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What are we feeding ourselves these days?
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The other day I was in a hurry, and couldn't make my usual breakfast. So, I sat down and had a bowl of cereal. Here's the thing - it was not good. In fact, it was borderline awful. About the same time, I found myself running errands in town. Running late, in a hurry, I elected to grab a quick bite at a franchised fast food joint. It was awful, too. What are we feeding ourselves?

My bowl of cold cereal and fast food lunch was definitely a break from the ordinary. A typical breakfast for me usually includes a combination of the following: bacon, eggs, steamed asparagus, yogurt, or perhaps a fried breakfast steak. For lunch I will quickly grill a brat or burger, or throw together a sandwich using odds and ends from the refrigerator. The objective here, in my day-to-day eating routine, is fast, easy and cheap. Yet, despite the simplicity of my typical meals, I find them to be much more satisfying than the alternative. For example:

My cereal should have been everything I needed: colorful, well advertised, fun and ultra-fast. So, when I filled my cereal bowl with objects meant to resemble miniature chocolate chip cookies, I expected nothing less than bliss. Except, it was not. I finished the first bowl, and only wanted more. By the end of my third bowl, I felt sick. I stood up, groaning, my belly bloated and sloshing from the extra milk. I had eaten nearly half a box of cereal, and drank a third of a gallon of milk, and did not feel satisfied in the least. Ugh.

Fast food lunch had a similar negative effect on my libido. Hungrily I bit into the burger, greasy and dripping - just the way I like 'em. My mouth simply exploded with pleasurable flavors. I downed the beef and then turned to the fries, salty and delicious. All of this was washed down by a fountain drink, fizzy, sugary and as colorful as antifreeze. Again, I wanted more. I was full, but not satisfied. Compounding my dilemma was the fact that as time wore on I continued to taste the burger, thanks to a series of stealthy and relentless burps. Several hours later the burger seemed to have taken on a life of its own; normal digestive cycles only make it stronger and angrier, sapping my energy and leaving an ever-present twinge of onion on my breath. Ugh.

Food - now here is a subject that cracks me up. Maybe my attitude comes from my intimacy with production agriculture. Let's face it; you tend to look at a steak differently when you know the name of the butcher who processed it, what farm the animal was raised on, and in fact, the name of the individual animal, because you bottle-fed it as a calf. On the one hand, food is treated as an idolized deity, something to be feared, lest ye be condemned to a sterile life of healthlessness. On the other hand, food is so simple, so minimal, that the truth will shock you.

First let's explore the complexities. What is the obsession with nutritional Information, percent daily value, or ingredients? No offense, but if you are sitting down to a bowl of miniature chocolate chip cookies (FOR BREAKFAST,) I doubt very seriously that you are concerned with how much Riboflavin is contained in each serving size. The cereal that I ate lists daily recommended amounts of Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Thiamin, and Zinc, among others. The ingredients of my cereal contain such eyebrow-raising items as Alkalized Cocoa (courtesy of Duracell?), Crystalline Fructose (sugar from a coal mine?), Trisodium Phosphate (aren't we trying to prevent Iran from obtaining something like that?), and Niacinamide (your guess is as good as mine). Oh, wait - here, in big bold letters is an allergy warning: "Contains Wheat." Dear God, this contains wheat? Someone call HAZMAT.

Likewise, a fast food wrapper will typically advertise that you can visit the company's website in order to obtain ingredients and nutritional information. Translation: "Do not obtain ingredients and nutritional information within 45 minutes of consuming product. Projectile vomiting and severe cramps will result."

I mentioned earlier that food does not need to be this overanalyzed entity. Let's explore just how simple, how natural our food can be. Here on the farm, I have a readily available supply of fresh milk. I separate my own cream. I raise my own beef. My wife grows vegetables and herbs in her garden, and my neighbor raises laying hens. The next time you purchase yogurt, read the Ingredients. The next time you treat yourself to ice cream, do the same.

Real yogurt contains two ingredients, one of which is yogurt. Real vanilla ice cream contains only cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and egg yolks. Simple, right?

Like I said, food cracks me up. In an age of obsessive, compulsive, hypochondriatic attitudes toward miracle diets, food safety and health regulations, I love nothing more than a homegrown, third-pound slab of undercooked red meat. Much to my wife's ultimate disgust, I will happily dip right into thawed hamburger (haven't you ever heard of steak tartare?). Scrambled eggs are good only when cooked just long enough for the whites to begin coagulating, no longer. And bacon, well - I had better be able to tie my slice of bacon into a bowline knot without it breaking. There is no difference between a No. 2 pencil, and overcooked bacon.

Having said all that, every time I pass a fast food billboard featuring an extreme close-up of a juicy fast food hamburger, it is all I can do to suppress the gag reflex. Furthermore, I threw out the chocolate chip cookie breakfast cereal. My dog will happily chow down on fermented road kill. He is a farm dog, in every sense of the term. When he came across the cereal he sniffed it inquisitively, and moved on. What are we feeding ourselves?