Monday, June 28, 2010

The Fallacy of Italian Salad Dressing Part I

time with my friends hanging out, exploring cities, and the art was interesting as well. Okay, the art was phenomenal, but I won’t bore you with those details now. The trip gave me a new perspective on a society’s relationship with food. This is the first time I’ve immersed myself in a foreign culture and, while there are a vast number of similarities, there are some noticeable differences between the food culture in Italy and America.

As the title suggests, there is a discrepancy between America’s “Italian dressing” and the actual salad dressing in Italy. In fact, restaurants only ever gave us two things to put on our salads: extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. I imagine that if I had ever asked for “Italian dressing” I would’ve gotten a blank stare or a slap in the face. The salad dressing we most associate with Italy is nothing like what they actually use. Take a look at the long list of ingredients in Newman’s Own “Family Recipe Italian Dressing”:

Ingredients: Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil), Water, Vinegar, Romano Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Contains 2% or Less of Garlic Powder, Sugar, Spices, Barley Malt Extract, Anchovies, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Xanthan Gum, Paprika, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Onion Powder, Tamarind, Natural Flavor

The bulk of the 120 calories per serving come from the omega-6 -loaded vegetable oil. Enough has already been said about the ills of consuming excessive amounts of omega-6 so that it doesn’t bear repeating. Sure, some paleo die-hards will lament that olive oil has too many PUFA’s (1.3g of o-6’s per tbsp), but I think that few would disagree that moderate consumption of olive oil is fine. Furthermore, there is no doubt as to which salad dressing is the “winner” and I think the comparison between the two could make for a great stand-up joke.

More reflections of my time in Italy will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

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