By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Whole Foods

Monday night supper

Every so often I get codfish cakes from Whole Foods. Rarely, though, do I go with the full experience from my childhood. Tonight I decided to pull out all the stops and create a favorite meal my mother used to make.

So let me start with the fish cakes. Here is where a bit of mystery creeps in. As I said, I buy them and then bake them in the oven. What my mother did was very different, and it’s long since lost to memory. I wish I could ask her; I wish I could ask her a lot of things. But from what I remember, she started with a can of codfish, mixed it with other ingredients (potatoes, probably, since that seems pretty standard), formed it into cakes and fried them in a wrought-iron skillet. They were spectacular, and I wish I had the recipe — assuming you can even get canned codfish these days.

The rest is more straightforward. My mother made great cole slaw, but I didn’t appreciate it at the time. What you see here is from the Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, and it’s almost as good as Mom’s. (Also excellent is the cole slaw at Woodman’s in Essex.)

The finishing touch, believe it or not, is canned spaghetti. I don’t know why, but it was always served with fish cakes, and it was always Franco-American. I’m not sure they make it anymore. What you’re looking at here is Campbell’s.

Served with ketchup, it’s a perfect meal.

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At Whole Foods, a failure of the imagination over Black Lives Matter face masks

A Whole Foods store in West Hartford, Connecticut. Photo (cc) 2014 by Mike Mozart.

The Boston Globe reports that Whole Foods is sending employees home if they show up to work wearing face masks emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter.” Katie Johnston writes:

After seeing reports of Whole Foods workers in other states being sent home for refusing to take off Black Lives Matter face masks, Savannah Kinzer decided to bring the movement to Cambridge. And, sure enough, when she and her colleagues put on masks emblazoned with the phrase Wednesday afternoon, the manager told them they either had to remove the masks or go home. So seven of them walked out.

As is often the case with such public-relations disasters, at root is a failure of the imagination. How can management not understand that this will end with them apologizing and backing down?

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New evidence that fake food isn’t good for you

Recently I wrote a column for the Guardian criticizing Whole Foods for selling ketchup that contains high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, the synthetic sweetener that has been linked to a catastrophic rise in obesity and Type II diabetes.

Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t find much in the way of evidence to suggest that HFCS is actually worse for you than plain old sugar. The main problem with HFCS, it seemed, was its ubiquity and low cost, the latter a function of massive federal subsidies for corn. No subsidies, no HFCS. No HFCS, no three-liter bottles of soda.

So I sat up and paid attention yesterday when I came across Elizabeth Cooney’s “Be Well” column in the Boston Globe. Cooney reported that scientists at Princeton University had found that rats fed HFCS gained much more weight than those fed sucrose, packed on abdominal fat (which is considered particularly unhealthy) and had higher levels of fat in their blood. The study was published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

A press release put out by Princeton includes more details. Here is a key excerpt:

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

The release goes on to say the study raises the strong possibility that HFCS is metabolized by the body differently from sucrose.

Hoebel’s methodology has come under fire, as critics say he and his colleagues were hazy about some key details, including how many calories the HFCS-consuming rats were getting as compared to their sucrose-eating cousins. Hoebel answers those criticisms in the Washington Post.

The Princeton study is not definitive, but it’s certainly suggestive. And it demonstrates that Michelle Obama’s crusade for healthy food could, if successful, have far more to do with keeping health-care costs under control than the bill signed by her husband last week.

We’ve already heard cries from the food industry and its defenders that government has no business regulating trans fats. Soon we’re going to hear it about HFCS as well.

But laboratory-created fake food is not a matter of consumer choice. These are dangerous substances that have been foisted on us by powerful corporations looking to save money. Keeping such substances out of the food supply would seem to be well within the purview of government regulation.

Photo (cc) by Jonathan Boeke and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

You’re on your own at Whole Foods

In my latest for the Guardian, I detail my love-hate relationship with Whole Foods — prompted by an unwelcome encounter with high-fructose corn syrup between the soup and the vegetables.

Whole Foods in a time of recession

In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at Whole Foods’ settlement with the Federal Trade Commission — a nostalgic artifact from a time when we could actually afford to worry about one high-priced natural-food store gobbling up another.

Whole Foods and “cow splatter”

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that if you’re going to pay twice as much to shop at Whole Foods, the least you can expect is hamburger that doesn’t come from an industrial processing plant that’s been in trouble with the government for years.

A weird twist in the Whole Foods saga

As if Whole Foods’ proposed acquisition of Wild Oats weren’t already in enough trouble, the Wall Street Journal reports today that Whole Foods chief executive John Mackey pseudonymously posted messages on Yahoo discussion groups about the wonderfulness of Whole Foods, the lagging fortunes of Wild Oats and his own all-around genius.

Using the name “Rahodeb” (“Deborah,” his wife’s name, backwards jumbled up), Mackey apparently tried to drive down Wild Oats’ stock price in 2005 when it was $8 a share. Journal reporters David Kesmodel and John R. Wilke write:

“Would Whole Foods buy OATS?” Rahodeb asked, using Wild Oats’ stock symbol. “Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small.” Rahodeb speculated that Wild Oats eventually would be sold after sliding into bankruptcy or when its stock fell below $5. A month later, Rahodeb wrote that Wild Oats management “clearly doesn’t know what it is doing …. OATS has no value and no future.”

No wonder the Federal Trade Commission is all over this — there’s no way the agency could ignore such behavior. And Mackey’s contention that he was engaging in meaningless “macho posturing” is ridiculous.

Update: The New York Times account is worth a read, too.

Food fight

As a somewhat disgruntled customer of Wild Oats (my suggested motto: “You’d Better Want What We Have, Because We Don’t Have What You Want”), I’ve been looking forward to seeing my local outlet converted to a Whole Foods.

Now Daniel Gross of Slate tells us that the Bush administration has finally identified a proposed merger it doesn’t like. As Gross suggests, it sounds like revenge.

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