(an excerpt from our book, The Midwest: God's Gift to Planet Earth)
In the food expose, Food, Inc, the New York-born author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, says ominously, “What surprised me the most was that as I followed food back to its source, I kept ending up in the same place — and that’s a cornfield in Iowa. So much of our food is clever rearrangements of corn.”
That’s right, Pollan. While you were sitting in your ivory tower out in Berkeley, the Midwest hatched its most diabolical campaign to bring the rest of the country to its knees. In today’s P.C. society of whiners and maybe-massive-confrontations-that-cost-money-and-human-life-aren’t-such-a-good-idea-ers, burning down the South Sherman-style, dropping an atom bomb on New Jersey, or calling in a meteor on California may be a little too forward.
But what you thought was a Corn Belt is actually a Corn Noose! Check your blood sugar levels. Seriously, put down this book and take a minute to check your blood sugar levels. If you live in America, there’s a good chance that a lifetime of carbonated beverages and snack foods have resulted in Type 2 diabetes.
And when you look at all of that jiggling cellulite in the mirror, like a bag of cottage cheese stuck to your ass, what should you see?
“All those snack calories,” Pollan continues, “come from commodity crops. From wheat, corn, and soybeans.”
Pollan’s main culprit is not corn itself, but the massive corporations manipulating food. “You’ve got a small group of multinational corporations who control the entire food system,” Food Inc explains, “from seed to the supermarket. They’re gaining control of food.”
And these evil corporations aren’t on Wall Street, they’re hiding right on Main Street, USA. There’s Beef Products, Inc (maker of the ammonia-spritzed delicacy “pink slime”); there’s ADM (the food-processing conglomerate whose massive 1993 price-fixing conspiracy was featured in The Informant! starring Matt Damon); Monsanto (A company the EPA estimates is responsible for no fewer than 56 extremely polluted — or “superfund” — sites); there’s Pioneer Hi-Bred; Dekalb Genetics Corporation; and there’s even businessman Lex Luthor, whose LexCorp dabbles in food genetics, among other things.
These companies have created spinoffs and subsidiaries including
NutraSweet, Flavr Savr, and Celebrex. They also developed the almighty high-fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup took America by storm between 1975 and 1985, and now has a place in almost all sweet products. In 1984, both Pepsi and Coca-Cola switched from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup in all of their American products.
By 2008, the average American was consuming almost 33 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup a year, and the Midwest was laughing all the way to the bank. Well, laughing almost all the way to the bank, since after that laughing fit the Midwest had to take a minute to catch its breath on the sidewalk, then continue onto the bank a little slower before taking another minute to catch its breath after opening the door to the bank, wiping the sweat from its forehead, and approaching the teller with a smile and a wheeze.
Corn also has some lesser-known cousins that it can be made into: maltodextrin, sorbitol, gluten, xanthan gum, or ascorbic acid. In fact, almost 90% of the products found in an average grocery store will have some derivative of corn or soy beans. Those products include Twinkies, batteries, Coke, syrup, Kool-Aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, and meat.
As Pollan laments: “Corn has conquered the world.”
We don’t stop at the make-up of your food — we take it all the way to your fat face, administering your corn syrup fix with a smile and a Happy Meal box containing a free toy.
The mother of all fast-food chains and star of the documentary Supersize Me, McDonald’s, is a Midwestern staple. It was founded and headquartered in southern California in 1940, but purchased by Oak Park, Illinois, native Ray Kroc and moved to Des Plaines, Illinois in 1961. Today, McDonald’s is the largest hamburger fast-food chain, serving more than 68 million people every day in 119 countries.
The company has become a symbol of what’s wrong with America’s diet, and the “Mc” that is used for McNuggets and McFlurry has been used as a stand-in for lots of shitty stuff on this planet. During the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was living in Europe and saw graffiti calling for an end to “McWar” and “McMurder.” In Philly, Penn’s expansion into the West Philadelphia neighborhood was called “McPennification.” And in 2003, the term, “McJob” made it into Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “A low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement.”
Now if that doesn’t say good ol’-fashioned Midwestern values, I don’t know what does!