Beware fake (food) news

I read an article in a food magazine recently about an indigenous tribe in South America that only eats fish with chiles because they believe it is toxic without the cleansing properties of said chiles.

That made me think of other food myths I’ve encountered over the years. Have you ever been duped by one of these?

There are plenty of old adages that have a basis in fact. Sadly, they do not present any real advantages.

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is logical when you think of healthy foods keeping your body strong. But studies show eating apples regularly does not reduce your chances of getting sick.
  • “Feed a cold, starve a fever” comes from the idea of centuries ago that a cold came from a drop in your body’s temperature and eating would raise it again. Conversely, if you already had a fever you shouldn’t be doing anything to make it worse – including eating. Neither is true.
  • “Coca-Cola can rot your teeth, just like it dissolves the penny in a glass (or nail or other examples).”The acids in Coke will indeed dissolve things over time, just as the acid in other things will do the same. Orange juice has more acid than Coke. Unless you walk around for days with a mouthful of Coke, your teeth are safe.

Cultural myths are even more pervasive. I remember hearing that chewing gum takes seven years to digest, a rather unpleasant thought. When I was a kid, gum chewing was a popular pastime.

Although the gum base in most chewing gum is indigestible in our system, it simply passes through intact. I think this myth was made popular by parents trying to deter us from swallowing our gum.

You may also have heard of another variation… The same good intention exists with that tale about potatoes growing out of your ears if you didn’t wash behind them.

When I first started working in the restaurant industry, I was told the rule of when one should eat shellfish – only in months with an R in their name.

This stemmed from the first days of red tides and eating oysters in spawning season, but nowadays with more monitoring of red tides and controlled farmed seafoods these traditions no longer apply.

As our food production has evolved, many of our guidelines have evolved as well.

One myth that I thoroughly enjoy is of Scottish origin. It’s about haggis, a traditional dish made of sheep’s “pluck” (organ meat) minced with oats and spices and cooked in a sheep’s stomach, or in some cases today an artificial casing.

Here’s the story of the “wild haggis” myth, as told by a local:

“Haggis, Scotland’s national dish, is actually a small animal that lives on hillsides in the Scottish Highlands. According to the myth, the wild haggis has two legs of uneven length, allowing the haggis to easily run around the hillside and retain balance. I had a summer job at university working in a kilt shop in Edinburgh. The shop was packed with tourists through the summer months due to the Edinburgh Festival.

We stocked all kinds of souvenirs, including stuffed ‘wild haggis’ toys for children and other merchandise featuring the wild haggis. My colleagues and I would occasionally relay the myth to customers, some of whom left the store still unaware of the truth.” 

This week’s column does offer a word to the wise: don’t believe everything you see and read on the internet, even for something as simple as food.

Food myths today are another example of fake news.

If we take the stories in good fun and check our sources of information just like we check our sources of food products, then I believe that can be due diligence.

Having a stuffed wild haggis on a shelf can’t do any harm, and helping kids learn the value of staying clean and not swallowing gum is part of being a role model, as long as they know the truth and not just the story.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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