Why I’m going to continue drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and you should too (if you want to)

Recently a graphic made the rounds on social media. It was from this chick who calls herself the “Food Babe” and it was full of paranoia, propaganda, lies, and bullshit — with a huge, HEAPING dose of food shaming. (I am not sharing the image on this post, because it’s food-shaming and gross and could trigger either eating disorders or an explosion of rage, and I really don’t want to give any of y’all aneurysms.)

You can easily see this image is a crock of crap if you go to Snopes (warning, they do share it). Honestly, I think the world would really improve if peoples’ browsers forced them to visit the relevant Snopes page before they can share any of those fraudulent pieces of BS to their FB pages.

Anyway. “Food Babe” has several problems with Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and Starbucks as a company, it seems. She actually appears to be on a bit of a crusade against them, which sends up MAJOR red flags as to whether or not I should trust what she says. She claims to be skeptical, but doesn’t realize that to be skeptical means to neither believe nor disbelieve — ie, be neutral — not hold in outright contempt. (Lots of self-identified skeptics could stand to relearn the definition of the word.)

One of her complaints? “The latte has no real pumpkin in it!”

Well, duh? It’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte, not a Pumpkin Guts or Pumpkin Seeds Latte. Honestly, having pumpkin mash in your latte would be disgusting and not drinkable. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, not a flipping smoothie. I’m perfectly okay with that delicious spicy flavour coming from a syrup, not actual pumpkins. (Also, can you imagine the cost? Starbucks is already expensive.)

fall coffee
Mmm, delicious pumpkin-free coffee on a nice fall day.

The biggest issue with the Pumpkin Spice Latte, according to “Food Babe”, is the inclusion of Caramel Colour IV because it’s apparently carcinogenic. What she fails to note is that the thing that is carcinogenic, 4-MEI, not only occurs as a natural byproduct of cooking some foods, but is in levels so small the FDA has labelled it as safe. Here’s a quote from them:

What is 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI)?

4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) is a chemical compound that is not directly added to food; rather it is formed as a byproduct in some foods and beverages during the normal cooking process. For example, 4-MEI may form when coffee beans are roasted and when meats are roasted or grilled. 4-MEI also forms as a trace impurity during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel coloring (known as Class III and Class IV caramel coloring) that are used to color cola-type beverages and other foods.

Is there a risk from eating foods that contain 4-MEI?

Based on the available information, FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring.

See that? It may form when coffee beans are being roasted. So you can’t even escape it by eschewing Pumpkin Spice Lattes and drinking home-made coffee. Don’t think your barbecue is safe, either, because it might form in grilled meats.

Bottom line on this one: the FDA may not be infallible, but they’re also not run by a cabal intent on hiding info to poison the world. Trust them on this one, and not “Food Babe” (whose qualifications are what, exactly?).

She also claims Starbucks is hiding the ingredient list, which is an outright lie, seeing as it’s listed on their website. Though it should be noted, the ingredients for the pumpkin syrup listed on the site is the ingredients for the sold-for-home syrup, which differs from the syrup used in retail locations. Namely, the syrup used in retail locations doesn’t have HFCS, while the sold-for-home syrup does.

Another claim: made with “Monsanto milk!” Yeah, no. Starbucks phased out the use of Monsanto milk products back in 2007.

“Food Babe” also seems to think that 50g of sugar is a “toxic dose”. If nothing else, this should tell you she’s completely ignorant and shouldn’t be trusted. 50g is not a toxic dose of sugar. A fruit salad would send you to ER if it were. “She’s probably talking about processed sugars,” you may shout, desperately clinging to the idea that this woman knows something (hint: she doesn’t). Even if she is, 50g of processed sugar is not a toxic dose. Most North Americans get that level daily, or at least weekly. Most of us would be dead or dying if 50g were a toxic dose.

inconceivable

Also on the list: “ambiguous ‘natural flavours’ that can be made from anything on earth“. OH MY GODS. NATURAL FLAVOURS FROM ANYTHING? IT’S PROBABLY MADE OUT OF BELLADONNA AND HEMLOCK, FOR THAT ZESTY AFTERBURN. Fear-monger more, lady.

Artificial flavours she claims are made from petroleum. Uh, sources please? Oh wait, you probably can’t supply any, which explains why there are none in the blog post and it’s all just a bunch of vague fear-mongering. (Which leaves me wondering about the critical thinking skills of the people who take what you say at face value.)

Preservatives and sulfites that “can cause allergic reactions.” Look, anything can cause allergic reactions. Literally anything. And on that note, Mr. Katje’s mom is allergic to sulfites and she’s able to drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes WITH NO ILL EFFECTS. (So long as she orders it without nutmeg.) So I seriously doubt the levels of sulfites are at a dangerous level.

“Possible pesticide residue from using non-organic coffee beans.” Oh my gods could you be any more pretentious. If you want organic coffee beans, go to a different store, and complain about how much more expensive it is while you talk about how environmentally conscious you are drinking a beverage made from beans that are shipped thousands of miles to make it into your cup regardless if they’re organic or not. Also, sources please? And maybe you could mention what kind of pesticides are used, seeing as there are MANY MANY pesticides that are completely harmless to humans. Oh wait, again, you can’t supply any of this info, because you don’t actually know anything.

Her final complaint? The latte is not vegan even with soy milk options because of the use of condensed milk products. Again: sources, please. Also: you are ordering a coffee from a place that gets hundreds of customers a day. There may be trace elements of something not vegan in your soy-substituted latte. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. It might happen. You may not get 100% precision with your drink made by a rushed barista who just dealt with three assholes and someone under the influence (I salute you, baristas). If you absolutely cannot abide by minuscule trace elements of non-vegan ingredients in your food, then I advise you to eschew lattes at Starbucks, stick to their regular coffee, and bring your own soy or other milk substitute to add. Or just make coffee at home. Or learn to like it black.

This entire sundae of BS is topped off with the words “THINK before you drink!” Not only does “Food Babe”, with her absolute lack of any qualifications in the area of nutrition or chemistry, want to spread a bunch of lies about various foods that people enjoy, she has to shame them for liking them. Food Babe, I did think before I had that Pumpkin Spice Latte. I thought, Man, today would be great for a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte, and then I enjoyed a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte and suffered no ill effects from it. Just because I didn’t come to the same (misinformed) conclusions you did does not mean I didn’t think.

While I spent the past several days ranting about this image to Mr. Katje and anyone who would listen, it became clear to me that I’d seen “Food Babe” around before — back when she posted some serious BS about the ~*~dangers~*~ of beer. That was thoroughly debunked by people who actually know chemistry and science. From the link:

Yes, it would appear that the Food Babe got her education from popular books and Google University and somehow got the messianic bug to save the world! Maybe a better way to describe her is the Jenny McCarthy of the food industry. Of course, I don’t mean that as a compliment. Just as Jenny McCarthy has been a prime force spreading fear and ignorance about vaccines, Vani Hari has been a malignant force promoting ignorance about food. Sure, mixed in with all the pseudoscience, antivaccine beliefs, and admiration of cranks like Russell Blaylock, is the occasional bit of good advice about eating more vegetables, avoiding too much processed food, and recipes that, for all I know, might actually be tasty. But the price is too high, buried as the occasional trivial bit of good advice is under the tsunami of nonsense.

Bottom line, Food Babe — or “Fraud Broad” as she’s becoming known — is a quack. She has no qualifications for what she’s talking about, and it shows. Her conclusions are BS and she thinks that “chemicals are dangerous”.

Right. Chemicals are dangerous. I guess we should work to avoid things like Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), or (2R,3S,4S,5R,6R)-2-(hydroxymethyl)-6-[(2R,3S,4R,5R,6S)-4,5,6-trihydroxy-2-(hydroxymethyl)oxan-3-yl]oxy-oxane-3,4,5-triol (Starch), or (heavens forfend) 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione (Caffeine).*** All very dangerous things that will surely kill us! Live a chemical-free life today: stop eating, drinking, and breathing.

I’m not listening to anything the Fraud Broad has to say, and neither should you. Her stuff is not only fraudulent to the point of being dangerous, it’s food-shaming, too. If you want to read things from an actual nutritionist who won’t shame you, I recommend Michelle Allison.

And keep on drinking your Pumpkin Spice Lattes! I’m certainly not stopping. Not for Fraud Broad nor anyone else sans qualifications, avec a major axe to grind.

(And if you don’t like Starbucks or Pumpkin Spice Lattes or pumpkin, that’s fine too. I am certainly not saying you have to. Just don’t shame people who do, because it will do no good. Every time someone shames me for drinking Starbucks — which happens often — instead of going to a local coffee shop, you know what happens? On my next trip to get coffee from a shop, instead of heading to the local coffee shop (because I do like to go to both! amazingly life is not black and white! I can hold love for Starbucks AND local places in my heart!), I head to Starbucks. Every time you shame someone for ANY of their food or drink choices, period, an angel turns to stone, becomes quantum-locked, and puts you on its hit list. So stop food-shaming people, unless you want to get killed by a Weeping Angel. And you know what? Food-shamers totally deserve to have Weeping Angels come after them. Enjoy living your life in the past where you have to deal with what food is given you.)

-Katje

***No, I did not know those chemical names offhand. I got them from this article.

This Week at WolfHouse

I’m more a fan of “Wolf Haus” but mom likes WolfHouse, so there you go.

Overheard at WolfHouse

  • That’s a fantastic coffee! Accompanied by RAT DANCE.
  • Hey, Tyee is helping us renovate by ripping up the linoleum in the kitchen!
  • Oh, fireplace, I love you. Let’s elope.
  • Pack Leader, I’m worried about Mistress. WHY IS SHE ALWAYS GOING TO THE VET?
  • I think the oven is possessed.

Some context:

WolfHouse is having a bit of a rat problem right now. No biggie…except, well, the rats are huge. Apparently they’re Norwegian Roof Rats, and they come into houses because they don’t like the cold. My reaction to this:

Norwegian rats who don’t like the cold? What, did Norway send us their defective rats? What the hell? I DEMAND BETTER RATS.”

::shakes fist at Norway::

Yesterday morning I woke up to a loud thumping sound from the kitchen. It was a massive rat, caught in the trap under the sink. A while later another came by, and they started making more noise under the cupboard, thumping all over the place. Mom dubbed this RAT DANCE and then called the rat man to get him to come take care of the rats.

Tyee was very interested in the rats, and started going into Hunter Mode. He scraped and scrabbled at the floor, hoping it would help him get into the cupboard where he could hunt the rats. This prompted me to make a comment about him helping us renovate by ripping up the kitchen linoleum. Not really, though; that stuff is tough.

We would have let him hunt the rats if there were no danger of said rodents getting into some poison, but there is. Mom was at the end of her rope a while ago and put out poison for the things. She felt awful but didn’t know what else to do — she’d bought a humane trap and every time the rats took the treats out and left it still open.

The original trap didn’t work, the poison didn’t work, and now we have the Rat Man and his traps. He sets the trap up, the rats get caught, he comes and gets them.

If the rats could mind their own business and leave us alone we wouldn’t have to do this, but they get into our food and keep us up by running around in the walls and basically make life very difficult, so we are forced to deal with them even though we’d prefer not to hurt or torture them. Being human can be pretty rough on your soul sometimes.

~

The fireplace and I are in love. I stand by it and it warms my butt up. This is obviously true love. We are going to elope.

~

Tyee is worried about me, because I am always going to “the vet”. Wednesday I had surgery at the hospital, Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment, and Friday I had a follow up dentist appointment. Tyee can smell the medicine on me each time and looks at me worriedly before cocking his head in confusion, as if he’s saying “But you have no balls to cut off! What could they be doing to you?”

It’s honestly not that hard to confuse a wolf-dog.

(Also, you’ll notice Tyee uses the wrong pronouns for me. That’s okay; I don’t ask him to try and grasp the intricacies of my genderqueerness. I tried to explain to him a few times about it and he just looked very worried and confused, and then licked my face to show me he still loved me.)

~

Mom’s oven is broken. The CPU is fried. The burners work but the oven(s) (pizza and regular size one both) won’t turn on, nor will the warming centre (which mom calls “the hob”). The buttons are broken, basically.

However, this did not stop the oven from turning itself on to 350 degrees Farenheit in the middle of the night on Thursday, nor from beeping at me unprompted throughout the day Friday.

It is possessed. We are getting rid of it and perhaps performing an exorcism.

~

Never a dull moment at WolfHouse, that’s for sure.

Turning the new house into our home

Got some stuff done at the new place! For the most part it’s still just boxes and I’m still half-dead, but I did get the fridge magnet-ed and my tea/coffee hutch set up. Definitely made it feel like home to me, even if we haven’t got our bed in there yet. 😉

Behold!

Fridge has been magnet-ed! Can't wait to hear what the Ogre thinks. ;) #KatjesMove

My tea/coffee station! Bags and grounds in hutch above; cups and sundry below. This was Ogre's idea. :D

Pretty excited about the new place! I’m at my mom’s house now, but when I get back to town next week I’ll continue unpacking and putting things away (as well as grabbing the last load from the apartment). Hopefully more pictures as things get put together.

Sorry I’ve missed the last few days of posting; the move has really been all I could do. The stress has calmed down now, though.

See you tomorrow.

-Katje

Confessions of a Coffee Snob: Decaf isn’t that bad

I am a coffee snob. I have been for ages. By coffee snob I don’t mean “I like these two specific coffees because they were agreed upon at the Annual Coffee Snob Convention.” I mean I like it a certain way that’s particular to me even if another coffee snob may think my tastes are horrible. Yet I agree with other coffee snobs when they say Tim Horton’s or Folgers is toxic waste, not coffee.

I prefer coffee that stands on its own. If you have to put milk or sugar (or both) into coffee to make it bearable, it’s not good coffee. It’s not necessarily bad or terrible coffee — it’s just not good. That doesn’t mean I drink my coffee black — I prefer sweetened coffee. If I’m making coffee at home, I’m adding honey or agave to it. But the coffee I buy to make at home can stand alone, sans milk or sugar. (That doesn’t mean all the coffee I have at home is like this; I’m currently in an economic state where most of the coffee I have was given to me by people who love me and, moreso, prefer dealing with me after I’ve had my morning coffee. None of it is bad coffee, but some of it doesn’t stand so well on its own.)

If I choose to go out for a coffee, I’m not looking for black coffee. I do not expect the coffee I get at a coffee shop to be coffee of my liking; my tastes are particular. Hence, when going out to a coffee shop, I get one of those flavoured drinks that most coffee snobs sneer isn’t coffee. Sorry to disappoint you, fellow snobs. It is. It’s a coffee-based drink and so long as it’s not Timmy’s or Folgers, it’s still coffee. It may not be great, good, or even bad coffee — it may be terrible. But it is coffee.

Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like flavoured drinks, especially holiday inspired ones. They’re a form of comfort food for me. Despite my lack of money I try to get a pumpkin spice latte each autumn, or it doesn’t feel like fall to me. Christmas has become my favourite time of year, because there are at least two special holiday drinks that I adore on the menu. There’s coffee in them — enough for me to taste, enough for me to get a shot of caffeine if that’s what I need. And it’s not bad coffee. (Lots of people complain that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt. I don’t complain, because I kind of like that burnt taste. It reminds me of Turkish coffee.)

I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a teenager, and I’ve been a snob about it since I worked as a barista. For many years, I was in complete agreement with my fellow snobs about decaf. Decaf isn’t even real coffee. Decaf is pointless. Decaf is disgusting. DEATH BEFORE DECAF. Friends of mine have even said they’d consider getting that as a tattoo.

I never considered it, and I’m really glad. Because three years ago, I ran a restaurant.

(Sort of. I was managing the restaurant but because of a lot of issues that were beyond my control, we never officially opened. So I did a lot of before-opening, behind-the-scenes work, hoping to get it set up so another person could take over my management at the end of the summer, when I left the small town to go back to school. Powell River is basically dead in the winter anyway. Regardless, it never happened.)

A page from my planner during the time I ran a cafe. Filled with copious notes.
Two pages from my planner during that time. It’s a lot of work.

Part of my job in the pre-opening stages was deciding on what coffee we would serve. (I should say, this wasn’t really a restaurant; it was a café, with plans of food, coffee, live entertainment, books, and vintage furniture…exactly my type of place.) First, we went around town and sampled the competition, to see what we were up against. It was not stiff. If you want a decent cup of coffee in Powell River, your only bet is Breakwater Books. They scored an 8 out of 10 on our rating scale. Starbucks was a close second, scoring a 6. All the other coffee places didn’t even make a 5.

So I wanted to go with Salt Spring Coffee. They were local, which was important to me, and they were no doubt far better quality than the coffees mainly available in town. Most cafés in Powell River go through the same supplier.

The person I chatted with at Salt Spring, Kevin Burk, was amazing, and it makes me sad that the café never got off the ground, because I would have loved to continue having a professional relationship with him. He sent me a box of sample coffee. Not just tiny bags — full bags of Salt Spring coffee, so I and my team could try them and decide if Salt Spring was the way we wanted to go.

Included in that, of course, was decaf, which we had to try. (The Peru single origin.) I had never had decaf in my life before; I was not looking forward to it. But I couldn’t make an informed decision without trying it, so I brewed up some in our French Press and gave it a whirl.

To my ultimate amazement, it was quite good. It reminded me of, again, Turkish coffee. It certainly wasn’t something I’d choose to drink on a regular basis, but this decaf led me to wonder from where all the ire had originally come.

Yes, caffeine is amazing, and surely I cannot live without it. Yet I wonder how much of my good mood after a cup of coffee is attributable to the caffeine itself, and how much is psychosomatic? Does coffee put me in a better mood because of the chemicals, or does it put me in a better mood because it’s a comfort food for me?

I think it’s a combination. I still drink decaf, after all. I have to, now. Before, when I was young and carefree and able to sleep anywhere, at the drop of a hat, I could drink eight cups of coffee and go to bed an hour later. (Not just in my teens, when caffeine apparently has different effects on your body, but in my early and mid-twenties, too.) Now, in my late twenties, if I have caffeine after noon I’m risking being up until 4 in the morning. If I drink decaf, I have a chance of actually sleeping. This is so important to a person with a as-of-yet-undiagnosed-but-definitely-real sleep disorder.

Most importantly, I’m still in a good mood after a cup of decaf.

I no longer agree with my fellow coffee snobs when they scream, pitchforks and torches in hand, DEATH BEFORE DECAF. Now my rallying cry is I’D REALLY RATHER PREFER REGULAR COFFEE BUT DECAF BEFORE ANOTHER SLEEPLESS NIGHT, PLEASE.

It may lead to my getting kicked out of the clubhouse but I won’t waver on this. Decaf tastes fine to me, and that’s okay. If it doesn’t taste fine to you, that’s okay too. My approval of decaf coffee does not, so far as I’m concerned, revoke my Coffee Snob membership card, and you can pry it from my cold-because-I-haven’t-slept-in-three-days fingers. Because the second I give into peer pressure, I’m just another conformist douche incapable of forming an independent opinion and sticking to it. And I’d rather not have that be the only definition of coffee snob.

Oh Dear Gods, Why Am I Still Up?

This is what I get for drinking three cups of coffee in the morning. Coffee, plus “Oh, I’ll just work for a few minutes…” when I got home from my boyfriend’s place at 12:30am.

FOUR HOURS LATER…we find our heroine still sitting and working.

I’m a workaholic. I admit it. I have a problem. I get into a flow and I just keep working and don’t even look up or think about eating or peeing or sleeping. Then suddenly my eyes will flick innocently upwards, and I’ll catch the time in my glance. And I’ll pronounce, with great solemn dignity, “What the everloving fuck.”

And then I stumble to bed and collapse and sleep all day. When I get up I will proceed to vegetate for several hours, until I fall asleep at some ungodsly hour again. This will continue until I finally right my schedule to one where I’m waking up before noon, and for the days that happens I actually manage to be productive, until I get into a flow too late at night and…. Lather, rinse, repeat.

On the plus side, I do have something to show for my toil. PresentingKatje Writes. A brand spankin’ new site that showcases all most of my writing in one, easy to find place. At Katje Writes you will find Bellica‘s first 11 chapters, as well as various bits of fiction and poetry on the main site, and last but not least, my stories for Smoke and Shadows.

I mentioned it once before that Smoke and Shadows was a series of short stories written by Literary+ authors. Long story short is that Literary+ is going in different directions, but enough of us decided we wanted to continue with S&S, and we did. So far there’s only the one story up, but expect more after NaNoWriMo is over. (Oh, and you should go read Sanna’s posts at her blog. She writes about Witches too!)

But wait! There’s more!

Continue reading Oh Dear Gods, Why Am I Still Up?

Whatever Wednesday: Fall is my favorite season

It’s just perfect. You get a nice blend of sunny and cool. Everything smells wonderful. The world is an explosion of colors. You can wear your nice sweaters and not freeze to death. It’s far less muddy than spring.

Both Thanksgiving and Halloween (favourite holiday, ever) fall within autumn’s purview — at least, if you’re in Canada. If you’re in the US your Christmas Half-Time Show Thanksgiving is in Winter. And, you know, despite not really being a fan of colonialism or celebration thereof, I do love Thanksgiving. I’ve completely disassociated it from the genocide of my ancestors. For me, it’s a secular holiday that’s based around food, family, and giving thanks for what you have.

This may be because I’m Canadian, and our Thanksgiving doesn’t seem to have the same themes and motifs surrounding it as the US one does. Or it may be because for me personally, it never had elements of “And the Indians gave the Pilgrims food, and then the Pilgrims killed them all, and it was GOOD!” until I moved to the States, at which point I was already a teenager, pretty much — even then, it was more about food and family.

Or it may be because I love turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. That’s also very likely. Most of my emotions are connected to food in some way.

In general, fall is the best season EVER. Good weather, good smells, good colors, good clothes, good holidays, and good food.

Oh, and the pumpkin spice latte is available at Starbucks. And the pumpkin scone, if you arrive early enough.

Mamma Mia, here I go again!

Sleep is for the weak.

I went to bed early last night — 11 pm! This is early considering my average bedtime for the past four nights has been six am. I figured I’d sleep until 9am — early enough so that I’d be tired come this evening, so I could actually get up on time for my SOOPER EARLY OMG WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Assuming it would take me an hour to fall asleep, as it usually does, that’s about nine hours.

After four hours of sleep punctuated with really weird, very vivid dreams involving characters, plots, and settings from Community, Archer, and True Blood, I awoke to pressing bladder concerns and ABBA running through my head.

And I’m still awake, because my brain decided four hours of sleep would be enough.

I think I may be watching too many episodes of the above-named shows.

On the plus side, I will probably be tired enough very early tonight, and will get enough sleep before my doctor’s appointment (which I’m honestly not really looking forward to).

The thing that’s pissing me off is that I’m staying at my mom’s house — I have to, my doctor is in her town — and using her bed while she is traveling in Nicaragua. For the past few nights her pillow has given me a neck ache, so last night I finally grabbed my pillow out of the car (yes I travel with my pillow ok) to fix said neck ache.

Well, I didn’t sleep long enough, so neck ache is still around. Yay!

Anyway, my point here is not to bitch and moan. It’s probably a good thing I’m up so early. I can get two hours of writing done before the coffee store opens. (I think it should be required that when a town’s population gets to be a certain size, there is at least ONE 24-hour coffee shop in town. Seriously. And no, before you say it, fellow Canadians, Tim Horton’s IS NOT COFFEE. It is toxic waste in a massive cup whose rim you sometimes roll up to see if you won something. I honestly do not understand the national obsession with such an incredibly crappy excuse for coffee.)

In other news, I’ve now moved to the mainland from Vancouver Island. If you want to read about the saga of my move, you can check out parts one, two, three, and four. If you want to read about what driving in the Lower Mainland is like, you can read Lost in Coquitlamfield with a drunk GPS.