Food vs Foodiness: Why you should know the difference

Chef Erica Wides from "Let's Get Real" on Heritage Radio Network

I love eating fresh, seasonal food in its actual form, foregoing processed food in its often scary incarnations. Which is why I am excited for Erica Wides’ smart new radio show: Let’s Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network.

Erica Wides, a Chef and Culinary Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, has appeared on PBS’s Stress Free Cooking, Martha Stewart Morning Living, the Food Network’s Chopped and Top Five, and HSN TV and she is a regular guest on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Here, Erica shares her food (and foodiness) philosophy with us, and why no one in their right mind should ever eat Trix Yogurt.

Tracey: What was the inspiration behind your new radio show, “Let’s Get Real?”
Erica: LGR was inspired by my growing alarm and disgust at what I have been seeing being sold as “food” in America in my adult life, processed, packaged, manufactured products taking the place of actual food. I’ve been a chef and teacher for 20 years, and have been lucky enough to be exposed to real, high-quality food, and to have been a part of the “green” food revolution. We’re at an interesting place right now because food awareness in the US is at an all-time high, but the major players in “Big Food” know that, and they are trying to cash-in on the revolution by “greenwashing” their same old junk products and re-marketing them as “healthy” or “sustainable”.

Tracey: Explain your foodiness philosophy.
Erica: Foodiness is all things manufactured, processed, packaged and marketed as food, that isn’t. Particularly, so-called “organic”, “healthy”, green-washed items that are just the same old wolf in green-sheep’s clothing. Foodiness sprung from “Truthiness”, a relic of the Bush-era, where statements were made and lies were told that weren’t based on fact or truth, just emotion or feelings. Foodiness is Truthiness, digested: Spray green spinach powder on a corn puff, and you get a warm, healthy feeling that you are eating something better than its neon-orange 1st cousin.

Tracey: I love what you said about Pirate Booty being “green” junk food. What other foods do you think are junk food in disguise?
Erica: One of the worst is Yogurt marketed to kids, like Trix brand, which is dyed and artificially flavored and has so much corn syrup and sugar added that it barely resembles real yogurt. It’s yogurt for people who would never dare eat yogurt, but think maybe their kids should. Also things like vitamin-enhanced beverages, which are still just water and sugar, maybe with a little green tea thrown in to give the illusion of “health.”

Tracey: Do you ever foray into “foodiness” or is that an absolute no-no for you? If so, what are some of the foodiness items you’ve eaten?
Erica: I honestly can’t think of any that I eat! Maybe flax-seed-multi-grain tortilla chips from Trader Joe’s? They’re still just chips, but with added stuff. Pretty tame Foodiness, I know. I have no problem eating things like pizza, or wings at a bar, or a burger. At least they are food in its true form. I just really try to avoid the processed.

Tracey: Where are some of your favorite stores to shop for groceries?
Erica: I like to shop at a few different places for different things. I’m really lucky to live in a neighborhood where I can do that. I get my produce at the Greenmarket or a local green grocer, or from my garden in the summer. My eggs come from a farmer. I’m also at an advantage because I work in a culinary school and there’s always a lot of random leftover stuff that I take home, so I don’t have to do any major grocery shopping. But I’m the exception, and my show is aimed directly at the person who doesn’t have access to all that. Maybe they live in a place with only a mega-market or a regular supermarket. I want them to see that if they look past all the foodiness, there still is real food there for them, too.

Tracey: Are there any food stores you avoid because of too much foodiness?
Erica: I know how to avoid foodiness because I don’t eat or buy it, so I wouldn’t be shopping at them. I mean I’m not going to shop at a convenience store, but unfortunately for many people that’s their only option. I’d avoid them, for sure.

Tracey: What would you absolutely never eat?
Erica: Artificial sweeteners. I will never ingest them. And soda, sugar/corn syrup-sweetened or artificial. I do however like a good gin and tonic, so I look for the artisanal brands of tonic, without corn syrup.

Tracey: What are some other foodiness “foods” that people think are food but aren’t?
Erica: All those “power” type bars, there very little food in them, just a lot of sugar and synthetic vitamins…all the cereals now that claim to be “whole grain” but really aren’t, like Captain Crunch. They are just using a strain of albino wheat, so it can be kept whole, but its still white…

Tracey: What’s the most revolting foodiness item you’ve come across?
Erica: I thing the Trix yogurt may be the one.

Tracey: Drinks aren’t innocent either. What are some of the non-drink drinks?
Erica: All the “value-added” sports-type drinks, green tea beverages, “juice” drinks in the little silver pouches, they are all either full of sugar or full of artificial sweeteners, dyes, flavorings. People give their kids gator-ade instead of soda because its foodiness incarnate. They think its better than soda. Why would you let a kid drink something blue?

Tracey: Ultimately, what do you want to teach people?
Erica: That real food isn’t for the elite. It available and accessible to everyone. The food industry has made people so fearful of food, afraid of preparing it, afraid of eating it and experiencing it. They want you to think its better to buy the frozen microwavable package of green beans with added sauce than throwing a bunch of beans in a pot and cooking them for five minutes. It’s not that hard. Our great grandmas did it, while they probably raised six kids and worked on a farm all day. I want people to stop thinking of food as an inconvenience.

Tune in to “Let’s Get Real with Erica Wides” on Tuesdays on Heritage Radio Network at 6:30pm (or listen to the podcast!). For more information, visit LetsGetRealShow.com

What “foodiness” foods do you absolutely avoid? Let me know in the comments below.

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