Ben & Jerry's and What is Natural?
Yesterday, Ben & Jerry's was in the headlines because they are removing the term "all natural" from their labels. According to www.walletpop.com, Ben & Jerry's parent company, Unilever, made the decision to remove the natural designation after receiving pressure from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and their assertions that ingredients like synthetic vanilla, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil and alkalized cocoa were manufactured ingredients and could not, therefore be considered "natural."
As an artisan gelateria, and self-proclaimed "natural" foodies, this argument piques our interest and provides an opportunity for us to reexamine our own food and ingredient philosophy.
We are in agreement with the Center for Science in the Public Interest that high fructose corn syrup and synthetic vanilla are not natural ingredients. And, to take it a step further, we really don't feel that they are quality ingredients or that they have much to offer in the way of flavor. Tahitian Vanilla Beans, like the ones we use in our Vanilla gelato, have such an amazing floral, fruity, nuanced, and complex flavor that it is hard to imagine that anyone could find synthetic vanilla a reasonable substitute.
However, we do disagree with the Center when it comes to Alkalized Cocoa. According to EHow.com, alkalized cocoa was created by the Dutch chemist C.J. Van Houten in 1828. It is the process of adding an acid, or alkali, to the cocoa in order to change the Ph of the cocoa powder. In changing the Ph, this creates a cocoa that is better able to be mixed into liquids and imparts a smooth, rich flavor.
Adding acids to foods, whether it is to tenderize a steak or activate the baking soda in a cake recipe, is an age old cooking technique. And, this is where we arrive at the crux of La Divina's cooking philosophy. But, it's not ours alone. Food writer, Nina Planck, best describes what we believe about the food we prepare and eat in her book Real Food. Ms. Planck recommends eating like our grandparents, and great-grandparents did. In other words, Grass-fed milk; real butter and lard; and lots of fresh, locally & sustainably grown produce. And, when it comes to the matter of making our gelato, this means Smith's Creamery milk, real Louisiana cane sugar, and real Tahitian Vanilla Beans!
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 6:51 am
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