Day 8: Do you know what you're eating?

Well, today marks day 8 of my Real Food Challenge. A funny thing happened today that made me realize just how happy I am that I am continuing this challenge. I was using the leftover homemade tarte crust I had today to make a mini strawberry tarte and my sister, meanwhile, was preparing a plate of my mom's berry cobbler, which is super simple and tasty but pretty bad for you! It consists of 1 box of store-bought cake mix (Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow), 1 can of pie filling (she uses Comstock), and 1 stick of butter. Not only is her cobbler packed with a bunch of sugar and fat, but it also has tons of ingredients that you'll be hard-pressed to know anything about. This type of thing really bothers me, probably because I love to bake and would never dream of putting some of these ingredients in my cakes, breads, cookies, etc. Anyways, my sister was preparing her plate of blueberry cobbler, and knowing about my challenge said, "Trish try to look away, I don't want to make you jealous". I said, "Don't worry I would never get jealous of that" and then told her why. Long story short, she ended up throwing out the plate before even taking a bite. I told her that I would not eat that if I didn't know what was in it and I said I bet there are a bunch of ingredients in there that she probably didn't want to eat. Normally she'd shy me away, and most of the time I try not to get overly preachy because people don't want to hear it, but since she was interested I continued talking. The human hair didn't scare her, because she said that can be found anywhere, but when I told her about shellac, which is the shiny coating that covers gumballs, jelly beans, strawberry syrups, and is even used to make some fruit shiny; that comes from the secretions of the female lac bug (which looks like a beetle) she raced over to her laptop and had to check it out for herself.

I started with Jennifer Grayson's article and then showed her Jamie Oliver's episode on abc where he demonstrated to LA high school students with sundaes. Not only is it incredibly inhumane (it takes 300,000 female lac bugs to make 1 kg of shellac) but it is gross! From check out all the places you can find shellac: Implications of Shellac: Wood Treatment (primers, high gloss and mat polishes); Electrics (insulators); Printing inks, inks and china inks; Cosmetics (binder for mascara, shampoo, film former for hairspray, micro incapsulation of fragrances); Food (fruit coatings, parting and glazing agent for confectionary and chocolates); Pharma (tablet coating); Abrasives (binder for grinding wheels); Dental; Hat manufacturing (for stiffening); Conditioning for wooden floors; Leather finishes; Pyrotechnics; Coating of seeds; Micro incapsulation of dyestuffs. So, what are some other ingredients on our labels and where do they come from/what are they? Jamie talks about how you can find beaver anal glands (called castoreum on labels) in ice cream because it makes it smoother, duck feathers, and human hair in candy and ice cream.

Here is a comparison of how to make my cake mix with how to make Pillsbury cake mix:

(ingredients listed from largest quantity first to smallest quantity) Quick Cake Mix Recipe (

total ingredients: 4

  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow Cake Mix
total ingredients: 18+
  • sugar
  • enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • partially hydrogenated soybean oil
  • wheat starch
  • baking powder (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate)
  • Contains 2% or less of propylene glycol monoesters
  • dextrose
  • corn starch
  • salt
  • artificial flavor
  • mono and diglycerides
  • cellulose
  • xanthan gum
  • cellulose gum
  • polysorbate 60
  • colored with Red 40 and Yellow 5
  •  TBHQ and citric acid (antioxidants).

The funny thing about this is that the companies are getting smarter with their labels. They know what to say to make you want to buy their products now that people are starting to care more about what they eat. Trans fats have been banned by the FDA, we thought, right? But legally, the FDA says you don't have to list that there are trans fats in the nutrition facts of the food unless there is more than 0.5 grams per serving! So whenever you see 0grams trans fat.. think again. And, in the case of this cake mix, there are 12 servings per package. So think about that, 0.5 +0.5 +0.5+0.5 +0.5 +0.5 +0.5 +0.5 +0.5 +0.5 +0.5+0.5 = 6 grams of trans fat in one package! And if one package makes 24 cupcakes... well you can do the math. Furthermore, I laughed out loud when I saw TBHQ listed as an antioxidant! If I didn't research this before or know that TBHQ is in fact a preservative that is a chemical form of butane, I might have thought "Oh, how wonderful! Antioxidants in this!" And, the FDA only allows 0.02% of total oils in food to be TBHQ which is why it says "contains less than 2% of ..." You have to wonder, if the FDA only allows that amount in the food, is it because it could do me harm? Yes. TBHQ

Now, who wants some dessert? .....I'll take the real stuff please!