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Did you know how factory cake is made?

Nope, but who cares? It tastes OK to me!   0 votes - 0 %
Nope, and I don't think I'll be able to stare a slice in the face again without fear and loathing.   2 votes - 9 %
I had a vague idea, but wasn't aware it was quite that ghastly.   13 votes - 59 %
Oh yeah, I knew that, doesn't everyone?   3 votes - 13 %
If you think that's bad, you should see where I worked back in...!   1 vote - 4 %
Who eats cake anyway?   3 votes - 13 %
22 Total Votes
Thanks for this. Nice transcription job. :)

If I could recommend another book, you would really enjoy (if reading about the corporate and chemical takeover of our tastebuds can be enjoyed) Eat Your Heart Out, by Jim Hightower, written in 1975.

by lychee on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 03:22:26 AM EST
Poll answer: no, but I already knew it was crap. This just means it's even worse crap than I could imagine.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:07:39 AM EST
 it is better not to see them being made." - Otto von Bismarck, Prussian politician

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 06:12:14 AM EST
This is legal?  If so, Americans need better food laws.  Didn't they learn anything from The Jungle...?

(In New Zealand, food is supposed to be made out of food...)

by IdiotSavant on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 07:17:54 AM EST
Oh, and how I make cake: butter, chocolate, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, and more chocolate.  Why would anyone waste time eating crap?
by IdiotSavant on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 07:20:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't they learn anything from The Jungle...?  


The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 09:54:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the labelling requirements for this?

Here in the UK, animal fats disappeared from the ingredients labels of most commercially-produced cakes and biscuits a good fifteen years or so ago.

There was no great upheaval. I thought at the time that the number of vegetarians/Muslims/Hindus who avoided such products must have reached a critical level where the manufacturers cared about the loss of business.  More realistically, it's possible that the abolition of the practice of rendering (boiling up the carcasses to get the last scraps of meat and fat) post-BSE reduced the amount of cheap animal fat.

(I realise the hydrogenated crap with which it was replaced is no better in health terms...)

However, last year Mars announced that it would be using slaughter-derived whey in its chocolate, and was forced to back down after a week.  So...is there some quirk of labelling that allows decaying fish to be labelled as vegetable oil, or does the British situation, though equally nutritionally icky, not involve the more emotionally repulsive ingredients?

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 07:24:14 AM EST
Would you like to know more about bananas?

Salon.com reviews Dan Koeppel's "Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World" and Peter Chapman's "Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World":

The mass-produced banana first came to the United States in the 19th century. As the next century rolled on, buccaneering banana men pioneered such innovative business practices as propping up puppet heads of states throughout Latin America, keeping them in power through corporate largesse, and exploiting local workers, when not actually encouraging local governments to enslave or kill them. By building railroads, in exchange for land for plantations, United Fruit [now Chiquita] tightly entwined itself with the economies of many countries, and came to own huge swaths of Central America. Its reach was so extensive that it became known as "the Octopus."

When local leaders threatened taxes or complained about the company's abysmal labor practices, such as paying workers exclusively in company scrip to be spent only at the company store, United Fruit threatened to leave the country, taking its business next door. Mere bribes to local officials were strictly junior varsity in this jungle.

In some countries, United Fruit blatantly paid no taxes at all for decades. In others, when troubled by local officials, it simply installed a more sympathetic government. In Honduras in 1911, the banana men not only staged an invasion to depose the current regime and put in a new one, they had the audacity to demand the new government reimburse the costs incurred in the invasion!

United Fruit was not to be crossed. In Colombia in 1928, 32,000 banana workers went on strike, demanding such niceties as toilet facilities at plantations. In a massacre later immortalized in literature by Gabriel García Márquez in "One Hundred Years of Solitude," the military killed 1,000 unarmed striking workers and their families in the town square in Cienaga after Sunday church services.

The banana men, however, saw themselves not as ruthless corporate overlords but as a force for all that's good in civilization. [...] Today, when the business buzzword "corporate social responsibility" is so commonplace that it has its own acronym, CSR, it's sobering to remember that the banana czars themselves invented the term. [...]

by das monde on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 08:56:33 AM EST
I wouldn't eat from any bunch of bananas that doesn't warn about tropical spiders in them. If the transportation doesn't support spiders, it doesn't support bananas.

When was the last time you saw a rotten banana that was fit to eat ? I remember them from when I was a kid, a black banana was gooey but edible. Now, if it's gone even slightly black it's compost (and smells like it). Once the fruit was still alive and ripening when it arrived here, now it's dead and I'm sure it's more than they're stored under Nitrogen.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 09:45:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember reading this exact description of industrial cake production in maybe Harpers', sometime in probably the mid 1990s.

As I look around my kitchen and fridge, the only processed foods I find are dried pasta, high end tomato sauce which, by the ingredients, is close to what I make from scratch when I have time, and Thai curry paste. I tried making Thai curry paste from scratch. Once. It's amazingly difficult to grind up lemon grass with a mortal and pestle (I think nowadays they use food processors, but I don't have one).

Now I am not being all moral here...these selections are left over from my days as a rad veg. It's just that I've read too many articles like the cake story, and I gross out very easily for a biologist. I won't cook with things that I don't know the chain of custody from living thing to my tummy.

Speaking of my tummy, do you have a recipe for the Apple Spice Cake? I'd like to try it, since I can't live in BC anymore.

Thanks for posting this.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 11:39:24 AM EST
Speaking of my tummy, do you have a recipe for the Apple Spice Cake?

Well, a friend of mine has a good recipe:

Take two eggs, a pinch of cinnamon, 350 g of wheat flour, 200 g of milk, four large apples, 200 g of brown sugar and two bottles of good whiskey.

1 - Mix eggs and milk.

2 - Taste the whiskey to make sure that it is a good one.

3 - Finely mix flour and sugar.

4 - Make sure that the whiskey is still good.

5 - Gadually put zhe flour/sugar mix into the eggs and milk.

6 - 'Ave another tazte of ze fine whiskey.

7 - Addd a pinzh of sinnamon.

8 - Open ze zekond bottle of whizky.

9 - Tozz a few sppoonfuls of kurry into ze mix. Curry is alwayz good.

10 - Swipe a zhot of ze whizky.

11 - GOTO 10

12 - find anuzzer bottle of whizky.

13 - chuck a roasted chicken into ze mix.

14 - 'ave anuzzer drunk.

15 - go to bed. who vould vant to eat kake anywayz ven zey ave wizky.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Caution! Remember to turn off the stove before you turn in.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 03:32:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's amazingly difficult to grind up lemon grass with a mortal and pestle

In the running for Typo of the Year?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:00:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 05:09:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My wife is very keen on reading the ingredients of any processed food we buy. An interesting thing to note is that although the brands stay the same, the ingredients regularly change - suddenly, hydrogenated fats or palm tree oil appear when they'd been absent beforehand...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 02:25:23 PM EST
The story in the final paragraph appears in Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, which is possibly its source. However, he attributes the housewives reaction against cake mixes because they take away not only their individual creativity ('just add tap water'), but also the feeling that they are the food maker/provider for their family. He doesn't really mention that they had concerns over the the contents of nature of the cake, which, if correct, makes it irrelevant to his story.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.
by Ephemera on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 03:27:06 PM EST
Your comment reminds me that (it seems to me) every TV ad I see for a quick-make mix (cake, soup, whatever), always features the happy food-providing mother rewarded with general joy around the table and often an appreciative glance from Mr Man of the Family.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 04:08:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fake food and a fake social construct?

It is ironic that food companies have exploited and subverted the link between food and motherhood. The idea that food is to be trusted implicitly because it is provided by our mothers, who would never put anything on the table which would harm us. By providing food which is quicker and easier, they have allowed women to dispense with another 'duty' which tied them to the home. The price being that you didn't ask whether your family's health was the cost.

Now you are as likely to see a mother examining the ingredients of a food product as you are seeing her make a meal from scratch. Maybe that is an overstatement, but mothers (and fathers) have reasserted their control over their child's diet in a way which remains within the system of mass-produced food.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.

by Ephemera on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 05:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think "proper mother" pressure comes into that.

Despite the fact that most of us now work, there's (manufactured?) pressure to do all the things our mothers used to as well.

So...the friendly cake mix manufacturer comes to our rescue...Add water, stir, become a domestic goddess.

When my children were smaller, I confess to having bought biscuit kits, keeping the Thomas the Tank Engine/dinosaur cookie cutter, and throwing the biscuit mix away.  It seemed more of a waste to spend time making something horrible.

But...my mother baked everything herself, and I learned from her. Not everybody did. "Proper" cookery lessons have only just been reintroduced to UK schools.

Unfortunately, cookery lessons in UK schools are funded by the parents providing the ingredients.  My daughter is doing cookery at the moment, and estimates that, in any given week, only about half of her class will take part.  Usually the same half.

It's a problem.  It can be really, really expensive to provide the ingredients, because supermarkets don't sell 50g of beansprouts, one stick of celery, half a pepper, four baby corn, six mange-tout or a tablespoon of soy sauce.  I estimated that her vegetable stir fry would have cost £10-£12 from a standing start. Leaving a fridge full of leftover ingredients, but that presupposes the parents know what to do with them.

Coincidentally, tomorrow, she's making cake  :)

by Sassafras on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 05:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that seems insane, expecting each individual set of parents to buy the ingredients just for their kid.  what about pooling an ingredients fee and buying in bulk for the whole class from farmer's market or greengrocer's?  harumph...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 07:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What about the state rather than the parents financing a free education ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 04:44:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Liability. See stories about "cake sales" requesting that you not bring home baked cakes.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 06:13:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've thought that there might be a business opportunity providing and delivering cookery ingredients to local schools.

I know I'd rather send in a cheque once a term and know it was going to be dealt with for me.

The foreseeable problem is that, if the business model were successful, anyone who didn't buy the cheapest possible ingredients would be easy to outcompete.

And at least I know my daughter is using good ingredients when I provide them.

Her cake was, by the way...er...dense.  But don't tell her I said so... :)

by Sassafras on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 01:13:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, this description sounds very industrial, but a lot of its 'disgustingness' is because the industrial process makes things explicit that happen in all cakes.

How do you make normal cake? Butter, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla or something for taste.

The whole first part of this story describes how fat is aereated with an emulsifier and water. Or, in household terms, Butter and eggs are mixed together until creamy.

There is a lot of story how GMS "pulls in water" and "oozes around flour chips". Well, that's pretty much the function of eggs in normal cake.

Next there is part how the evil corporations put sugar in cake because it has the right weight and price. Seriously, is he criticizing factories because they put sugar in their cakes?

And on we go: in both cases carbon dioxide is chemically generated inside the cake, and being caught in those flour-toughened fat membranes, swells them up.

Yes, that's what happens in all cakes. It's how baking powder works.

So, the real differences between this industrial cake and normal home-made cake are basically two things: cheap fat and a chemical emulsifier instead of eggs. The rest of the story is pretty much the same as normal cake baking.

by GreatZamfir on Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 05:03:23 AM EST
There's truth in what you say, but :

  • creaming butter and eggs does not amount to increasing fat volume by addition of water;

  • putting sugar in a cake is not the same as adding an excess amount of sugar both to increase specific weight and give a masking taste appreciated by all.

So the differences are: cheap (lousy) fat, a chemical emulsifier, added water, excess sugar.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 05:27:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely hate factory cakes.

But adding water+emulsifier is sort of the equivalent of
adding eggs. Form a chemical-industrial point of view,
eggs are egg powder with added water. The article
mentions a doubling of the fat by adding water, which is
pretty much the same ratio between eggs and butter as I
use when making cake.

And I am not sure about the excess sugar either. In my
cakes, there are roughly equal parts sugar, butter,
eggs and flour. That's already a lot of sugar, and it
sure 'masks' the taste of the butter-with-egg mixture.

Sometimes you here people complain that the modern
city-dweller doesn't know how his foods are grown. But
in reality, people have a reasonably good idea how food
is grown. It's industrial processes that we are really
far removed from.

by GreatZamfir on Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 05:45:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the article seems to claim that flour is more expensive per weight than sugar. that sounds doubtful to me.
by GreatZamfir on Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 05:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for this and all your reading, DeAnander, because it links a lot of previous pieces of information and my gut feelings about processed stuff.  Many times, I get bad vibes from foods, textiles, furniture... and I cannot ignore them.

Bodani´s description is even better than Cruella de Ville´s factory scene.  (:

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun May 4th, 2008 at 12:21:20 PM EST

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