Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are they serious?

I'm rarely given to fads, so as such, the current organic/all-natural movement is something I largely find amusing. Sure, I buy organic foods sometimes, but not because of some false sense that they're somehow magically better than "normal" food, but rather as a judgement of price, quality, etc. The problem is that there are a lot of people out there who are uninformed about the good and bad sides of organic food and believe that they should buy anything labeled organic simply because its better than non-organic. While that doesn't hurt me any (and really helps organic farmers who are cut hard by larger industrial farms), it does lead to some really, really bad products being put out on the market with a big green "USDA Organic" label and the false assurance that its somehow a good thing to buy. The recent peanut recall is a prime example as the processing plants had organic certification, but horrible food safety practices.

But the worst problem with the rush to label everything and anything organic are the "foods" that are so highly processed and ridiculous, it boggles the mind (btw, organic, thats 5 points). While there are lots of things I could direct my foodie scorn towards, I think I've found my all time favorite (for now).
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Everyone, give a warm welcome to Organic Batter Blaster pancake batter in a spray can. As if cheese wasn't bad enough. And yes, thats that green "USDA Organic" logo you see in the bottom right. Now, firstly, this stuff isn't cheap, costing around $6. If it wasn't for getting a free dozen eggs with purchase (~$1.50), and some coupons I had, there's no way I'd ever buy it. But as we can all see, I did, so here's my completely impartial review.

Its total crap

You see, despite being certified organic by the USDA, there are a lot of "non-organicy"ingredients (see picture below). Sure, the filtered water, organic wheat flour, organic cane sugar, and sea salt sound great. But, I'm a scientist, who's worked with actual food scientists, and I have never seen dicalcium phosphate given as an organic ingredient. I'd be even more impressed to learn how propellant can be classified as organic.
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But the ingredients are only half the story. The can says its good for both pancakes AND waffles. So I set my griddle over heat and turned my waffle iron on. I tried making various sized pancakes first, from silver dollar up to dinner plate sizes. The results were immediately disappointing. Pancake batter need a natural source of gas to provide leavening while cooking. Unfortunately, the forced gas from the propellant made overly airy pancakes that became way too dry too quickly. To make matters worse, the propellant caused the pancakes to spread way more than I would have liked, making it hard to control the sizes. The results were slightly better with the waffle iron, but after a minute from being removed, the waffles were hard and certainly not something I would eat, let alone feed to children in an attempt to provide them with a "nutritious breakfast".

Taste and texture (or lack there of) aside, the worst part comes from how how much "food" I actually ended up with. The can says you can make 28 4-inch pancakes. Well, the first one you make ends up a total dud because the nozzle isn't "primed" with batter. I got about 3 more pancakes around 5 inches in size, and 3 8x6 inch waffles before the "batter" ran out. This obviously ruined the last one. Now, if you do the math, they say I should get ~352 sq. inches of pancake or waffle. Being generous and saying I made 6 pancakes (~118 sq. inches) and 3.5 waffles (168 sq. inches) thats still only 286 sq. inches total. Now, you can say that the thickness of the waffles probably makes up for it. Well, you could say that, but unfortunately my waffle iron makes 1/4 inch thick waffles (or if you flip the plates, pizzelles), so where the hell is my missing 66 inches? Either way, what we're left with is a horribly over-priced, in no way worth it "organic" food product that only exists because people will buy it thinking "Organic makes it better!".

Now not to leave you all without a recipe, I include my general Pancake batter:
1.5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
good pinch salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg
10 oz. milk
3 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon

  1. Combine and sift the dry ingredients with the exception of the sugar in a workbowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg, butter, and sugar till combined.
  3. Add the wet to the dry and whisk just enough to combine. Lightly spray some non-stick spray onto your griddle and place over medium/medium-high heat.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle and wait for bubbles to set. When they do, flip, lightly brown the other side, then consume.
  5. Repeat as often as desired.

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