trans fat), 135 mg of sodium, 14 grams of total carbs (4 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar) and 4 grams of protein.

That’s not bad but compare it to the Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat bread which contains 50 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (0 saturated fats, 0 trans fats), 115 mg of sodium, 10 grams of total carbs (2 grams dietary fiber and 1 gram of sugar) and 4 grams of protein. That’s even better.

Still compared to normal bread the Sara Lee is pretty good right?  Maybe not.  You see for years Sara Lee bread has been made with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and hydrogenated oils.  It seems everyday there are new findings about the ill effects of HFCS which has proven to be far worse for your body than even table sugar including increased occurrence of pancreatic cancer which leads to diabetes and heart disease.  It also wreaks havoc on the liver.

Hydrogenated oils are the very trans fats that you keep hearing about.  Trans fats, studies have shown, greatly increase your chances of heart disease and stroke by elevating the LDL (bad cholesterol) while lowering HDL (good cholesterol) .  But wait, the name of the Sara Lee bread is “Heart Healthy.”

You see nothing is healthy if it contains HFCS or hydrogenated oils.  The body simply cannot process them.  It doesn’t matter how little of each is in the food because no amount is tolerable.  Despite what the hucksters at Sweet Surprise fraudulently assert in their clever commercials, high fructose corn syrup has been proven to be more harmful to you than standard sugar.

Even Sara Lee knows this and that is why on August 16th they sent out a press release announcing their transition from HFCS to safer ingredients in their Sara Lee Soft & Smooth line.  The release said nothing about eliminating it from the Heart Healthy products.  So when you are out shopping and you see those loaves of Sara Lee grab one and check to see if it’s one of the new formula breads.

However, Sara Lee has yet to say anything about eliminating hydrogenated oils from their allegedly healthy breads saying in another document that they admit that hydrogenated oils are trans fats and that trans fats are unhealthy.  The most they have committed to is trying to decrease the amount of hydrogenated oils they use.

The moral of this story is don’t trust the label on the front; scrutinize the one on the back.

High-fructose corn syrup kills

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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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