Who Needs Trans Fat?

In the March issue of The Atlantic, food writer Corby Kummer investigates how easy it will be for restaurants and bakeries to comply with New York's trans fat ban. (The full text is available only to subscribers.) Kummer, whose analysis is especially interesting because he is married to Boston's health commissioner and sympathetic to the rationale for the ban, punctures the pretense that restaurants and food manufacturers use trans fats for no good reason (out of sheer perversity, to judge from the rhetoric of some activists and public health officials). In addition to the advantages of lower cost and longer shelf life, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil provides flavor and texture that can be hard to replicate without going back to animal fat. "I realized that saying trans fats are 'totally replaceable,' as [New York City Health Commissioner Thomas] Frieden repeatedly does...is easier for a health official than for a product developer," Kummer writes. He notes that big chains have labored long and hard, trying many different combinations of ingredients, to come up with acceptable replacements for trans fat. He worries that mom-and-pop bakeries, lacking the resources of Au Bon Pain, will "never be able to figure all that out." Donuts, according to Kummer, are a special challenge:

I  saw why lard and shortening have always been best for deep frying....The resolidified fat gives the interior a texture that oil simply cannot. Yeast-raised doughnuts are less problematic, because they should remain airy. But in a cake doughnut, the right texture is as unmistakable as the firm crumble of a butter cake—which requires a fat that solidifies at room temperature. A good cake doughnut has the substance of pound cake. It won't get that from corn or canola oil.

Is the difference worth a slight increase in heart disease risk? A truly tolerant society would leave that decision to individual consumers. But we're talking about New York, which does not allow smoking among consenting adults.

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  • TF||

    Those doughnuts aren't appetizing at all, it looks like an assorted collection of different varieties of shit

  • Andrew||

    The guy in the quote even acknowledges that it is possible to duplicate the taste and texture - just use lard rather than crisco. Lard is more expensive and does go bad, but it does not contain significant quantities of trans fats. This isn't a matter of "can we do it", it's "can we do it cheaply".

    If it was cheaper for bottled water manufacturers to sell me arsenic-laced water than water without arsenic, should we just "leave it to individual consumers"?

  • stephen the goldberger||

    so long as they make it clear it's arsenic laced and aren't being fraudulent.

  • ||

    "The resolidified fat gives the interior a texture that oil simply cannot."

    yuck

  • mediageek||

    Wasn't it the CSPI who first sounded the alarm about frying things in animal-based fats and oils back in the late '80's?

  • Penry||

    I'd pay extra for doughnuts or fries cooked in lard rather than vegetable oil. However I am unable to find them on sale. I blame it on all those bloody vegetarians.

  • Rhywun||

    it looks like an assorted collection of different varieties of shit

    I had the exact same thought upon first seeing that picture. Only I was going to state it a little more delicately.

  • mediageek||

    "Those doughnuts aren't appetizing at all, it looks like an assorted collection of different varieties of shit"

    I'm told that learning good food photography is quite difficult.

  • ||

    If it was cheaper for bottled water manufacturers to sell me arsenic-laced water than water without arsenic, should we just "leave it to individual consumers"?

    It depends. Does the arsenic make the water taste better, and is the bottle labeled to indicate that the water contains arsenic?

  • lunchstealer||

    joe | February 28, 2007, 5:28pm | #
    "The resolidified fat gives the interior a texture that oil simply cannot."

    yuck


    You ever had a cake made with butter? You've had something with resolidified fat.

    That said, the big source of trans-fats is the 'partially' hydrogenated oils. Fully hydrogenated oils have no trans-fats, but are too hard for baking use - more of a parafin consistency. Crisco's trans-fat-free shortening is a mix of this fully hydrogenated oil and a non-hydrogenated oil like canola. I know nothing about the baking characteristics of this, though.

  • Rhywun||

    Aren't donuts supposed to be a sometimes-food? I mean, the reason it's funny watching Homer Simpson eat nothing but donuts is because NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD DO SUCH A THING.

  • ||

    Here's a nice lesson on the importance of choosing words well. "Resolidified fat" sounds repugnant. "Buttery" OTOH, sounds delicious.

  • Timothy||

    Those donuts look delicious at least partly because eating them would really piss off the nanny staters.

  • ||

    Ok, Rhywun, I'll bite. How often am I allowed to eat donuts? How often am I allowed to eat donuts made with trans fats? Am I allowed to eat them? Can I buy my own trans fats and make my own donuts?

    How often can I eat food with MSG? How often can I eat food that's high in fats (generally)? Am I permitted to butter my bread before eating it? What about peanut butter -- I like to eat peanut butter sandwiches, is that ok?

    What kind of person outlaws food because he doesn't personally want to eat it? I don't like Persian food -- too much sweet in dishes I think should be savory. Can I outlaw it? I've read that alfredo sauce is really bad for you. Can I outlaw that? I don't like hollandaise, and it contains raw eggs, which means it could have salmonella. Can we make that illegal?

    (The answer, of course, is 'absolutely'. After all, we're not allowed to have unripened raw milk cheeses.)

  • Antarctic Penguin||

    I've never needed to use transfats on my fish or squid. I've never even needed to cook them.

  • lunchstealer||

    No 6,

    Here's a nice lesson on the importance of choosing words well. "Resolidified fat" sounds repugnant. "Buttery" OTOH, sounds delicious.

    That's because it is. Buttery is one of the things that makes life worth living.

    By a similar note, "bacon grease" may not sound very appetizing, but "full of bacony tasty motherfuckin' baconawesome tastiness" sure as fuckin' does.

  • ||

    isulder,

    OK, I'll bite. How often is Rhwuyn allowed to express an opinion? Is it allowed? How about if she does it at home?

  • ||

    When you can't find any fucking lard in a MEXICAN GROCERY, it's time to slap a bitch.

  • ||

    By a similar note, "bacon grease" may not sound very appetizing, but "full of bacony tasty motherfuckin' baconawesome tastiness" sure as fuckin' does.

    Bacon Grease is the only thing I will use to fry my eggs.....now that's good eatin

  • ||

    I thought the doughnuts looked good. Guess I was wrong again. Sure glad I got other folks making judgments for me. My mom was right. I can't make it on my own.

  • ||

    If it was cheaper for bottled water manufacturers to sell me arsenic-laced water than water without arsenic, should we just "leave it to individual consumers"?

    Yes, people should have the right to end their own lives at will.
    Or do you mean if it was cheaper to sell poison labeled as water, would that be okay? That would be an inane analogy, so I will assume you were talking about the right to die.

  • ||

    Trans fats = arsenic by the second comment. My this forum is getting efficient!

  • Antarctic Penguin||

    "If it was cheaper for bottled water manufacturers to sell me arsenic-laced water than water without arsenic, should we just "leave it to individual consumers"?"

    First of all, if the bottle was clearly labeled as having arsenic (and thus not being pure water by any rational definition) any consumer who would consume it would simply be practicing voluntary Darwinism.

    Second, unless the product the company was selling was "fresh, cold liquid poison" it would not be to the advantage of Poland Springs or Aquafina to kill off their customers. They would not do any repeat business.

  • Rhywun||

    Apparently my point escaped everyone. The point is: it's excessive to regulate fatty foods like donuts because it's conventional wisdom that donuts are a treat, not something to base your diet around. In other words, isildur, I don't care how many donuts you eat because you're almost certainly aware of the consequences & it's your choice. Fast food is a little different because many people do base their diet around it, but people should still be free to eat as much of it as they wish as long as it's possible for them to be aware of its nutritional value or lack thereof. I have no problem with the government ensuring that consumers can get this info, and that's where it stops.

  • ||

    Unfair, Rhywun!
    I got your point:
    Homer Simpson should die.
    Right?

    Isildur had a strange, knee-jerk reaction to your comment. I don't think anyone else jumped on you. joe jumped to your defense, so I guess I understand how that could upset you.

  • Antarctic Penguin||

    "I have no problem with the government ensuring that consumers can get this info"

    The MAXIMUM role I see for government in this regard is ensuring that if a company makes a claim that that claim is truthful. In other words, if Aquafina lists all of the ingredients of it's product and arsenic is not listed among them, the government would ensure arsenic is NOT in this product. If McDonalds claims that their French fries contain zero transfats that they ACTUALLY contain zero transfats.

  • Grotius||

    I can see it now: a blackmarket in products made with transfats.

  • ||

    If it was cheaper for bottled water manufacturers to sell me arsenic-laced water than water without arsenic, should we just "leave it to individual consumers"?

    Germany is not known for laissez-faire, but in Bad Nauheim they give away arsenic laced water from a spring. Next to the tap there is a small sign in German that warns of the arsenic and urges "individual consumers" to consume no more than a half liter of it a day. Actually, I'm pretty sure it doesn't say "individual consumers" but you get the idea.

    It tastes pretty good, too.

    Not picking on the arsenic commenters but you might want to find a better example.

  • ||

    baconawesome is a great word. I'm going to use it as the opposite of thundercunt from now on.

  • JD||

    OK, I'll bite. How often is Rhwuyn allowed to express an opinion? Is it allowed? How about if she does it at home?



    So, judges, does this count as joe winning the thread, or just some bonus points?

  • Plant Imigratian Rights Suppor||

    "Germany is not known for laissez-faire, but in Bad Nauheim they give away arsenic laced water from a spring. Next to the tap there is a small sign in German that warns of the arsenic and urges "individual consumers" to consume no more than a half liter of it a day. Actually, I'm pretty sure it doesn't say "individual consumers" but you get the idea./It tastes pretty good, too. / Not picking on the arsenic commenters but you might want to find a better example."

    Ever since I was a little kid when I saw "Romancing the Stone", I wondered if that line was complete bull or if someone actually COULD build up a tollerance to arsenic. Not that I would want to try.

  • TrappedEastOfTheBigMuddy||

    > I can see it now: a blackmarket in products made with transfats.

    The story you're looking for is LIPIDLEGGIN'. by F. Paul Wilson

  • Grotius||

    I gotta ask what is with the need to control what people eat?

  • ||

    Sorry; I read the comment as 'Who cares about donut regulation? You shouldn't be eating donuts all the time, anyway.'

    Aside: Hey Joe, when I finally get the power to make it illegal for other people to comment, rest assured I won't be starting with Rhywun.

  • ||

    Bacon Grease is the only thing I will use to fry my eggs.....now that's good eatin

    I've tried it, but the eggs just never cook right when I do it. They get burnt on the outside by the time they cook right on the inside, and I don't get that buttery flavor I get from, well, butter.

  • ||

    Use a mix of butter and bacon grease.

    I use butter and oil together on everything I fry. Best of both worlds for making and eating.

  • Mean Martin Manning||

    I love trans fat. I like to drink it through a straw. Stop worrying about my arteries. They're fine.

  • ||

    Duck fat is the best cooking fat.

  • ||

    Plant Imigratian Rights Supporter | February 28, 2007, 7:36pm | #
    Ever since I was a little kid when I saw "Romancing the Stone", I wondered if that line was complete bull or if someone actually COULD build up a tollerance to arsenic. Not that I would want to try.



    Eh??? What line would that be?

  • ||

    I just got back from having dinner with Mr. Nice Guy at TGI Friday's. I would never eat that sort of food on any sort of regular basis, but every now and then I just need a plate full of grease. Right now I'm stressed about a lot of things, and so there's just something comforting about biting into a greasy burger and then having a brownie with ice cream.

    I know that it's absolutely awful for my health, but every now and then I just need the comfort of a greasy meal. Especially if I'm sitting there bullshitting with a buddy. That's just plain fun.

  • ||

    Heh. His name is Kummer. Bet he never got picked on in middle school.

  • Grotius||

    This needs repeating:

    "To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living." - Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, pg. 70

    Anyway, if I lived in the D.C. I'd have my ass parked at the Bistro Bis. :)

  • bill||

    Some of the old fogies like me might remember back in the day when McDonalds had the best fries in the world. They were cooked in beef tallow, yummy. Now they taste like crap.

  • Ruling Rules!||

    every now and then I just need the comfort of a greasy meal

    Shouldn't we make them mandatory then, since that's the only way to ensure people get what they need?

  • Gray Ghost||

    (Bourdain quote from Grotius). Totally agree with the sentiment, from the finest book ever written about the hospitality industry, never mind professional cooking. He's overexposed on food tv, but if you like food, you owe it to yourself to read Kitchen Confidential. It's one of those books like Parliament of Whores or Thank You For Smoking, that I have to keep re-buying, as people never return them back to me.

    I think Kwix is referring to the Sicilian poison scene in Princess Bride. I don't remember any thing about poison in Romancing the Stone, but it's been several years since I last saw it. Wonder how it's aged?

    Since I live with a vegetarian, particularly during Lent, most stuff that needs it gets cooked with peanut oil. She's usually o.k. with ghee, though not right now. I miss bacon fat...

    I'm puzzled by a libertarian message board that wants serious drug legalization, but is responding to calls to ban food items with anything other than complete derision and contempt.

  • ||

    "The resolidified fat gives the interior a texture that oil simply cannot."

    yuck

    You ever had a cake made with butter? You've had something with resolidified fat.



    Don't you know, that to food-nannies, butter is even *worse* than trans fat and HFCS combined?

    It's eeeevvviil.

    If the food nannies had their way, our diets would be restricted to broccoli flavored cardboard and water vapor.

  • ||

    'resolified fat'
    'Yuck'

    Tofu burgers
    ewwwwwww!

    One's man's post-piss shivers over resolified fat is another man's epileptic fit over fake hamburger

  • ||

    Joe
    I think you're full of cr...no wait, resolidified fat

  • ||

    So when did lard become a totally unacceptable alternative?

  • ||

    Highnumber is right. Duck fat scrambled eggs are insanely good. In Bourdain's old place, Les Halles, I had a warm goat cheese potato salad that was dressed in duck fat. I wanted to punch my dinner companions in the throat and take their plates away from them. I had planned on squating under the table a stuffing potato salad in my face until the cops came.

    Anywho, every time you cook a duck keep all the fat, draining through some cheesecloth. If you dress the duck yourself, render all the skin of its fat. Chop it coarsely, mix it with about twice its volume of water in a heavy pan, and boil off the water. The skin turns brown and crispy, creating duck cracklings. They kick bacon or salt pork lardons right in the taint.

    I've heard rumors of a Chicago hot dog/sausage restaurant that makes their french fries in duck fat on the weekend...

  • Timothy||

    As far as I know, Hostess still uses lard in their products. Which is sweet, because I could by all the twinkies I wanted in college and my vegetarian roommate wouldn't steal them.

  • Timothy||

    "buy". Jeebus, Tim, learn to spell.

  • ||

    Ever since I was a little kid when I saw "Romancing the Stone", I wondered if that line was complete bull or if someone actually COULD build up a tollerance to arsenic. Not that I would want to try.

    I tell the tale that I heard told. Mithridates, he died old.

  • ||

    NYC has gone ban crazy...Big Brother in general crazy....banks on every corner, sometimes taking up whole blocks crazy...luxury condo crazy...in short, it's really really starting to suck...I can say that because I'm from NYC, the NYC Council really needs to get a new fricking hobby.

    Personally, I'm starting to think the PTB in NYC might be trying to get rid of the "mom and pop" shops just so that they can replace them with banks and/or luxury condos.

    Incidentally, while NY is banning trans fat, why not ban none organic foods/ingredients as well? Who needs a gazillion pesticides and hormones screwing up everything?

  • ||

    "But we're talking about New York, which does not allow smoking among consenting adults."

    P.S. New York does allow smoking among consenting adults. It just doesn't allow smoking among consenting adults who are smoking among non-smoking adults who do not consent to being exposed to second hand smoke while in restaurants or bars.

  • ||

    trans fats are also used to replace milk in baked goods, as someone who is lactose intolerant I can only eat snacks with trans fats and even then it's hard to find ones without milk.if they ban all food with trans fat I'll have to start baking my own,and don't even get me started on how hard it is to find good recipes.

  • Grotius||

    Meep,

    Well, if they don't like smoking they shouldn't go to restaurants and bars that offer such.

  • ||

    "Joe
    I think you're full of cr...no wait, resolidified fat"

    Leave me alone. I started back at the gym last week.

  • ||

    As far as the arsenic question goes, yes you can build up a tolerance. A lethal dose is 100 mg but a person can survive up to 400 mg if he builds his tolerance up gradually. Still not a huge amount, but enough to surprise would-be assassins.

  • ||

    trans fats are also used to replace milk in baked goods, as someone who is lactose intolerant I can only eat snacks with trans fats and even then it's hard to find ones without milk.

    Ding ding ding!

    Now we can roll out the Magic Bullet of Discrimination, because trans-fat bans discriminate againt the lactose-intolerant.

    I can hardly wait for the nanny-stater's heads to start exploding.

  • Larry A||

    The story you're looking for is LIPIDLEGGIN' by F. Paul Wilson.

    Dang. Beat me to it. Hard to believe how futuristic that sounded back in 1979.

  • Pat||

    It just doesn't allow smoking among consenting adults who are smoking among non-smoking adults who do not consent to being exposed to second hand smoke while in restaurants or bars.

    They consented when they entered the private establishment.

  • nothot||

    Sugarfree, are you talking about this?

    http://www.hotdougs.com/

  • ||

    Hot Doug's also serves a sausage (duck, I believe) topped with foie gras. He proudly displays his warning from the city.

    There are no two finer words in the English language than "encased meats," my friend.

  • ||

    I'll defend to the death,...well ok, to at least a major inconvenience, the right to purvey and consume trans fats. But please note that there is strong evidence that:

    INGESTING TRANS FATS IS HIDIOUS FOR YOUR HEALTH!

    Please, my beautiful libertarians (and joe too), don't buy any products that say "partially hydrogenated oils" on the label. Also, ask at restaurants if they use trans fats.

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