Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Mixed Tocopherols

From my childhood Christmas tree ornament to mochi, crumpets and milk and molasses, from the winter rains of San Francisco to listening to the vinyl record of Czech Christmas carols, these December blogposts seem to be yearning for signs of continuity, unbroken lines with the past that enlarge the present and point to the future. And today’s breakfast unveiled another one: Shredded Wheat. 


Given the hyper pace of change, it’s rather remarkable that the Shredded Wheat I ate as a child is the same as that which I ate this morning, with the same ingredient: Wheat. Simple. Tasty. Nutritious. Entirely itself without having to be dressed up. Nothing to be improved in some weird notion of progress. No compulsion to take it off the shelves just because it has been there for so long. One point for my favorite team: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Of course, it’s not completely au natural. Next to the ingredient “wheat” it says: “with some mixed tocopherols to preserve freshness.” Hmm. Wondering if my childhood shredded wheat also contained those mixed tocopherols. Perhaps that is a sign of progress— nothing feels wholly right in food without some mixed tocopherols to round it out. Ha ha! 


So I’ll save you the trip to Wikipedia and give you your trivia fact of the day:


“Alpha-tocopherol in dietary supplements and fortified foods is often esterified to prolong its shelf life while protecting its antioxidant properties. The body hydrolyzes and absorbs these esters (alpha-tocopheryl acetate and succinate) as efficiently as alpha-tocopherol On the basis of the comprehensive experimental and clinical data available on alpha-tocopherol, the chemical and biological similarity of the alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols and the information available on the levels of tocopherols used as food antioxidants, it is concluded that tocopherols are safe food ...”


Memorize that paragraph and recite it at your next social gathering. People will either quickly retreat to the other side of the room or give you an honorary doctorate. But at least if you find yourself eating breakfast alone the next morning, you can look forward to the comfort food of Shredded Wheat and thank the scientists that it feels so remarkably fresh, thanks to — well, now you know—mixed tocopherols. 

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