Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Herbes de Provence and Hydrogenated Oil

Herbes de Provence is EASY to figure out at a literal level: dried herbs typical of Provence. Yep. But what exactly does that entail?

The mixture began selling commercially sometime in the 1970’s. When you buy Herbes de Provence these days, however, there is no guarantee that the herbs grew in Provence. It’s in the style of, not necessarily, the reality of, Provence.

The blend, Herbes de Provence, traditionally contains savory, marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary. For American markets, lavender leaves are included in Herbes de Provence (it looks so pretty with the little purple pieces!) though lavender isn’t typical of cooking in Southern France.

Make your own blend easily or purchase it in the spice section of your grocery store. I use mine to flavor salad dressing, sprinkle on meat before cooking, or to flavor a marinade.

Hydrogenated Oil: Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

By now everyone in America knows you should avoid hydrogenated oils, but why, and just what the heck is hydrogenated oil?

Did you know that hydrogenated oil, chemically, is just one molecule away from plastic? Chew on that!

If that weren’t enough to convince you to avoid hydrogenation, the documented health issues related to consumption of hydrogenated oils is legion. Why do you think there is such the rush to produce foods--and label them such--with 0 trans fats? Manufacturers know that the bad press of hydrogenated oils sends folks, and their dollars, in search of alternatives.

Solid shortening and margarine are common examples of trans fats (which is what healthful fats are converted into through hydrogenation). Never make cupcake frosting with Crisco ever again! I always use butter. It is by far the better food choice than faux lard or margarine.

If it’s so bad, why hydrogenate at all? When hydrogen gas is forced into oil under high pressure, a new type of fatty acid is created--trans fat. Hydrogenated oils have a longer shelf life and therefore more stability (don’t go rancid as soon). However, the deleterious health effects make these fats a no-no for all of us.

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