Chewing gum is chewing rubber and the flavor of an average piece of gum lasts for only five minutes. It is believed that civilization has been chewing gum or gum-like substances since the Neolithic period - believed to have antiseptic and medicinal properties and freshen the mouth. Modern chewing gum like the ones we have now only came about in the 1860s. Sourced from the sap of the Chicle tree and transformed into what we now know as natural latex rubber - the same material used in gloves, swim caps, condoms, tires and balloons. Interesting huh? So then, lets take a closer look!
Natural latex comes from the sap of the tropical evergreen Manilkara Chicle tree. Harvesters obtain the latex from the sap that flows out of the tree trunks by slashing them and collecting the goo that trickles down. The collected vessels of sap are then strained to remove any tree residue and placed in kettledrums, where they are boiled and allowed to thicken.
Once done and thickened, they are sent to the chewing gum factory where they are thoroughly mixed with more batches of sap deliveries. After that they are placed in heated rooms to dry and harden. Once hardened, the sap which is now called the gum base solution, is again heated at higher temperatures until it melts into a thick sticky solution. This solution is purified via centrifuges and then placed in casks where flavorings, sweeteners and other chemicals are added.
They are then stirred some more until they are smooth and soft enough to be rolled out on a flat conveyor belt where they are kneaded and pummeled by machines for several hours so they become extra smooth and chewy. Chunks of gum are then removed and again rolled out and flattened to the standard thickness of 0.17 inches. It is then cut into rectangular shapes left to harden again until the correct firmness is attained. Once attained, they are then broken up into size, wrapped in foil or grease-proof paper and then shipped for the entire world to chew on its five-minute flavor.
The downside: While the Chicle tree only produces a quart of sap every four years, and there being more and more people consuming gum, driving cars that use a lot of tires, using gloves, condoms and what have you, the supply of this natural latex could no longer meet the worlds demands. Hence, most gum base nowadays, are no longer sourced from the Chicle tree. And so the synthetic latex, Styrene-butadiene, was invented.
To date, no regulatory body anywhere in the world has classified styrene as a known human carcinogen; several refer to it in various contexts as a potential human carcinogen. Further on, gum is also believed to contribute to the development of stomach ulcers by making the stomach and the pancreas secrete more digestive enzymes that are not required by the body.
Another additive manufacturers commonly use these days is Sorbitol, a sugar substitute. However, as it is also medically used as a laxative, consuming large amounts of gum with this additive may lead to diarrhea and gas.
And finally, the case of the swallowed gum. Old wives tales often tell of the dangers of swallowed gum, saying the latter can remain in the stomach for seven years, clog up your intestines and lead you to die of constipation. There has been a case of a four-year-old having been constipated for two years from swallowing five to seven pieces of gum each day - which probably proves this old wives tale. However, this can only apply to the most extreme cases. As long as the mass of gum is small enough to pass out of the stomach, swallowed gum will pass through the system as quickly as any other food. Additionally, keep in mind that gum should not be given to children who are too young to understand that chewing gum is not to be swallowed, which is why it is aptly called a chewing gum.
The average American consumes 140 pounds of potatoes every year. Potato chips are currently Americas favorite snack food and obviously, the potato chip comes from a vegetable called a potato. However, a bag of potato chips is more complicated than that. Manufacturing technologies have evolved to produce a bag of chips from one raw potato in as little as 15 minutes. In fact, they involve tons of potatoes being automatically peeled to make more than 12,000 pounds of potato chips every hour. Amazing isn't it? Lets find out more.
Potatoes are harvested fresh from farms and brought to the potato chip factory. First, they have to be cleaned via a machine that brushes and removes all dirt and debris. Once that's done, they are sent along a fast moving water canal and into a peeling machine where they tumble against abrasive rollers that later on remove their skin. And then they are separated by size.
After size is determined, they are ready to be sent to a revolving drum that slices them via a centrifugal force that pushes the potatoes up against sharp blades set in its walls. By now they should be at least six one hundredths of an inch thick - very thin! After that, they are fed into another revolving drum that washes them in cold water for just under a minute. And then they are passed under a hot-air blower to dry them off completely.
When that's done, the slices are deep fried for only three minutes. They then exit the fryer while dripping off any excess oil. The chips are then sprinkled with salt while they pass through a sorting phase, where a special camera checks for defective chips. If any are found, a series of thin pipes lining the sorter blows the defective chip off the line with a blast of high pressure air. The remaining chips are then placed in drums and tossed in with their respective flavorings. A machine then weighs the chips accordingly, drops them into a bag and then they are heat-sealed!
The downside: Because chips are deep fried, they contain highly significant amounts of sodium and fat - which obviously, if you are on a diet, will absolutely contribute to weight gain especially if you eat them regularly and in large amounts. Furthermore, fat increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and may cause problems with memory and your ability to focus.
And if you think you can get away with opting for the low-fat variety, you are wrong. Most low-fat potato chips contain olestra, a synthetic fat substitute marketed under the brand name Olean. Studies show that our bodies are not able to absorb this kind of fat, hence it just goes through our digestive system, causing diarrhea, loose stools, cramps and flatulence. Further on, olestra reduces the body's ability to absorb the beneficial nutrients such as lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene.
At present, the longest hot dog ever made was measured 203.80 meters and was made in Paraguay, on 15 July 2011. No one is exactly sure how the name hotdog came to be but apparently the name originated in the 1800s when the Germans immigrated to America and brought along their traditional sausage fare together with their long and thin dachshund dogs. We can only speculate that it was most probably the similarity between the two that gained its moniker. What we do know for sure is how they are made
Although there are different varieties nowadays, hot dogs are traditionally made from pork. As with any pork product, the processing journey begins with the pig. The pig is slaughtered and divided into various cuts, such as ribs, ham, leg, loin, shoulder and chops. The trimmings of these cuts are then what constitute the ingredients used. Sometimes liver is added too.
After these cuts are brought to the hotdog factory, they are first and foremost inspected for quality. Then they are sent through a metal meat grinder full of graded holes transforming them into ground meat after which they are then mixed together with curing ingredients, food starch, salt, binders and fillers.
The mixture is then sprayed with water and grinded some more until it becomes a smooth batter. Corn syrup and water may also be added to make your hotdog sweeter and juicier. The mixture is then crammed through a stuffing machine that pumps it into a long collagen casing. The casing is then twisted every five-and- inches, making a chain of hotdogs. These chains are then draped onto moving racks that pass through a liquid smoke shower and onto an oven to bake.
When they are done baking, they are then sprayed with very cold salty water to get them ready for packaging. A small amount of saline is also added to help preserve the meat. Then finally they are separated, inspected, laid out on sheets of plastic, packed and vacuum-sealed in groups of six or eight and sent to your neighborhood grocery chain!
The downside: Nearly all processed meats are made with sodium nitrite - an additive that is responsible for the desirable red or pinkish tone of all processed meats. Its more significant role though is its ability to inhibit growth of disease-causing micro-organisms and oxidation that leads to rancidity. It has improved food safety and storage life of all pre-packaged processed foods in our supermarket shelves. However, sodium nitrite is also toxic. Its consumption has also been linked to the triggering of migraines in individuals. Furthermore, cooking foods with this additive may lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Another additive, monosodium glutamate - more popularly known as MSG - enhances the flavors of foods, making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better, salad dressings more tasty, and canned foods less tinny. MSG stimulates your appetite. It is what is known as an "excitotoxin." This is a chemical that over stimulates the nervous system, shrivels, kills brain cells and the surrounding tissue and has been linked to migraines, seizures, ADD/ADHD, heart palpitations, tremors and even Alzheimer's.
The above are only a few of the processed foods we have been eating almost every day. Unless one vows a total lifestyle change, it seems that there is absolutely no getting away from these harmful additives. However, while knowing the above is half the battle, moderation is utmost key. Condition yourself to appreciate natural foods and make it a daily practice to veer away from what we now know is no good. Henceforth, you may well be on your way to a more pleasurable and nourished culinary process.
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Samantha Samonte is a writer for Culinary One - a blog about culinary careers, cuisines and food.