I step out into a much different area of focus this week on SONday blog, into the area of sustenance – ie the food (or “fude”) we think we are eating and ingesting.

O for some REAL English fish 'n chips ..

O for some REAL English fish ‘n chips ..

I have always been fascinated by the “Food Technology Industry.” And by that I mean, in my formative years growing up in post-WWII England, I was educated in more ways than one about being sent off to school to get some papers that would get me a job. My earliest forms of money-income, were in helping my cousin go round the neighborhood and sell fresh-laid eggs from our very own chicken-coops. Then there was his father (my uncle) who would take us around the neighboring towns and villages selling sweets, candies, chocolates, and other yummy goodies to all the family-owned “corner-shops” as they were called. Then there was the Saturday-morning ritual at the local “Fish & Chip Shop” where I was employed to peel the potatoes and “flood the peas” in preparation for the day’s and evening’s offerings to hundreds of hungry customers.

It didn’t hurt, by the way, that I also had a morning and evening newspaper round (ie before and after school) where I could deftly insert into the pages of the day’s news, handy little “notices” about “fresh-laid eggs” and the “finest Fish & Chips” in the county (all with my name and address on them, of course). I’ll never forget the glorious year of 1958 when the efforts of my hard work bought me a “Tour de France” official racing bike, with a 10speed derailleur – a REAL “racing bike. Then, in later years, my efforts also bought me my first “overseas” trip .. a wonderful 14-day holiday touring Switzerland. Magic!

Metal Box Apprentice School c1962

Metal Box Apprentice School c1962

However, I must bring us back to the mundane subject of “Food Technology.” Throughout my engineering apprenticeship with the Metal Box Company (during which time I was also being trained as a professional soccer player with Blackburn Rovers) I became acquainted with many overseas visitors from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and other areas, who would come to Metal Box to be trained in “Food Technology.” The Metal Box Company built a plant in our little town of Westhoughton, because the Heinz Baked Beans Company from the United States, had built a facility 10 miles away in the outskirts of my birth-home, Wigan (actually, Kitt Green) and that facility is now the largest food processing plant in Europe, and the largest H. J. Heinz facility in the world. The Metal Box Company was built to supply Heinz with cans to hold baked beans.

“So what”, you may well ask, “has that got to do with the price of (say) tea in China?” Well, quite a lot really, since the question I pose as the header of this piece, has very serious consequences – especially as it relates to “you are what you eat.”

HJHeinz Kitt Green...In this first part of a two-part piece (which likely, could go to three parts) I place before you some particularly well-known “food” products, that might well be doing some serious harm to your immune system. Not to alarm you in any way, but simply to make you aware of what insidious practices the “Food Technology Industry” is ingratiating itself with, in an effort to make food relatively affordable at the lower end of the food chain.

As usual in topics as serious and relevant as this, I give a gracious hat-tip to Gerard Vanderleun and his wonderful American Digest, for bringing this timely topic within the scope of my radar…

It began when my brother, Jeff, reached into his cupboard one evening in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and pulled out a small can. “You want to see some vague food?” he asked holding the tin out.


“Yes, vague,” he said. “Just what is “Potted Meat” anyway? Has it been smoked, drenched, strained, and then slammed into the can with extreme prejudice? What animal gives potted meat?”


I looked carefully at the can and turned it to the list of ingredients “as required by law.” Not vague in the least.

Mechanically Separated Chicken, Beef Tripe, Partially Defatted Cooked Beef Fatty Tissue, Beef Hearts, Water, Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue, Salt. Less than 2 percent: Mustard, Natural Flavorings, Dried Garlic, Dextrose, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite

The first item caught my eye since I had no idea what “Mechanically Separated Chicken” was except that it sounded bad for the chicken. Since then I’ve learned what the process entails:

Mechanically separated meat (MSM) [I’ll let the acronym “MSM” pass without comment], also known as mechanically recovered meat (MRM), is a paste-like meat product produced by forcing beef, pork or chicken bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. Mechanically separated meat has been used in certain meat and meat products since the late 1960s.

That really perks up the taste buds, doesn’t it?

My brother, to his eternal credit, didn’t open that can of “Potted Meat.” If he had we might have had to vacate his home at high speed surfing just ahead of the odor wave. Instead he prepared a very good dinner using real food.

Still, his concept of “vague food” stuck with me. How much vague food was there and what was it like? The next morning I found myself roaming through one of Food Lion supermarkets that are scattered about North Carolina. It was a bit of spontaneous cultural anthropology. My mission was to discover what other strange offerings had crept onto the grocery shelves during the years in which my own tastes had tended towards the more high end of offerings at YuppieChic Whole Foods style markets. I was not to be disappointed.

It was a series of small satoris. Here are some items that caught my attention. None of these things are on my current diet.

First up was this mercifully seasonal offering from Starbucks:


In this one offering we see a grand harmonic convergence of everything that has gone terribly, terribly wrong for Starbucks over the last few years. To get an abomination like this on the shelves means that hundreds of people at the company are working overtime to put it there. But before that can even get started you need a small group of executive marketing bozos sitting around trying to justify their phony baloney jobs.

Okay, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll take some bad coffee extract, dose it with some cheap chocolate syrup, and then lace it with peppermint!”

“Sounds suitably disgusting. How do we get people to buy it?”

“We’ll tell them that it’s available for a “Limited Time Only.”

“Fookin’ genius!

Of late I note that some 300 jobs at Starbucks’ headquarters in Seattle were eliminated. One can only hope these soooper-geniuses were not only among them, but rowed out into Puget Sound and put into the water with chains wrapped around their legs.

To be continued next week ….