Industrial Food in America’s Heartland

  The industrialization of America’s food has reached the point where not even apple pie is safe in one chain restaurant in the Midwest. On numerous cross-country driving trips across the country, I had long considered the Midwest the culinary “Gobi Desert” of  North America.

  Interesting foods may be found to the east, south and west; but in the mid-continent chain restaurants often feature “over-processed” food products  whose components arrive in buckets, drums and most could even survive shipment in rail tanker cars. Such products are noted for being high in salt, sugar, corn and soy-derivative products, starches, corn syrup, artificial flavorings,  fats and preservatives. What little natural meat or vegetable product remains often serves the mechanical function of a filler. 

  A new technological high, but culinary disaster, was an apple pie that I ordered two weeks ago at a mid-western chain restaurant. The interior of the restaurant featured a well-lit interior with apples prominently featured on its wallpaper.

  “Surely,” I thought, “These people ought to make a reasonable apple pie as they seem to want to push the ‘American as apple pie’ image.”

  I had requested that the slice be cut in half, to be consumed the next day, as almost all apple pies contain at least twice as much sugar as I like. The pie that arrived was nicely browned with a lattice crust pattern, but the “apples” consisted of a paste more nearly resembling an over-sweet apple butter from Waffle House.  If I had to make a guess at the recipe, I would say that it contained 50 percent crushed apples with the remainder being various sugars, butterfat, flour, animal fats, salt and preservatives.

  This pie was much too sweet for anyone to consume more than a bite of at a sitting.  Many commercial apple pies now sold in the nation’s supermarkets contain identifiable chunks of apples – not so here. I would not be shocked to learn that this pie contained no apples at all, just flavored soy bean meal.

  This restaurant supports the Midwest’s reputation of being able to efficiently fatten hogs, cattle and people. These chain restaurants are well-rooted in the tradition of producing quick-fatening feed products from ingredients that have the lowest possible costs,  keep best on the shelf and continue the trend towards the industrial production of America’s food – even apple pie.

  Congratulations on making a new technological advance in processing foods, but shame on you for ruining one of your grandmother’s masterpiece dishes.  I rather imagine that she would consider this evolution of apple pie, “Not fit to slop hogs.” 

  Midwesterners have the tradition of accepting life without complaint, and these restaurants have apparently capitalized on this to put out some absolutely wretched products that may look attractive, but have little nutritional value and do the diner more harm than good. Food served in many of America’s chain restaurants may set world standards for safety, but nutritional values are often lacking.

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