Friday, May 29, 2009

What does "real food" mean to you?

Pop quiz:

The words "real food" conjure images of which of the following?

A) a tomato grown in your own backyard
B) a rotisserie roasted chicken from the supermarket
C) raw milk straight from the cow
D) a jar of Hellman's mayonnaise

The correct answer, of course, is 'D'. Or at least that's what Unilever, the parent company of Hellman's, and its advertising flaks at Ogilvy would have you believe.

They are currently running a campaign that, to me, is a little shocking...

At its heart it's not all that bad -- encouraging people to eat food that's "fresh, simple and delicious." Nothing wrong with that, right?

But my question is, when did Hellman's mayonnaise become the exemplar of healthy, "real" food. Here's a look at what you get in a single serving:

Calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. OK, save for the "natural flavors" and "calcium disodium EDTA" the ingredients may be "real," but they're also not really that great for you.

That's not to say that we should all stop eating mayonnaise (Though I do recommend trying to make your own. It won't last forever in your fridge, but it's tasty and gratifying.)

My real concern is when a corporation becomes the flag-bearer for a "movement" and essentially co-opts an otherwise optimistic or generally innocuous phrase. "Real Food" can mean many things to many people, but it should not mean going to the store and buying highly processed foods to feed to your family just because Bobby Flay and some advertising execs say you should.

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