When I was an energetic young wife, I used to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch. Then when I had children and the years went on--and my time was increasingly in short supply--I started using ready-made spaghetti sauces and doctoring them up. What was the problem with that? I did it for years. Everybody was happy.
Then when I really began to study ingredients and saw what they put in spaghetti sauce (high fructose corn syrup and all manner of chemicals), I realized I'd been wrong to feed that to my children. So I started making spaghetti sauce from scratch again, using a mix of canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste and occasionally throwing in ripe tomatoes when the food budget was flush.
Then I started learning about the high-pesticide residue on tomatoes. If you're going to eat concentrated tomato sauce, it probably should be organic. So I'd try to buy organic canned tomato products when they were available.
Then I started reading about how bad canned foods are for us. Not only the infamous BPA, but even in BPA-free cans, chemicals remain that leech into our canned foods that are not good for us and possibly disrupt our hormones and endocrine system.
Especially in canned tomato products. Apparently, the acidic nature of the tomato causes more leeching than normal from the lining in the cans.
So, basically, a little can of tomato paste is filled with concentrated tomato, concentrated pesticides and concentrated BPA and other can-lining chemicals. Yech. And that's not counting anything else the multinational corporations might decide to throw in there without telling us. The Healthy Home Economist blog post "Nanites with your pizza sauce?" quotes author Stanley Fishman as saying:
Nanites are tiny particles of various substances, such as silver iodide, nickel, etc, that are used to preserve food and increase shelf life. These tiny particles preserve food by killing bacteria, good and bad. Nobody knows what they will do to a human body. There is concern that these tiny particles could penetrate the cells of human organs and damage them, not to mention killing off beneficial bacteria in our bodies... There is no labeling requirement for nanites. The government is allowing us to be guinea pigs once again. Nanites are already widely used in food packaging.Stanley, apparently, is a "glass only" person and Sarah of The Healthy Home Economist believes we all should be "glass only" people. You won't just read this on Sarah's blog or in Stanley's book. You can find these facts everywhere. (I don't always agree with Sarah's conclusions, but I often learn about new issues to research by reading her blog. You can check out her blog at: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com).
Reading all of this, I remembered, years ago, in a convenience store, I met this 300 pound woman who had once weighed 700 pounds, she told me. Her skin hung in folds. She talked to me about how she was going to finish losing weight and have surgery to fix her skin. I asked her how she had lost all of that weight. I was a young girl and only slightly overweight then, but I was eager to lose weight even then. She said she stopped eating processed foods and only ate fresh. No preservatives, no chemicals, and especially no canned anything. She said, "They're putting chemicals and sugar in things as simple as tomato paste. There is stuff in the cans that leeches into the food. Those chemicals are messing up the way we digest food and making us all fat. When we started eating only fresh, organic foods, our appetites began to normalize and the weight started melting off of us. Nothing processed, nothing canned. That's the trick. It's the chemicals in the processed foods that are doing this to us."
I specifically remember thinking at the time how silly she was to think that tomato paste could make us fat.
I'm sure if Stanley and Sarah had met her, they would have said that woman was brilliant and well ahead of her time. I remember someone said to me once: "You will always find the prophets in the margins." They meant in the margins of society--like working in convenience stores or living in homeless shelters or starting communes in the desert. I have found that to be true.
Prophet or no prophet, though, that lady had said I had to forgo all modern food conveniences and cook everything from scratch with fresh produce--preferably home-grown. I'm sorry but I had a full-time job and I didn't live on a commune. Of course, she didn't either. But I didn't like hearing that then and I still don't like thinking about it now. That's just too hard to do in this day and age with our busy schedules. But I never forgot that woman or what she said. I just had never done what she said because it was too hard and I wasn't sure she was right--back then.
All these years later, when I was a 300 pound woman and I started reading about canned tomatoes and the chemicals from the can liner leaching into our foods, that woman immediately came to mind. I still didn't want to listen.
Okay, so canned tomatoes are bad. There has to be an option other than using only fresh tomatoes. I had tried making spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes once and I didn't like it at all. Even if cooking it for 18 hours might have made it better, I didn't have time. Besides, it cost a fortune to make a spaghetti with nothing but fresh tomatoes.
I realized how nice it would be to go back to buying ready-made spaghetti sauces in their glass jars (not canned!), but the ingredient list stopped me. I looked at organic ready-made spaghetti sauces in glass jars and the price tag on most of them stopped me and even their ingredient list gave me pause.
Well, that's simple, I thought. I'll just buy tomato paste and tomato sauce and diced tomatoes canned in glass jars. Then I saw the price tags on those. It's a specialty item and they charge almost $4 for tomato paste in a glass jar.
I couldn't give up spaghetti. (You read the love story, right?) I needed a compromise I could live with.
So I went back to looking at organic spaghetti sauce in a glass jar. Almost $4 a jar there too, but at least the glass jar is bigger than the tiny glass jar of $4 tomato paste. And it's already made.
Then I found Muir Glen organic tomato & basil spaghetti sauce online on jet.com (Amazon's new competitor) and I was able to take advantage of a coupon code and buy enough other items that I was able to get 10 jars of this organic spaghetti sauce for $1.86 each. So I grabbed them. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the link and the coupon code...this is a deal that won't always be available so I don't want people two years from now reading this post and trying the links and finding out they don't work and thinking I got my information wrong).
When I made spaghetti sauce this last time, with my spaghetti squash, it was with a jar of Muir Glen that cost me $1.86. I cooked up some organic ground meat sauteed with fresh onion, fresh garlic, some fresh tomato, and extra organic spices like basil, oregano, rosemary, italian parsley and thyme. And of course mushrooms. I like a little red wine in my spaghetti sauce or maybe red wine vinegar. I let everything cook down together. Not til the end did I add my Muir Glen jar of spaghetti sauce. Ready-made spaghetti sauce doesn't do well when cooked at length. It splatters everywhere and loses its texture and can stick and burn. So I gave it less than 30 minutes to simmer and for the flavors to blend, then served it. And it was, shall we say... delizioso.
So my search for the perfect spaghetti sauce has come full circle. It's both healthier and easier. It's not perfect. There are ingredients in even Muir Glen--like organic cane sugar--that gave me pause, but it's not GMO beet sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. There really is a difference between organic sugar and other commercial sweeteners. So I decided I can live with that. I no longer eat much sugar otherwise. Anyway, I've gotten accustomed to a sweet taste in my spaghetti.
With these solutions in hand, I've decided, no more canned tomatoes for me. NO MORE CANNED TOMATOES. We can do it.
Ideally, we should eat nothing canned or in plastic--even if it says BPA-free--but one step at a time. Tomato products in cans are the worst offender in terms of chemical leaching. So we'll start there.
Pass it on.