They Are Trying to Kill Us All

Shawn is making a sauce and I am showing him how to use spaghetti squash instead of noodles, and I figured we would have a nice garden salad with some romaine, spinach, feta, tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, and red pepper, and being in a lazy mood, chose to just use one of those packets of Italian dressing seasoning with added oil, water, and vinegar, and on a lark, I read the label.

The #1 fucking ingredient is sugar. And it has MSG. Why isn’t it just seasonings and maybe some salt? These people are trying to kill us all. So it looks like we will be making our own herb packets to add to oil and vinegar from now on. There really is no way around it- unless you make it yourself you are eating poison.

79 replies
  1. 1
    Persia says:

    I made my own gravy tonight and am now wondering why I haven’t done it before.

    Though I’m skeptical that MSG is any worse than…well, anything.

  2. 2
    David Fud says:

    The food industry has worked for years to develop the most addictive products possible. While technically not drug pushers, they might as well be given the side effects of eating pre-packaged anything.

    My solution is to shop around the outside of the grocery store. It is simply too tempting to avoid the bad stuff that is sold in the aisles. Fresh, frozen, and simple food. You are doing it right by not trying to skip any steps.

    Enjoy your healthy dinner!

  3. 3
    nancydarling says:

    John, just dress your salad with a really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Grind some pepper on it and you’re done. That’s about all I ever use.

  4. 4
    Sawgrass Stan says:

    I’m ceaselessly amazed at how many things have unnecessary added sugar. Salad herb packs? God, why? Actually, tho, look at how much salt gets added to everything. Does “processing” food HAVE to be so poisonous?

  5. 5
    Jordan Rules says:

    I love making my own salad dressings. The possibilities are endless and usually quite easy. Most of the stuff you usually have stocked. Augment with some fancy vinegars, don’t lose your mustards, keep spices and herbs up to date and you are so good to go!
    Healthier and tastes better too!

  6. 6
    ally says:

    They are trying to hook us. I’ve read that the mix of sweet and salty is the most addictive taste there is.

    On the up side, you’ll be happy with your homemade dressings in no time. One way I like to make dressing is to mix olive or flax oil, a little mustard, a squirt of lemon (to taste), and dried thyme. A sprinkle of salt and pepper will finish it off, and give you just a fraction of how much salt is found in a store-bought dressing.

    Your post is extra timely in light of the new food labeling requirements announced today (re: added sugar)

  7. 7
    Abo gato says:

    Or olive oil and lemon juice, or a nice wine vinegar. You cannot go wrong with this.

  8. 8

    Making a vinaigrette is super easy. Takes some trial and error to get the ratios right and different herbs and such. Caveat: may involve mustard. the missing mustard.

  9. 9
    Pogonip says:

    Those little packets of “light” dressing are notorious for being mainly sugar water.

    So how do you make spaghetti squash stand in for the real thing? I have followed cookbook instructions exactly and been underwhelmed by the results.

    Another 6 to 10″ of snow expected Sunday. I expect the plague of frogs to begin any day now. At least with those we can eat the legs.

  10. 10
    Constance says:

    Tessemae’s salad dressings and marinades use olive oil and lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and a few spices. Delicious and safe.

  11. 11
    Mnemosyne says:

    Read Mindless Eating, which reveals many of the techniques food companies have developed to trick us into eating more.

    Also, if you get a really good-quality (i.e. mild) balsamic vinegar, you won’t need sugar to counteract the acid in the salad dressing. That’s a big part of the reason for the sugar in that mix — they’re assuming you’re going to use a cheap-ass, very acidic vinegar with it (in the Midwest, some people still used plain ol’ white vinegar to make dressing, the stuff that costs about $1 a gallon).

  12. 12
    cmorenc says:

    An ability to riff good vinagrettes from scratch isn’t very difficult at all, and tastes MUCH MUCH better than anything out of a packet.
    -olive oil
    -basalmic or wine vinegar
    -pepper (black + red pepper flakes)
    -any herbs you wish to add. Why prepackage them in packets? Just take a pinch of this, a pinch of that out of your collection of spice jars, try different combos of 2 or 3 things, and takes less time and hassle than preassembling packets.

    Now I like to add a bit of brown sugar, but you can skip that ingredient if you wish.

    Stir vigorously just before applying to salad or whatever.

  13. 13
    Schlemizel says:

    oil & vinegar dressing is the easiest thing in the world t make – no reason on earth to buy any shit to add to it. If you don’t have some nice herbs to toss in just use some of your fancy mustard (if you ever find it).

    I have a couple of great vinegars, a balsamic and a raspberry as well as a couple others so you can get a lot of flavor out of that. I use walnut, almond and black truffle oils depending on mood, greens and which vinegar I an using. Drop me a note if you need instructions but really 5 minutes with google & your own imagination will give you all the dressings you ever need.

  14. 14
    Svensker says:

    . @Pogonip:

    Another 6 to 10″ of snow expected Sunday. I expect the plague of frogs to begin any day now. At least with those we can eat the legs

    Isn’t it the truth? We have windchill of -35 tonite (C or F, pretty much the same in those regions). The wind was blowing so hard today it actually knocked me to the ground. A whole winter where I’ve successfully avoided being downed by ice and the frigging wind takes me out. Pain all over, skinned knees and palm, torn socks. Dang.

    And, yes, all the package stuff is crammed with sugar and salt.

  15. 15
    GeneJockey says:

    The #1 fucking ingredient is sugar. And it has MSG. Why isn’t it just seasonings and maybe some salt?

    Because they’re trying to sell a product? There’s already a product with seasonings, called Italian Seasoning. You can add salt to it. ;-)

    I grew up on homemade vinaigrettes. I’d be eating salads that way still except my wife thinks that the salad is a vehicle for the dressing, rather than dressing being there to enhance the salad. She’a also a big fan of Romaine, and not really a big fan of leaf lettuces.

    And it’s supposed to be sweet, or at least not tart..

  16. 16
    Mnemosyne says:


    The grain-free cognoscenti use one of these to noodle-ize zucchini and then “sweat” them in the oven to get rid of excess moisture.

    I am not grain-free, but I’ve had the zucchini version and they’re pretty darn tasty, especially with marinara or other tomato-based sauce.

  17. 17
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    If only I liked the taste of vinegar.

    Hence why I now mostly eat my veggies raw.

  18. 18
    MarkusOfarkus says:

    @Persia: Ha. Clicked on the thread to say exactly that. There are a million articles explaining how Chinese Restaurant Syndrome came about and why it’s nonsense. Here’s just one:

  19. 19
    ally says:

    From a review (at of David Kessler’s book The End of Overeating:

    At one point Kessler talks with a food consultant who explains saliently that the hedonics of food involves five factors – anticipation; visual appeal; aroma; taste and flavour; and lastly mouthfeel and that mass manufacturing and processing allows the food industry to control these variables like never before with partial frying (to add a layer of fat), chemical inclusions to add aroma and flavour, and an exacting addition of the perfect amounts of fat, sugar and salt to “dial-in” irresistabilty.

    Consuming these foods causes conditioning because they’re highly neurochemically rewarding. We learn that when we eat these foods we feel better, even if only momentarily, and in turn that will motivate us again and again to seek out those foods that our brain has recognized as positively reinforcing.

  20. 20
    mai naem says:

    John, I know you live in a small town but the next time you are in Pittsburgh or whatever big town you go to, go to a chinese/asian/middle eastern grocery store and look for spice mixes made in Europe. The South/SE Asian stuff, you have to look carefully at labels but a lot of the middle eastern stuff is made in Europe and EU rules seems to stricter in food ingredients. Also spices in those stores are dirt cheap compared to US grocery stores. Those little McCormick bottles are $2-$6 for just 2-3 ounces. The Asian stores will have 1-2 lb bags for easily under $10.

  21. 21
    Tim in SF says:

    There is no evidence – NONE – that MSG deserves the bad rap it has.

    One in a hundred people has any kind of reaction, and that reaction is *much* less than the hypochondriacs who grouse and whine.

    Google “msg facts and myths” or read the wikipedia page.

  22. 22
    scav says:

    you may need to check your mayo too. It’s actually not too hard to make either, esp. if you have a food processor.

  23. 23
    Bobby Thomson says:

    I stopped eating salad dressing years ago. Sometimes I might use salsa, or soy sauce (caution: sodium bomb), or mustard.

    Salad dressing just turns an incredibly healthy meal into the exact opposite.

  24. 24
    NotMax says:

    They may try to dazzle with science by saying it stands for monosodium glutamate, but we all know that MSG stands for Makes Stuff Good.

    Ingredient awareness and healthier eating is great, but don’t go all fanatic, please.

    Sometimes a Mallomar is just a Mallomar.

  25. 25
    The Other Chuck says:

    Screw the vinegar. Toss the greens with a little bit of oil and squeeze a meyer lemon over it once you serve it (not before, acid wilts greens). Add a little salt (it’s not really optional when you’re going minimalist) and as much pepper as you feel like.

  26. 26
    Aimai says:

    @nancydarling: yeah. Its not rocket science. Its arugula science. There are tons of easy and delicious home made dressings: vinegar, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, buttermilk, fresh herb, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, miso…

  27. 27
    The Other Chuck says:

    MSG is not helped by its very clinical-sounding name. The stuff comes from seaweed.

  28. 28
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Aimai: Groan.

  29. 29
    nancydarling says:

    My understanding is that MSG is a neuro-stimulant. It doesn’t add any flavor, but fools your taste buds into thinking they are tasting more.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    This. Don’t get hysterical, John. If you’re looking for people who actually are trying to kill us all, talk with the fracking folks.

  31. 31
    beergoggles says:

    Once u start using tahini sauce on ur salads u won’t try anything else ever again. Pressed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and tahini with a bit of salt. Even ranch dressing ain’t got nothing on that.

    MSG brings out umami. I haven’t found it to be bad and I use kombu in my broths pretty often.

  32. 32
    Vec says:

    You should check this out. I like using this because I’m lazy, and all the recipes are good.

  33. 33
    GeneJockey says:


    Yeah. Eating cheese and/or soy and complaining about MSG makes no chemical sense.

  34. 34
    David in NY says:

    John — follow everybody’s directions above, make your own dressing (don’t need packets — no good dressing has more than four, maybe five, ingredients — just add stuff to oil and vinegar). Do it for a month. Then try a packaged dressing — it will taste like the artificial shit it is, and you’ll never go back.

    And for starters, here’s Julia Child for classic French vinaigrette:

    1/2 to 2 Tb good wine vinegar
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp dry mustard (optional)
    6 Tb olive oil
    big pinch pepper
    1 to 2 Tb minced green herb or pinch dried (optional)

    I use 2-1 ratio oil to vinegar (I like vinegar), I often add finely minced fresh garlic (never, never, never dried), my wife likes to use prepared mustard, not dry, I sometimes use mayonnaise for half the oil,

    And you’re off.

    ETA: White wine vinegar is not so sharp as red, and other specialized types like sherry vin. are nice. Balsamic is something else entirely, and I use it by itself mostly.

  35. 35

    Make your own salad dressing. Fresh lime or lemon juice + olive oil works well

  36. 36
    karen marie says:

    Make your own Italian seasoning, and use it to make dressing – just add it to oil and vinegar and shake. I haven’t bought bottled dressing in years. It’s so delicious having a small batch of special dressing that suits the meal. This Greek dressing is fantastic!

  37. 37
    jl says:

    Sugar and salt and a little trans-fat
    Why’d you want any more than that?

    I remember a Colbert skit about how the processed food industry used nutritional research to perfect seasonings that always prompted you to eat more, but never satisfied your hunger.

  38. 38
    bemused says:

    Earlier today while looking for one thing on the tubes I got sidetracked to another topic. This happens a lot. I found diy recipes for dry salad dressing mixes, onion soup mix etc.
    You can make these as healthy as you want adding good oils and so on. There are many sites with these substitute recipes. I found several at under condiments.

  39. 39
    buskertype says:

    “salad” comes from the latin word meaning salted. don’t forget to add some salt to your home made salad dressing or else it’s not really a salad.

  40. 40
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Its not rocket science. Its arugula science.

    You didn’t. Tell me you didn’t.

  41. 41
    RSR says:

    Alton Brown: Veni Vedi Vinaigrette

    simple–5 ingredients; 1 hour rest time to let garlic permeate the dressing

    And yes, the food industry engineers products just as tobacco companies do–to satisfy just enough to crave more.

  42. 42
    Petorado says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m a big fan of zucchini noodles, especially when it gets to that time of year when people are giving away their zuke surplus. It’s pretty easy to get linguini-sized noodles just with a sharp knife. It’s amazing how similar the texture is to fresh pasta when you get out the extra moisture.

    Screw winter. Got my first seed starts going on the windowsill. Looking forward to spring.

  43. 43
    brettvk says:

    Mr. Cole, Lifehacker has anticipated your need:

  44. 44

    It’s St. Ronnie’s fault. Really. The USA massively subsidizes sugar production, and massively overproduces sugar, and this policy dates back to the Reagan administration.

    Yes, it’s a huge public health problem.

    BTW, MSG, I think, has a worse rep. than it deserves. Some people are sensitive, and that seems to be about the extent of the risk from it.

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tim in SF:

    MSG is a migraine trigger for some people. If you get a headache after eating MSG, it doesn’t mean that MSG is an evil food — it means that you are someone who gets migraines, and you should avoid MSG.

    This is sort of like my co-worker who doesn’t understand that the fact that she’s allergic to oatmeal (seriously, skin rash and wheezing allergy) doesn’t automatically mean that grains are bad for everyone else.

  46. 46
    dirge says:

    spaghetti squash instead of noodles

    Odd thing I was served at a restaurant recently: kelp noodles.

    They were a bit strange, but actually quite good.

  47. 47
    sparrow says:

    @beergoggles: Use tamari instead of salt, and add a bit of nutritional yeast, and you have my favorite dressing, ever.

  48. 48
    sparrow says:

    Also, find some GOOD balsamic vinegar, add a bit of good olive oil and some fresh dill, and you don’t need anything else. For the longest time I thought I didn’t like balsamic, but it turns out all the kinds in the store just suck. you need to get the expensive aged stuff.

  49. 49
    LAC says:

    @nancydarling: and an additional ingredient. A bit less anger. I have never seen someone like Cole take healthy eating and turn it into a joyless experience. Over the years, I have found the joy of making your sauces and dressings and not having stroke like anger about label reading.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:


    I think we’ve all figured out by now that Cole really enjoys being outraged.

  51. 51
    Persia says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yeah, seriously, a little Cole outrage is like salt in your salad dressing.

    Glad to see all of us standing up for MSG.

  52. 52
    James Gary says:

    FYI to Cole, in case he reads down this far: I hate to break it to you, buddy, but ALL packaged food is 100% salt, sugar, and other unhealthy crap. That’s not to say “don’t ever eat it”–but don’t be shocked when you actually read the ingredients on that bouillon cube, either.

  53. 53
    ruemara says:

    No offense, but there’s never a reason to use those silly packets. Dressings you make yourself are flavourful, boundless in variety, and with a properly stoppered bottle in the fridge, keep quite well. And read the ingredients as much as possible.

  54. 54
    John Cole says:

    @Mnemosyne: My brother suffers from migraines at least once a week and is on meds for them. I used to suffer them in high school but apparently outgrew them. The first one I had as a sophomore I started to feel dizzy, then lost all my peripheral vision and my left eye went blurry and I walked into a door, and then 30 minutes later I was vomiting and thought someone was putting an ice pick into my temple. I went home, and I had to put blankets over my windows because the slightest light or sound was like being stabbed in the head. Had a bunch of imaging tests done, and was diagnosed with migraines, and was told to explicitly avoid MSG, cold cuts, and a bunch of other stuff.

    So when shit has MSG in it and I had no idea it would, it shocks me because I had no idea. I’m outraged, but I am also mad at myself for not paying attention to what I was doing to myself for years. I’ve used that stuff for years when I was too lazy to make my own, and I knew there would be salt in it, but had no idea there was sugar and MSG. Hence the post.

    After the way I feel after just a couple weeks with relatively no sugar, no HFC, no wheat, no rice, and eating nothing but fresh produce with a balance of white meats and the occasional red meat, I am losing weight, my knuckles are half the size, I have twice the energy, my shoulders do not hurt, I have not taken an NSAID in two weeks, etc. Another freakish change I have not mentioned before is that my sinuses are completely clear for the first time in years and I am no longer taking an otc allergy med.

    So yeah, maybe I sound a little hyperbolic or evangelical, but I feel the same way about food now that I did when I converted from the GOP to the Democratic party. I’m shocked and embarrassed about how I was getting it all wrong- for me. Foods may not have the impact on others that they did on me, as we are all different, but discovering there was MSG and sugar in it was a shock, and I do feel like they are really poisoning us all.

  55. 55
    WereBear says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s a big part of the reason for the sugar in that mix — they’re assuming you’re going to use a cheap-ass, very acidic vinegar with it (in the Midwest, some people still used plain ol’ white vinegar to make dressing, the stuff that costs about $1 a gallon).

    Heavenly Lawd, my head just shriveled up to the size of an orange seed when I read that.

    But then, I ate at a Midwest buffet where they used lots of green food coloring in the Green Goddess dressing.

    Make the base of your dressing hemp oil. You’ll thank me later.

  56. 56
    Pogonip says:

    @Svensker: Yipe! Sorry you were hurt, happy it wasn’t worse. Either 1814 or 1816, I forget which, was The Year Without a Summer (caused by a huge volcanic eruption). 2014 may be the next Year Without a Summer; long-range forecast tonight was for at least two more weeks of wintry weather and a cold spring after that. And then one day in May or June it’ll suddenly be 95 fvcking degrees. We are losing our transitional seasons.

    I’ll try drying the spaghetti squash. It’s certainly a soggy mess the cookbook way.

  57. 57
    Wil says:

    How about a shout-out for fish sauce?

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:

    @John Cole:

    Like I said, if MSG gives you migraines, you should absolutely avoid it and look for it in prepared foods. But there was this bizarre hysteria for years about “MSG headaches” that claimed that MSG was bad for everyone because it caused headaches in some people. It took a while for doctors to realize it was a migraine trigger for people with migraines, not some weird intrinsic quality of MSG that caused headaches.

    That’s the only thing I’m saying. If MSG gives you migraines, avoid it. But its bad qualities are more than a little overblown for non-migraineurs.

    ETA: The link at #18 is really interesting in explaining the cultural dimensions of “no MSG.”

  59. 59
    Diana says:

    A thread dear to my heart …and kudos to cmorenc, Schlemizel, the other Chuck & Schrodinger’s cat for suggesting that you make your own salad dressing.

    It’s incredibly easy and you will never, but never, go back to anything store-bought again. However, I should warn you that the basic vinaigrette is a gateway drug. So, consider yourself warned. I personally have advanced to the stage where I own a minifood processor just for making salad dressings, but I love my addiction, my doctor loves my addiction, and I’m hoping you love yours. Because there is one thing in life that is neither immoral, illegal, nor fattening: making your own salad dressing.

    Start with a good olive oil, one you like (see if you like the taste in one of those fancy supermarkets where they ask you to test the olive oil) in a small bowl. Add to it lemon juice, fresh pepper, dried herbs, mix with a fork. You can add salt if you like, but if you grate any kind of hard cheese over the salad (which I highly recommend) you don’t need to.

    From here possibilities are endless. Balsamic vinegar in theory does not interact with any wine you might drink, hence its popularity in restaurants, but YMMV; any kind of good vinegar should do in its place. Good mustard is a nice addition; anchovies mashed in with the same fork you use to mix them are another. Capers also can provide salt if you aren’t using anything else with salt. I rarely add salt to anything because there are so many salted flavor-adding things that you can use instead — cheese, anchovies, capers, olives etc.

    But once you’re mainlining may I suggest the following, which comes from the 21 Club cookbook. The 21 Club in NYC was an high-end speakeasy during Prohibition where the wine cellar was kept in the basement of the neighboring brownstone townhouse, concealed behind a hidden door. After an 11-hour raid in 1932, in which the Feds never found the hidden door, the speakeasy reopened, again with the same nice winelist, and after that its reputation was made: no matter how stupid the nation, the 21 Club was a place where you could always count on having a nice wine with your meal.

    It took this theme further: during the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s many of its staff were European refugees (who by all accounts were more than a little mystified as to why the mongrel Americans were apparently waging war against alcohol), including Kaiser Wilhelm’s former chef, Henri Greib, half French and half German, who had fled Europe during the first World War. I have this from an old cook book put out in the 1980’s (I love restaurant cookbooks, all the recipes have been tested to death) which includes the world’s best salad dressing.

    Now this does require a food processor, but when you get there: put a few cloves of raw garlic, about a tablespoon of good mustard, two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (i.e. you better be squeezing an actual lemon), a bit less than a tablespoon of vinegar (which you can skip if you have lemon juice), a dash of Worcestershire sauce (which you cannot skip: it is the secret ingredient), and anchovies (you decide how much) into a small food processor. Hit the mix button for a few seconds. Add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of olive oil through the hole in the top while you push the mix button on the food processor; the mess inside will gradual turn pale yellowish. More olive oil, more mellow; less, more anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar etc. you will taste.

    When you think you have enough olive oil, add an egg yoke for richness, and you have the most awesome salad dressing in the world. (If you add the egg yoke in earlier you run the risk of making a highly flavored mayonnaise, which is not bad in and of itself, but doesn’t pour over lettuce.) As in Mayor Ed Koch had a copy of the recipe framed and hung at City Hall in NYC back when a normal person could afford NY (but wouldn’t move there because of the crime). It is awesome but you do need a food processor.

    Cole, sorry, this is a new world, but, like Democratic policy and politics, it is a wonderful one.
    OK maybe this was too much for a casual comment but homemade salad dressing, like blogging and pet cats, is just one of those minor little things that really enriches your life.

    Did I say a vinaigrette is a gateway drug? I did, didn’t I?

  60. 60
    lectric lady says:

    Penzey’s sells salad dressing mixes. They are wonderful, and you only need to add vinegar and oil.

  61. 61
    David in NY says:

    @sparrow: “GOOD balsamic vinegar”

    Now, that’s the trick. I often think it’s adulterated with corn syrup or something else evil. And I’m not sure the pricier stuff is any better. So while I use in moderation, I’m not totally sold on the product. (Some stuff, like arugula with bacon & balsamic, is a killer and I’m not sure the quality of the balsamic makes a difference.)

    So any hints for choosing good quality stuff would be welcome.

  62. 62
    ally says:

    @John Cole:

    MSG keeps me awake, heart racing, for hours if I accidentally eat it, so I try to avoid it. Most foods that have it are also loaded with salt.

  63. 63
    beergoggles says:

    @sparrow: The tamari I might have to try, although if it alters the color enough to make it look like baby poop, I will be turned off a bit.

  64. 64
    NotMax says:


    The best, bar none, bleu cheese dressing have ever had the pleasure to enjoy came out of the kitchen at a hotel I once worked at.

    Finally got in good enough with the elderly cook to get him to share the recipe.

    Problem is he prepared it in bulk in a (clean, dedicated for that use) 30-gallon trash container, stirring it with a large wooden paddle, and I have never been able to scale it down to taste just the same.

    Should an occasion arise requiring making salad dressing for 1500, though, am all set.

  65. 65
    Kevin says:

    John, i’m just shocked you, a guy who seems to know his way around the kitchen, uses store bought dressing. It is all so bad, regardless of the sugar or MSG.

    Just go basic. Olive oil. Some salt, some pepper, than choose a vinegar. So many to choose from, just make sure it’s something natural. Personally, finding balsamic a bit played out. Really liking the red wine vinegar right now. But no self respecting person uses store bought dressing!

  66. 66
    Geeno says:

    Fuck it. Made from scratch is always better anyway and you can tune it to your own particular taste (garlic heavy, in my case). It really requires more forethought rather than more time. Oh, I just noticed the problem for many people.
    My wife, bless her, is a huge believer in making from scratch and only trusting pre-made stuff she’s thoroughly researched. She wasn’t always like this, but since she’s gotten on the kick, everything tastes better and we feel better. Yes, it is more expensive for some meals (especially meaty meals – so hard to find trustworthy meat), but overall – not very much. But it does require planning and having ingredients in advance so you can spread the labor out – prep the various spices for the next few meals in one session so it’s not an extra task for each meal, etc.

  67. 67
    James E. Powell says:


    Like you, I was surprised – but I’ve been surprised before. John Cole’s just going to one of those periods of revision that characterize the life of a dynamic person. As far as salad dressings go, once you start making your own without anybody else deciding what goes in there, you tend to adjust to your own taste. Usually, the adjustment is to leave stuff out instead of add stuff in.

  68. 68
    TerryC says:

    @beergoggles: Tahini is easy to make at home too.

  69. 69
    Applejinx says:

    Try watching this video: Sugar: The Bitter Truth. I can’t think of anything more relevant to where Balloon Juice is at right now. The guy tries to breeze through the heavy biochemistry stuff knowing he’s talking to a layman audience, with moderate success, but I think it’s actually better since he’s a straight up Scientist and the stuff he’s saying is not crunchy-granola opinion but very dry and technical.

    I can take or leave MSG (I wonder whether maybe it has an effect on me, but it’s not headaches if it does) but sugar I treat like I’m boozing it up. It is literally a poison that damages you and screws up your body’s self-regulating mechanisms. If I eat sugar, it’s on purpose, not because it was snuck into my salad dressing or pizza crusts/sauce or meat—and there is no such thing as ‘good sugars’, fresh fruit only gets by to the extent that it has fiber.

    The video guy is hilarious on that. ‘Did you ever see a piece of sugar cane? IT’S A STICK.’ Naturally occurring sugar happens in conjunction with fiber, and that’s the first thing to go when you process food.

  70. 70
    Emily says:

    Here’s the best oil & vinegar dressing ever:
    For two servings of greens:
    mince a clove of garlic and put it in the bottom of the salad bowl
    add 1 tsp wine vinegar
    whisk in 1 tbsp olive oil (dribble it in slowly and whisk like crazy so it’s all emulsified)
    add salt and pepper to taste
    add the salad greens and toss.

    This tastes the best, there’s no puddle of dressing down at the bottom of the bowl and it’s way less expensive than bottled dressing.

  71. 71
    Trinity says:

    @Emily: I am going to try this this weekend! Thanks!

  72. 72
    dave says:

    @Jordan Rules:

    This x 100.

    All you need is oil, vinegar and mustard. Substitute lemon for vinegar sometimes. Mince some shallots if you have time. Add some dried herbs. Use real balsamic vinegar rather than the balsamic water you get at the supermarket. Sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice or cider vinegar for an asian dressing.

    It literally takes 5 minutes to make dressing. No need for “flavor packets”.

  73. 73
    dave says:


    You should add at least a little mustard to this. It greatly helps the emulsification process. Thta way you don’t have to stream the oil while whisking like a lunatic.

  74. 74
    Tata says:

    A few drops – seriously, just drops – of toasted sesame oil added to simply dressed greens are a reason to live.

  75. 75
    Charity says:

    If you are looking for a good Caesar salad dressing recipe, I highly recommend this one. I usually halve it, cut down on the oil a bit, up the lemon, and add some dried basil and thyme. Delish! A little goes a long way and it keeps for a while in the fridge.

  76. 76
    russell says:

    just wanted to second the recommendation of Penzeys for seasonings and spices.

    fresh, excellent quality, and you can buy small amounts that won’t sit in your cupboard for ten years and turn into dust.

  77. 77
    Jay in Oregon says:

    And I’ve already been beaten (twice!) to the recommendation for Penzeys.

    If you have a spice that you use a lot of (oregano, curry powder) you can buy bags in bulk and save on the price. I usually buy a jar so I know which spices I’ve upgraded to Penzeys, and then use the bag to refill it.

  78. 78
    grumpy realist says:

    We’ve got a Penzey’s here in Oak Park which means I can get all sorts of wonderful stuff like Szechuan peppercorns and Vietnamese cinnamon (sweeter than the standard stuff.)

    Here’s a carrot salad for minimalists:

    Zen carrot salad (1-2 people)
    1-2 carrots, finely grated
    chopped parsley (enough to sprinkle green throughout)
    grated lemon zest (1/4 tsp)
    salt, pepper (as you wish)
    cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar (1/2-1 tsp)
    few drops toasted sesame oil

    The idea is to balance the tastes and flavours out. This should be a sensory delight for the nose as well as a treat for the taste buds.

  79. 79
    ron says:

    theres nothing wrong with MSG. do some research.

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