Featured Column
Week of 6.7.2004
"What am I, a laboratory animal?"
Chemicals in our food
          I was so hungry that I took the next freeway exit and headed for the first fast food joint or convenience store I could find. The convenience store came up first, so I pulled in, parked in front and entered.
           The heated foods, under glass, didn’t look too wholesome. The hot dogs looked wrinkled and aged and the burritos appeared to have had memories of the week before.
           My hunger drove me to lose all good sense. Perhaps a bag of potato chips would soothe my appetite, but the fat content would probably immediately clog my aorta. A candy bar beckoned, but I had to pass on the sugar content. Maybe one of those ready-made sandwiches would conquer the hunger. A little sign guaranteed, “Fresh or your money back.” I didn’t feel confident about a ham and cheese sandwich, but how wrong could I be with a nice tuna salad sandwich built on two slices of wheat bread. It looked edible, wrapped in air- tight plastic and labeled “Fresh.” Of course, I realized that one man’s “Fresh” is another man’s stale, but my hunger drove me on.
          A sandwich for less than three bucks and a diet cola should sate me. I grabbed a couple of napkins and headed for the convenience store benches on the side of the building and indulged in an urban picnic.
           Ten minutes later I was ready to head for the freeway to resume my trip downtown. Just before I deposited the wrappers in the trash can I noticed a lengthy “article” printed on the sandwich wrapper.       Hey, wait. That isn’t an article, it’s the contents of the sandwich!
           And now, with that introduction, I would like to reprint the ingredients of my recently devoured tuna salad sandwich: “ Tuna salad (tuna, water, salt), heavy mayonnaise (soybean oil, corn sweeteners, egg yolks, water, vinegar, mustard flavor, calcium disodium EDTA as a preservative) celery, onion, salt and pepper, honey wheatberry bread, enriched flour (unbleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid), water, cracked wheatberries, stone ground whole wheat flour, honey, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, wheat gluten, contains 2% or less of each of the following: Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, raisin juice concentrate, distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, baking sode, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: Mono-and diglycerides, calcium and sodium stearoyl lactylates, calcium peroxides), amylase, cornstarch).”
          Delicious sounding? Wait, there’s more. I had to wash all of that down with a drink consisting of: “ Carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, potassium benzoate (a preservative), natural flavor, citric acid. Phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine.”
          I had this image of myself glowing in the dark or turning into a werewolf as the sun went down.
          You know, I like a nice piece of bread with some riboflavin and mononitrate as much as the next guy. And there’s nothing like a cold swig of potassium benzoate to wash down the diglycerides, but the next time I want a meal of exotic chemicals I’ll head for my local scientific laboratory and ask for a beaker of assorted molecules.
          Until then I think I’ll stick with a home-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger