Know Your Food Merit Badge, Intermediate Level, Part 1

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,571 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,327 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Know Your Food Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I cultivated a few of my favorite recipes, revamped them so they’d be completely organic, and then packed all the ingredients up in my charming (if I do say so myself) reusable and homemade shopping bags. Why, you may ask? To take to my friend’s home and to make them dinner with, of course.

We farmgirls are a gregarious and generous bunch.

I was a bit nervous, to tell the truth. These particular friends were dyed-in-the-wool processed-food eaters. In fact, I am loath to call what they eat food. It’s more like … well, more like a deadly concoction of preservatives, MSG, food colorings, additives, and high-fructose corn syrup.

Speaking of HFCS, my little chickadees, part of earning my Intermediate Level Merit Badge was to completely and utterly eliminate that particular substance. I thought it’d be simple. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.

Water tower in Rochester, Minnesota. Photo by Jonathunder via Wikimedia Commons.

I was wrong.

Talk about insidious. That ingredient creeps and crawls its way into our foods in areas you’d never imagine. If HFCS was a spy, we’d be in trouble. It can slip into your house undetected. It can wriggle its way into your coffee-stand mocha, slip into your salad dressing, find new life in a bag of snack-time potato chips, and even be in the children’s neighborhood lemonade stand. Seriously, this stuff is the Jason Bourne of syrups. (Although Matt Damon is much more attractive).

Anyway, once I started paying uber-attention, I was shocked and alarmed. I realized my days of buying nearly anything pre-made had come to a sudden halt.

Unless my cookie craving could be satiated with something homemade, I was concerned I would never be able to enter a bakery again. I mourned.

Unless my local and favorite lunch buffet could revamp their menu, I was going to have to fulfill my cravings for enchiladas and lobster bake all by myself. I weeped.

Unless I could figure out the magical list of ingredients for my weekly Hazelnut White Chocolate Pecan Caramel Mocha with Whip and Sprinkles, I was gonna have to quit cold turkey. I gnashed my teeth.

But enough about me. Back to my friends and my bags o’ groceries.

I had to bring every single ingredient: we’re talking salt and pepper and olive oil and everything. I just couldn’t trust their pantry with my beloved and high-quality food items, and besides, I wanted to show them just how good organic and local and homemade could be without the slightest bit of cheating.

First, I had to remove about five billion dishes out of their oven. Turns out, they don’t use their oven.

Like, ever.

It’s for storage.

I found this odd, strange, and somewhat distressing, but I soldiered on. Next, I had them taste-test my homegrown tomatoes, which they were somewhat loathe to do. I didn’t blame them: I used to hate tomatoes. Those pink, mealy, gross things I found on my hamburgers or thrown haphazardly into my salad? Nasty. But my bright red (or sometimes purple or orange) ‘maters from my garden? A treat that would transform any skeptic.

All my friends agreed they had never tasted anything like my heirloom variety, and in moments, I had none left for my garnish. No matter, it was mission accomplished already!

Stay tuned for how the rest of my experiment and badge earning went next time …

  1. Good Morning MaryJane ,OK here’s the kicker. Nearly 100% of all HFCS is made from GMO corn as well!!
    yep you got that right, GMO !

    I have simply stopped using all corn products unless they are organic. Like blue corn chips. I am dropping all commercial breads and have found 2 sources that are “plain jane”, just like 3 or 4 healthy ingredients at most. Sadly our local Russian Deli that had the world’s best rye and whole grain breads closed. It is hard to eat ” clean” as I call it. In a discount grocery, I did find some imported from Germany all natural real pumpernickel and I bought all they had and froze the little loaves.
    Your tomatoes look lovely.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    MJF really educated me about GMO and combined with the national push to learn about avoiding so my high fructose corn syrup, I now have an awareness to look closely to get something “clean” as Lisa puts it. No small task! Depending on what you are trying to find, it can be difficult to get basic products to keep on hand in the pantry. I stopped buying processed food awhile ago for health reasons, including too much salt. Just think about all the people who do not know about GMO foods or HFS in everything or just don’t plain care. It is hard to get their attention as well when healthier products cost 3 times more. Home gardens or local CSAs, still represent, I think, one of the best ways to know your food sources and eat as healthy as possible.

  3. Bonnie ellis says:

    Great information Mary Jane. By the way, that water tower has been in Rochester (where the famous Mayo Clinic is) since I was a kid. It’s really cool.

  4. Karlyne says:

    It is absolutely amaaazing how much HFCS, not to mention just plain sneaky (GMO) corn, can slip into your diet if you’re not careful. That stuff is insidious, just like you say!

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