During the last three years I worked at WordPerfect, I worked in the International Documentation department. I did all the coordinating of the print jobs for the Scandinavian languages. One of the coolest part of my job was that many of the technical writers and typesetters came from Scandinavia. I loved just wandering through the offices (usually while the back up files were coping. You know, on the enormous Jazz drives we used then) listening to all of the different foreign languages people were speaking in.
(While my talents for learning languages are fairly limited, one of the useless skills I picked up from this time in my life is my ability to recognize what language is being spoken around me. It's a valuable party trick.)
Sometimes these people from Norway and Sweden and Finland went back home to visit, or to Europe for vacations, and they'd always bring back something delicious. The day that changed my life is the one when Oyvind Ragnistidfelt (I don't actually remember how to spell his last name, but I can still pronounce it) came home from a trip to Denmark—and brought back Nutella to share.
Oh my. Spreadable chocolate and hazelnuts? I was in heaven. But alas: aside from that blissful afternoon in the upstairs conference room with bagels and two Nutella containers, I was not to reacquaint myself with the delectable delight for many years. More than a decade, in fact, until one day when I'd nearly forgotten about it, I discovered Nutella.
Well. For awhile I was a zealous Nutella missionary, spreading the good word about chocolate and hazelnut. I discovered my favorite way to eat it: spread on top of a croissant (those big ones that they sell at, yes, Costco), with some raspberry jam on top. My mom, my sisters, my kids, my friends: I introduced a lot of people to it.
(Is it just a Utah thing? Or does your Costco also sell this enormous Nutella container?)
And then I started reading food labels.
This can be blamed on Kendell's heart issues. And Kaleb's. Not that I ignored nutrition before then, but I started spending much more time reading about how what we eat influences our health.
Sometimes it feels like this: pick a food, and you can find someone to tell you that it's good for you, and someone else to tell you that it's bad for you. I was recently disabused of the idea that my post-workout smoothies are good for me, because apparently when you grind up the berries in the blender (or freeze any fruit, or refrigerate it, or maybe do anything other than stand under the tree eating the fruit like a deer) you destroy the sugar-negating fiber. Sigh.
But all the bickering in the nutrition world aside, what nearly everyone seems to agree on is that hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are bad for you. Never, ever good.
So I went about eliminating them in our diet.
This doesn't mean we're paeans of food virtue. We still eat sugar, wheat bread, white rice, tortillas, and pasta. (I'm not sure life is worth living without an occassional plate of regular, good old fashioned white spaghetti.) We still drink soda sometimes (far less than my 44-ounces-a-day past habit), but usually when I do buy it it's in the Throwback form (no HFCS).
But I am sort of a dictator when it comes to trans fats. I cook with butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and, very occassionally, saffron oil. No shortening. Never any shortening. (I'm still trying to perfect my all-butter pie crust. It is not easy.) And no hydrogenated anything. And while there isn't (now) any hydrogenated oils in Nutella, it's still a pretty ugly list of ingredients. Especially the sugar and palm oil at the beginning. There used to be hydrogenated palm oil, so at least they've changed that, but still:
Nutella is a nutritional disaster.
Anything that is 55% sugar is. Even though it's got hazelnuts! (I'm a nut proponent.) (Curb your nut jokes. I have three sons and a husband. I've heard them all.) And skim milk!
All of which is to say. Last week one of my friends posted on Facebook that it was a hot chocolate and nutella kind of day, and I commented with something about not eating it anymore, and then I felt like a Nutrition Nazi. Which, as I have a relative who really is a Nutrition Nazi (the dude at the party who will stand by you and tell you why everything on your plate is bad for you. Even the carrots. And don't get him started on those black beans...), is something I strive not to be.
I've been feeling bad ever since.
So even though I can tell you 1,287 reasons you shouldn't eat hydrogenated oils, I'm going to resist. I hope you don't eat them. But I promise that, unless I mess up on Facebook, I won't ever tell you not to.