EB: What got you interested in processed food?
MM: I wrote a [Times] piece on E. coli in hamburger that won the Pulitzer. But over dinner, a source pointed out that the bigger story is what companies intentionally put in our food supply.
I don’t view these companies as evil empires setting out to make us obese, but they do what companies do: sell as much product as possible. Maximize allure. Engineer bliss points to keep us coming back for more and more.
Is it so bad?
One in five kids are obese. Twenty-six million Americans have type 2 diabetes. Gout is surging. The Pentagon is complaining they can’t hire enough recruits because so many are overweight.
And Kraft et al. are to blame?
The bigger problem is Wall Street. When companies cut sugar, fat and salt, they’re hammered. Campbell’s Soup is one example. They lowered their salt, Wall Street hiccupped, and they rushed to put the salt back.
What do you think of the artisan food scene here in Brooklyn?
Personally I’m wowed by innovation and Slow Food. But as a reporter, it’s my job to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. “Who’s really getting screwed here?”—that’s always a question I’m asking. People with money to buy slow food aren’t at the top of that list.
So what do you eat for dinner?
Cooking at home—that’s been my mode. My Met Food on Vanderbilt has Himalayan-size racks of junk. But right in the middle, there’s a giant display of olive oil and other healthy choices. One of their employees brings in fava bean dip, it’s really fabulous. It brought me right back to my days reporting in the Middle East.
Do you indulge often in salt, sugar and fat?
I live near Ample Hills and love their ice cream. They’ve got one called Salted Crack, it’s fantastic.
Photo credit: John Taggart