A few years ago, I read Dee McCaffrey’s enlightening book “The Science of Skinny,” which forever ruined store-bought angel-food cake for me.
In her former life, McCaffrey was an overweight chemist who loved angel-food cake and was making one from a mix when she happened to glance at the list of ingredients and realized that one of them – sodium lauryl sulfate – was something she used in her laboratory as a degreaser. In large concentrations, it’s used as a garage-floor cleaner.
This would be distressing news to my late, saintly grandmother, whose go-to repertoire of desserts included a version of Angel Bavarian – angel-food cake, Jell-O vanilla pudding and Cool Whip, with a toxic splash of artificial almond flavoring.
It was distressing enough to learn my grandmother had been trying to poison me for decades (where’s the royal taster when you need one?), worse that I’ve been doing the same to my kids, thinking I was serving a “healthy” dessert because it’s relatively low-calorie, using sugar-free pudding mix and fat-free Cool Whip.
Upon closer inspection, here’s what my grandmother and I were feeding our families:
In the cake: mononitrate, monocalcium phosphate, fumaric acid, sodium lauryl sulfate (whoomp, there it is – justified on the label as a “whipping aid”).
In the pudding: polysorbate 60 (prevents scorching), and yellow dyes No. 5 and 6.
In the Cool Whip: Let’s not even go there. My college kid once told me whipped toppings are naturally gray before coloring is added, and although I’ve been unable to verify this, I haven’t bought it since.
First, if, on a food label, the company goes to the trouble to explain why it’s using an ingredient, it must be really bad stuff.
Second, no more Angel Bavarian the easy way.
Here’s a recipe for homemade angel-food cake. (Dee would not approve, because she doesn’t do sugar, but I’m not as far down the healthy eating path as she is.)
Here’s a nice custard. (You, the cook, must prevent scorching. Suck it up and stand there. You can stretch out your calves.)
And everyone knows how to make real whipped cream, right?
I bring this up, not just so you will run screaming from a supermarket angel-food cake, but also to explain why I’m having so much fun in my new job as a health and wellness writer for the national edition of The Deseret News.
It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, not only because it’s a remote position that enables me to be home when my kids get home from school in these last precious years, but also because the older I get, the more I become a Ben Wyatt-like geek about optimal health.
And, of course, unlike so much of what passes for news these days, this stuff really matters in the lives of our families.
I’ve been posting links to some of my stories on social media, but if you’re not on Twitter or Facebook, you can read secrets of people who never get colds here, what healthy people buy for a blizzard, and whether designer condiments are worth their salt.
Yes, we’re still in Pittsburgh, for now. Farm news coming soon, as we’re on Baby Watch in the goat barn.