Scratch and claw - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Last year I did a story on Alvin and Pam McLellan’s 1969 Pontiac Beaumont, which Alvin was restoring for their 40th wedding anniversary. During that time, I spoke with Alvin about his day-to-day vehicle, a 1964 Ford 100 pickup truck he completely rebuilt from the ground up several years ago.
What an accomplishment, I said to him, to be driving around in something he had built, essentially, with his bare hands. There is a security in that too, however, knowing that you made this thing to the best of your ability.
I couldn’t help but think of that sense of accomplishment – on a much smaller scale – this past weekend as I took on a challenge for an upcoming issue of The Citizen.
You’ll read it soon enough, but Publisher Deb Sholdice, Denny and I all opted to cook 100-kilometre meals (meals featuring only ingredients grown and produced within 100 kilometres of your home) and document the process. Denny took on breakfast and Deb did lunch, while I created spaghetti carbonara with local eggs, cheese, flour and bacon. I made everything from scratch, including the pasta.
So, like my own little edible 1964 Ford 100, it was satisfying to look down at the counter to see a bunch of raw ingredients and turn them into a delicious pasta dish with a little time, some arm muscle and a few pots and pans.
Not only is it satisfying, but it’s also reassuring. Like I mentioned with Alvin’s truck, there is a confidence that comes along with making something like that for yourself.
Making something from scratch eliminates that dreaded word from food production: processing. Any time you hear that food has been processed, at least for me, it conjures up images of laboratories, factories and conveyor belts, as opposed to natural images like a farmer in a field or a smiling chef in a kitchen.
It’s with this in mind that I pivot to last month’s congressional investigation in the U.S. that found some disturbing secrets about the majority of baby food in North America.
The investigation found many companies were producing baby food that contained high levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury and at least four leading companies have released records that show they knowingly sold baby food that contained these dangerous metals. (Most other companies have yet to release their internal testing documentation – while others have flat-out refused – so the number of companies that knowingly endangered babies could easily grow in the coming months and years.)
The problem, however, is that you may not be able to make the case that these companies have broken any rules. This is because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet set minimum levels for heavy metals in most infant food. The one exception is the standard of 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic for infant rice cereal, which critics say is still far too high. (The standard set for bottled water is 10 parts per billion and the rice cereal standard doesn’t take into consideration the extremely high sensitivity to neurotoxic chemicals in babies under two years old, experts say.)
This report was published just as Tallulah came of age to start eating baby food, so just as quickly as she began eating it, we pulled her off of it. Jess now makes Tallulah’s baby food and, while it may be time-consuming, it is much, much safer for her.
It all just comes back to trusting yourself when it comes to matters like this. Time after time, unfortunately, corporations are showing us that they’ll cut corners and put us in danger before they’ll take a hit to the bottom line.