Sunday 13 March 2016

Food engineering III

It's been a while since I had a food engineering rant [FE.I - FE.II - Yellow Cake].  In the last of those links, I was getting huffy about a cake that included 40 ingredients when any half-drunk cook could make a delicious sponge cake with less than 10 items. I was down on my regular gig last weekend with Pat the Salt an old man who has a lot of folk dropping in to say hello, stay the night, or take a cup of tea. Few of these good people come empty-handed. When I arrive for our once-a-week boy's-night-in, almost the first thing I do (after a cup of tea!) is to scope out the fridge, cupboards and counter-tops to see if I can cobble together a two course supper for two blokes who don't have very high standards.  Some of these meals have been 'interesting' and once or twice I've woken up the next morning surprised and delighted that they have stayed down.

On the last visit I found a generous corner of a Supervalu "Rhubarb Large Cake" only 3 days beyond its sell-by date. I had my portion with the remains of a bowl of whipped cream, while Pat used his as a vehicle for ice-cream. He's very fond of ice-cream which was a rare treat when he was growing up in Cardiff in the 1920s. The Rhubarb Large Cake was fine, robust [like their Portuguese equivalents] Irish confectionery. What was surprising was the paucity of ingredients:
Universal cake mix (GLUTEN, SOYA, MILK, 
EGGS), pearls sugar, vegetable oil, rhubarb mix.
I believe the convention is that CAPITALISED items are FAO allergists, neurotics and the handful of people who really will go into anaphylactic shock if they ingest EGGS or PEANUTS.  So we are almost no wiser about what actually goes into Universal cake mix and how much of it is made up of such gloop as "gelatine, emulsifiers, mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids (contains soya), modified starch",  Can they really get away with that smoke-screen? The frighteningly yellow passion-fruit cake alluded to earlier had only passion-fruit juice concentrate (0.3%) to justify the label.  Rhubarb is rhubarb is Rheum rhabarbarum but "rhubarb mix" could have no more rhubarb in it than a small beetle that has just died from eating its leaves.

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