Junk Fuel

So with all the oil crisis stuff, they’re coming out with a new automobile fuel that’s both cheap and convenient. It comes in pellets the size of hockey pucks that you can buy anywhere – corner shops, grocery stores, etc… in cases of 24. The case will sell for around $50 and each pellet is the equivalent of a full tank of gas for the average SUV.

You just drop the pellet into the gas tank, fill up the tank with tap water and off you go.

There are a few drawbacks however: 

  • First, your car won’t go any faster than 30 mph/50kph.
  • Second, after about a year your gas tank will corrode and start leaking fuel.
  • Third, the stuff emits exhaust that eats away at your car’s paint and the paint of other cars on the road.
  • Finally, there is a good likelihood that your engine will seize anywhere between two months to two years of using this fuel.

Alternating these new fuel pellets with regular gasoline will decrease the chances of any of these problems somewhat.

So, would you purchase these new fuel pellets for your car? Would you perhaps consider getting them for occasional use? They are so much more convenient than having to go to a gas station all the time. And they’re incredibly cheap.

I’m thinking most of you are saying no way you’d get this stuff for your car. No matter how convenient or cheap, right? What a crazy idea, right?

You’re right, it is a crazy idea. And none of the above is true. I made it up to illustrate how careful we are about fuelling our automobiles to keep them in good condition and to keep them performing at their optimum.

So, how crazy it is that we aren’t nearly as careful about how we fuel our bodies?

March was National Nutritional Awareness Month, but I totally missed it, so I’m making up for it now.  Food has become a pretty touchy subject. Eating local, eating mindfully, eating healthy, eating vegetarian, eating raw, eating too much, not eating enough….Food has almost become one of those topics like religion and politics that you don’t discuss in public because people can get pretty heated up about it. But we’re among friends here, so what the hell. Right?

I read the other day, for instance,  that this whole 100-mile diet thing might be a crock. They said that a whole bunch of food shipped from South America or somewhere in a big boat or on a train or something uses up far less carbon fuel pound for pound than a whole bunch of farmers in pick-up trucks dragging a few crates of stuff from their farms to the market.  And that the freshness factor is pretty much equal. So the only real benefit is that you’re supporting small local farmers instead of corporate agriculture.

See that’s the problem with all this food wisdom — you never know who’s right or what the latest research is going to spring on you. My general rule of thumb is to try and eat stuff in its most natural possible form. So that the less processing food undergoes and the fewer ingredients (additives/preservatives/etc.)  it has, the better. 

I also think anything too drastic diet-wise can’t be good — like eating only raw foods or eating only protein or only lettuce or something. Or never eating a meal you cooked at home with real food.

That seems simple and sensible, and yet statistics say that the average American (and also, I assume, Canadian) consumes 159 fast food meals every year.  And of the “meals” consumed at home, a good percentage of them are of the ready-to-eat, packaged, frozen or microwavable variety.

You wouldn’t treat your car like that.


On a completely unrelated note I just wanted to brag a little that the other day I finally cracked the 1,000 barrier in the hits-per-day on this blog. They’ve been creeping up slowly and have been hovering in the 900s for quite a while. The other day: 1005. Who are all you people? Do you come here by accident? Do you actually read anything while you’re here? Why don’t so many of you ever comment?

Thanks for visiting anyway.


41 responses to “Junk Fuel

  1. I’m slowly weaning us from processed foods. Really it’s about convenience. I do not want to spend the few hours I have with my husband each night in the kitchen. It’s really that simple. Since I don’t work, I have been moving more to things that I can make in advance. I try to leave the meals that take a lot of time and can’t be prepped in advance for Sundays or on my husband’s school nights.

    On that 1000 hits thing – is it really 1000 different people or 1000 hits? Because I check back here from 4 to 6 times a day to read the comments. Maybe it’s just 200 of us clicking back in a bunch.

  2. Nice way to make a point. I like the analogy and I agree with your food philosophy. Mix it up and don’t eat crap. And you can tell it’s crap if most of the people eating it are overweight.

  3. I try to eat in a fairly healthy manner, most of the time. But I’ll be honest, there are times when I want French fries from McDonald’s or something else equally disastrous, nutritionally speaking. But most of the time we eat well balanced meals.

    I agree with you that eating from a drastic eating plan, like the Atkins for instance, is not the best idea for anyone. While you may get short term weight loss, it’s probably because you are dramatically cutting calories in an unsustainable fashion. You need to eat a well rounded diet with enough calories, but not too many, so that you can eat that way forever, not just the next 2 months. Besides, it doesn’t do you any good to be thin and unhealthy either.

  4. Oboy. Another “Awareness Month”.

    There are so many “Awareness Months and Awareness Days, when you add them up, they exceedn the number of the day in the calendar.

    I’m getting ABS.

    Awareness Burnout Syndrome.

  5. Grouchy – It’s not 1000 posts, it’s 1000 hits per day that I cracked. I’m only at 500 and something posts.

    Geewits – I don’t know the anwer to your hits question. I don’t analyze the stats that carefully. Probably it’s all you checking back 900 times a day. Thanks! If I were selling ad space you’d be making me a fortune. I get home before my daughter so I have a good hour or so to get dinner ready before she gets home from her after-school job. That’s usually enough to prepare a decent meal. It helps if you know exactly when they get home though. I don’t imagine your hubby is that predictable.

    Christine – You can tell it’s crap if it comes in a package with an ingredient list a mile long. I don’t think we need a lot of books and programs and regiments to eat well. Just eat real food and don’t eat too much at once. That’s how people used to do it and then in the 1950’s-1960s parallel to the women’s lib movement, we demanded more convenience, less time in the kitchen, etc. and here we are.

    Kimberly – Ya, I didn’t think you lived on Costco hot dogs and cottage pie all the time!! I totally agree with your take on the drastic diet syndrome. It hasn’t been working for the last 50 years, why do people still keep doing it? There’s no magic.

    Friar – Hey, as long as you refuse to become aware we’re gonna have to keep having all these awareness months. Get aware already!! Actually, I wasn’t even aware that it was Nutritional Awareness Month last month until I was halfway through writing this post. It’s odd that no one was clubbing us over the head with anything last month. What’s the point of a secret awareness month? You can’t just declare something an awareness month and then do nothing about it. Meanwhile, am I sensing an Awareness Burnout Syndrome post brewingover at the Deep Friar?

  6. I think you made your point well.

    I like Michael Pollan’s maxim, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    His small book food rules is full of little aphorism that work in terms of thinking about food.

    Like “don’t eat cereal that changes the colour of the milk”

    I’m trying to eat less meat and it’s been going well, though I just bought a BBQ so I’ve had a few burgers lately (not the pre-packaged frozen kind)

    I don’t think I could go back and eat the frozen kind after reading this story

  7. I hate cooking, so Mr. Jazz does it all. If I were alone I’d probably eat out a lot more. As for the 100 mile thing we try to eat local in summer – we’re big fans of the farmers market – but don’t go out of our way, for instance forgoing the grapes in winter, or never eating oranges or grapefruit…

    Variety is the spice of life.

  8. I enjoy a lot this post… the analogy is just perfect!!!

    …. and as you know, I have had discussions about natural and NOT FROZEN food rather than frozen and pre-cooked meals to “cook” on the microwave for more than 3 minutes… appears to me make those actions to be sure the “rubber” is enough tender to be eaten…

    any way, I agree with you and sometimes I have my moments of a fast food dinner… and I do!!

  9. I agree with the “eat real food” thing, along with a bit of a twist.

    So I’ve had really great success following a Paleo type diet, meaning I’m getting my carbs from veggies and fruits, and I’ve basically cut grains from my diet.

    Some folks might see this as a “radical” diet, and perhaps it is.

    But I’ll tell you… why don’t you read the ingredients list sometime on a box of cereal, even the ones that don’t change the colour of the milk? Try to think about what’s been done to that wheat or corn or whatever before it got to your bowl, or that loaf of bread that you bought in the store.

    (And what is it with milk, anyway? What kind of *sick bastard* drinks the breast milk of another species!!! Kidding…)

    If you want to eat something, have at it – but if you make it yourself at home, it would be much better for you than what you bought in the store.

    Plus, you wouldn’t be able to eat as much of it anyway because it is pretty hard to make.

    (I suppose the same could be said for eating meat, however, so… I could be full of crap! But if I had to choose between hunting deer and fishing, or tending to a field of wheat for a few months, harvesting it, grinding it, baking it… I’d be eating venison and smoked fish all the time.)

    The bottom line is, if most of us had to kill/grow/cook the majority of our food ourselves, we’d be unlikely to overeat or eat the wrong things because it would take so long to kill/grow/cook things that we’d want to make sure we were feeding ourselves properly.

    As for the “I don’t have time to cook for myself” argument, I’m not buying that one. I cook all of my meals myself, and for my family, and I have a wife and four kids, and a full time job, and a dog.

    If it is a priority for you in your life, you will do it, otherwise, you won’t. That’s pretty much how it is with everything.

  10. Congrats on all the hits and the excellent post today! In the Strings household, we rarely buy processed food because while I grew up on it, Mr. String did not (& like Jazz, he cooks). My MIL and he often joke about how I didn’t die of malnutrition as a child, etc. I find when I try processed food lately, sometimes thinking it’s a “treat” or out of nostalgia, that it’s either waaaay too salty or too sweet (or both).

    This might inspire a post on my neglected blog… Thanks, XUP!

  11. I read the other day, for instance, that this whole 100-mile diet thing might be a crock. They said that a whole bunch of food shipped from South America or somewhere in a big boat or on a train or something uses up far less carbon fuel pound for pound than a whole bunch of farmers in pick-up trucks dragging a few crates of stuff from their farms to the market.

    In some cases, at least, this is plausible – particularly when it comes to out of season foods. It can be much more efficient to grow them somewhere warm and ship them than to grow them locally in heated greenhouses.

    That said, it is obviously more efficient still to just avoid out of season foods. Turnips all winter, yum!

  12. Great post – I have been working on something a bit similar regarding organic food. I just find the scientific evidence supporting different foods and diets isn’t available, which makes it very difficult to make informed choices.
    And congrats on 1000! Wow 🙂

  13. Justin – There’s quite a lot of cereal that doesn’t turn your milk colours and still isn’t good, but I take your point. That story is scary. Aside from all the additives, the more processed a food is, the more people’s hands it’s been through and the more opportunity there is for it to be tainted. The whole food industry is pretty scary when you get into it.

    Jazz – Indeed it is. And stuff in season – especially if it was just picked that morning, tastes so much better!

    Julia – Is there a big market in analogy theft these days?? I shall trust you to bring them to justice.

    Nathalia – Yes, I was wondering if you’d read the post today. I know we’ve had a foodie discussion on your blog.

    Brett – Are we back on the grinding wheat thing? Ha! I do try really hard to keep the grain carbs out of my diet (especially wheat) because while I love bread, I know it doesn’t make me feel well. I totally agree with you about dairy thought. That’s one product that we’ve been so brainwashed by through the mighty Dairy Boards, that we don’t need at all and which is actually doing us harm…let’s not even start. And yes, with a little planning and conscientious shopping there is no reason why you can’t have a healthy breakfast every morning, make yourself a real lunch to take to work instead of a frozen Michelena and cook a real supper for your family in the evenings. Food is so damned important and yet takes up so little head space or time in most people’s day when once upon a time it was pretty much the only thing people spent their days doing. Strange, eh?

    Ellie – Oh ya, thanks. I do suspect that many of those are just people entering search words and accidentally ending up here and then quickly leaving to go find what they’re really after.

    Nylonthread – Oh boy! I inspired a neglected blog. My work for the day is done. I’ll be checking to see when you post it.

    Milan – I knew that statement would bring you out of the woodwork! I agree. Like I said to Jazz, in season stuff that’s just been picked tastes so much better than stuff that was picked green, sprayed with ripening agents and preservatives and shipped thousands of miles. Those things you can buy in the winter that they call “tomatoes” for instance? A whole different fruit to tomatoes you buy from a farmer in July.

    Finola – I think if you go back, before all our food came in a package or in a can or from a freezer and look at what people ate, that should be a good guideline for our diets. Way back a family spent their entire day, planting, tending, harvesting, preparing, preserving and cooking food. Food was of number one importance. And lifestyle diseases were unheard of. Now food is an afterthought that we give as little attention to and try to spend as little money on as possible. So, to me the sensible thing, if you can’t grow or raise your own food, is to purchase it in the most natural form you can – organic for sure, in season makes sense, not processed, not elaborately packed, etc. Spend the time to choose your food wisely even if it costs more and cook it yourself. And then don’t eat too much of it. You can’t go wrong with that, I think.

  14. I try to eat healthy foods. I don’t. But I try to do it.

    Congratulations on the hits thing. I don’t get why people who visit lots don’t leave comments either..

  15. What next?

    Hangnail Awareness Month?

    World Maple Syrup Awareness Day?

    Left-Handed Albanian Dyslexia Awareness Week?

    …After a while, these things start to lose any meaning.

  16. @XUP,

    Yeah, it’s probably starting to sound a little old, eh? 🙂

    If you think about it, milk’s a funny sort of thing for us to be consuming.

    And then… have a look at the nutritional content of a bowl of cereal with milk some time (on the box).

    Look at how much of it is missing if you don’t consume the milk.

    You’d might as well eat the box.

    And since drinking the milk is sort of “unnatural”… maybe time to find a different food?

    (Okay, I’ve probably offended a bunch of cereal lovers out there, but hey, this is a great conversation!)

    Anyway, a more serious thought.

    I’m fairly new to this “thoughtful eating” game, to be honest.

    But once I started looking at food as “high-quality fuel for my body” rather than “taste bud entertainment”, I changed what I was eating.

    The neat thing is, your food *can* be both, if you put just a little bit of thought into it – and it is so worth it.

  17. XUP – yes, I know. And being the first poster, I must therefore also be the first hit*, since nobody else left evidence of their passing through.

    (*don’t tell the mafia)

    As for your response to Geewits’ question, “visitors” is the number of visitors (e.g. unique IP addresses and/or sessions), whereas “hits” is often the total number of pages visited, including multiple pages per visitor and/or per visit. On Google Analytics, of the various blogs and sites I have access to, the ratio of “page views” to “visits” is anywhere from 1.25:1 to 3.1:1

    – RG>

  18. Interesting what you mentionned, though, about the 100 mile diet. About how it might not be as green-friendly as we think.

    I read a piece in the paper a while ago. Say you need to get somewhere five km away.

    You could drive, but that requires X number of calories from burning gasoline.

    Or you can walk. You get that energy from food. But it takes Y number of calories of gasoline to grow that food and ship it to your kitchen.

    So, depending on the circumstances if ( X > Y) or (Y > X)….you might actually make less of a carbon footprint if you just DROVE that distance.

    Especially if your food of choice comes from thousands of miles away.

    Now, before everyone jumps on my throat and tells me I’m a gas-guzzling planet-killer, I’m not saying we should drive everywhere.

    But I think they need to supply is with more info, on what the actual numbers are.

    How much energy are we REALLY saving (or wasting?) with some of these green incentives?

  19. Glen – Well, at least you’re trying. I guess. Go see what Brett wrote below. He’s a recent convert to the real food eating thing, so he’s like a born-again guy with lots of advice for those who want to convert.

    Friar – There SHOULD be a maple syrup awareness day. Maple syrup is awesome. People who think it’s the same thing as Aunt Jemima just don’t understand the true awesomeness of maple syrup. The whole history of maple syrup to the process of tapping the maple tree to boiling the water off the sap to everything else about maple syrup is awesome. And it’s good for you. I may do a maple syrup awareness blog post because it’s so damn awesome. Sorry…what were you saying?

    Brett – Milk is fortified with a whole bunch of stuff to give it some nutritional value. Human milk is good for human babies. Fresh cow milk is good for baby cows. Store bought cow milk is good for no one. Do you know they once did an experiment where they fed baby cows only cow milk bought from a store (i.e processed and fortified) and the baby cows died of malnutrition? Have you noticed that whenever you’re ill the first thing they tell you to eliminate from your diet is milk? And all that crap about milk being the best source of calcium? How do cows get the calcium that winds up in the milk? From eating greens, that’s how. Except of course that cows don’t get to eat greens anymore, so their feed is fortified with calcium.

    Grouchy – You’re so cryptic, it’s difficult to understand sometimes. And I think my hits fall into the category of hits on any page on that particular day.. Sometimes the most hits for that day aren’t even on the post I posted that day. A lot of times the most hits are on that stupid post about Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. (Number one with a bullet then and forevermore it seems)

    Friar – That’s a good point. We jump on a lot of bandwagons because someone has done a super PR campaign to promote something claiming it’s better for us or better for the environment, but there are always a lot of factors to be weighed and measured that aren’t always readily apparent. Milan,(see his comment above for the link) usually does a pretty good job of doing all the possible calculations on a given environmental topic. You’re a science guy so you should be able to appreciate his blog. It usually makes my head hurt, but I try

  20. great analogy. you had me going there. we try and eat as healthily as possible. “junk” is always in moderation (a couple of times a month at max) and i always through a salad on the side of that. somehow thinking the greens balance out the junk!

    do you think your vajazzeling post could have brought you over the top?

  21. @Friar,

    That’s why I advocate Yogic Flying. Good for you, good for the planet, has a low carbon footprint.

    The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi approves.

    Now, if we could get everyone to buy nuclear power plants and electric powered vehicles, then we could drive practically everywhere and not kill the planet with carbon 🙂

    (This wouldn’t win us any friends in the anti-nuke corner, however.)


    Exactly. I’ve seen the study about the baby cows, it was quite telling.

    Since cutting practically all milk from my diet, I have noticed that when the colds hit around this place, I just don’t get them.

    I mean, I know I have them “in” me, but I don’t get all congested and stuff.

    Other folks eating as I do have noted the same thing. I found that interesting.

    Cows & greens – yup, that’s why some folks advocate eating only grass-fed beef (or whatever). Cows should not be eating grain or corn based foods.

  22. Friar/XUP – it’s not just a bandwagon, it’s an insurance policy. A 100-mile food supply is in the event that international food transport networks fall down (or, like, the US border shuts down for some reason or another). A 100-mile diet is the premium for this insurance.

    – RG>

  23. According to results from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.9% of repsondents indicated that they had eaten at a fast food outlet in the previous 24 hours. That equals about 4.5 million people.
    Assuming an equal distribution in order to come up with an “average” (blech – I hate the term) Canadian and 3 meals per day, 365 days per year, that is 1,095 meals per year where 163 of them are at a fast food joint.
    So the American number that you quote (without a source so I have no way to confirm its accuracy…) and my Canadian number are comparable.
    Which kind of throws cold water on the popular assumption that we Canucks eat more healthily than our American neighbours.
    I apologise for this data-related interlude.
    You can now return to your normal conversation.

  24. Smothermother – Would you feed your car these junk fuel pellets “in moderation”?? Anyway, I’m pretty sure a burger now and then isn’t going to kill you. Unlike cars, the human body has the amazing capacity to do battle with unfriendly matter and survive. I think the vajazzling might have pushed me over the edge, yes. I was up around 990 or so for a while though anyway.

    Brett – I also think the consumption of milk and morning sickness in pregnant women is related. They really push that stuff when you’re with child. I and other women I know who never eat dairy were never sick or nauseated during pregancy. Ummm…you know if we carry on like this the Dairy Board of Canada is going to put a hit out on us, right? Do you know that members of the Dairy Board have sat on the the Canada Food Guide development committee since the Canada Food Guide began. In how many categories do dairy products appear? Other members of that CFG committee include dieticians. Guess who runs/sponsors all the accredited dietician programs in this country?

    Nathalia – Never. It’s a hot topic.

    Grouchy – I like the idea of independent farmers in the same way I like the idea of independent business men who run shops and restaurants, etc. I’d much rather support them and know where my food has been that those corporate farms – no matter what the actual situation is on the carbon footprint.

    Brett – Would vegetarians have to stick to eating their vegetrian neighbours or would Armageddon give us permission to just chow down on whoever?

    Trashy – Not at all. Data is always useful. I believe my stats were from 2006 so things have probably increased a tad since then. I really should make more of a point of referencing my sources. Thanks for the validation.

    Friar – Maple butter? Meh, I can live without that. I’m not all that fond of maple products – just the syrup and in particular the very dark stuff that you can almost never find. I never understood why that was cheaper than the light stuff. It requires more boiling and therefore more sap, right? And it tastes so intensely mapley. You’d think it would cost more.

  25. @XUP,

    The “black helicopters” from the Dairy Board are already following me whenever I go out 🙂 and in my (recently revised) opinion the Canada Food Guide is a load of crap.

    Any dietician who advocates following it should be shot.

    I think if the “Big Crunch” comes, vegetarians should only eat grass-fed people – for health reasons of course…


    Maple butter – I had some just last week, but I made it myself (one of Cathy’s co-workers makes his own maple syrup locally – the butter was local too, that dairy in Pembroke) – if you’re going to eat it, maybe make it yourself, takes 2 minutes and the kids were asking for thirds of the veggies…

  26. 1000 hits per day?

    I’ve had very rare spikes (maybe once a year) where I hit 1000.

    But on a regular basis, I’m nowhere near even half that.

    Anyway, congratulations. It’s official now.

    You’re one of the “Cool Kids”.

  27. Those things you can buy in the winter that they call “tomatoes” for instance? A whole different fruit to tomatoes you buy from a farmer in July.

    I too find those pale orange winter tomatoes a disgrace to their species and to the human enjoyment of food.

    It will be interesting to see whether continued fossil fuel depletion drives a serious resurgence in seasonal agriculture, within rich states like Canada.

  28. Brett – Yup, there’s nothing a vegetarian loves more than a grass-fed big crunch. So, are you saying this maple butter of yours is made with actual butter? And that you put it on vegetables? (And, no I don’t think dairy killed the conversation – everyone just went home for supper.)

    Frair – Yay, I’m cool. I never have spikes like that though and I know spikes are way cooler than slow plodding.

    Milan – I think before people give up on the current standard of living they will do their best to find another way to fuel their vehicles — but not until they absolutely have to. Which means they will not do without their crappy tomatoes in the winter.

  29. I love your analogy and I’m going to counter it with WHY people WILL use those crappy fuel pucks.

    The fuel pucks are going to be produced by huge multinational companies and they are going to advertise them like crazy. They’re going to tie them to the coolest people in pop culture and they’re going to get teens using them and children wanting them. Collector cards – get the whole set! The teens don’t have the critical faculties yet for long range planning and they don’t think their first cars are ever going to die. The other thing about these pucks is going to be that the fumes are addictive and people will get a little high from using them.

    The other group that’ll start using them are those who have grown up in generational poverty because one of the long term effects is that they don’t develop that long term planning ability – it’s actually built on seeing the rewards over time and being taught about it, and they never do, what they learn is feast or famine regardless of whether you’re talking about food, fuel, or money.

    Besides this interesting fact (which I learned from a psychologist who studied how to teach resilience and problem solving in inner city schools – she said the damage was already evident by the time they reached kindergarten) the pucks will be way easier to find in poor neighbourhoods than actual gas stations will be.

    To counteract all the bad press that the damage the pucks cause the same huge multinationals will start pushing additives that will extend the life of your car – power liquids you can add. (They won’t really care if your car breaks down anyway because the same multinationals will have invested in the repair shops too)

    Pretty soon the short lifespan of the cars will seem normal and actual fuel will seem like a luxury only the rich can really afford. Think of 1984 – the chocolate ration has been increased to 2 grams from 4 grams.

    Thank you Big Brother.

    The best thing as always is to avoid the marketing by not exposing your susceptible children to it – whether you like television or not, it’s poison to young minds.

    Did you hear that some state on the west coast is banning toys in fast food meals unless they meet strict calorie/sugar/fat ratios?

  30. Mudmama – Oh! Very good and very, very true. I didn’t think this analogy out this far, but I can totally see how that would play out. I think we may have the makings of some sort of film here. That’s interesting about the toy bans. I wonder if it’s the same place that’s removing McDonald’s and other fast food places from the poorest neighbourhoods?

  31. Brett’s idea of butter and maple syrup mixed is of course a wonderful sauce but he should try some real maple butter on the bred he no longer eats.

  32. @Dave1949,

    I thought mine was closer to the real thing!

    But I don’t need the bread, if the point of the bread is to act as a delivery system for the maple butter, we have utensils in the house… 😉

    I’d get to eat more maple butter that way, because I wouldn’t fill up on the bread. See, there’s logic to this.

    Why eat one steak and a basket of bread, when I can eat two steaks, etc.

  33. Brett- I never heard of maple butter made with butter. Usually it’s just whipped or something like whatever they do with honey to make it that white honey.

    Dave1949 – Ya, I thought maple butter didn’t have butter in it. And wasn’t Brett also saying he didn’t eat dairy anymore?