Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Feast Of The Seven Nitrates

I have to go to food shopping today so we have something to feed our guests when they visit on Friday night. Usually, we have a few friends and family over on the night before Christmas Eve-- which we call Christmas Adam-- but my husband will be working on a cruise during Christmas week so the festivities are a little earlier than in years past.

Not only has Christmas Adam become a tradition in our house, but we also tend to serve the same food year after year... meatball sandwiches, potato salad, deviled eggs and such. All good, but always the same.

This year we briefly considered borrowing from the Italian tradition and hosting our own Feast of the Seven Fishes, but after listing four fishes on our shopping list we just simply ran out of fishes... shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, smoked salmon, canned tuna and then we blanked. When somebody brought up smelts, we quickly abandoned the idea altogether.

So, instead, we're having the Feast of the Seven Nitrates. After all, who doesn't love a good meat log during the holidays and no that's not a euphemism.

Sausage, pepperoni, lebanon bologna, chorizo, kielbasa, some meaty thing covered in pepper that I saw at Trader Joe's and a bowl of nitroglycerin for any guest who falls over from a heart attack.

Where's the Spam, you ask? Spam is the smelts of the smoked meat world. People either love it or hate it. We'll avoid Spam.

What is a nitrate, you ask? I went to the University of Minnesota website to find out. If anybody knows about meat logs, it's the folks in the heartland.
Nitrite in meat greatly delays development of botulinal toxin (botulism), develops cured meat flavor and color, retards development of rancidity and off-odors and off-flavors during storage, inhibits development of warmed-over flavor, and preserves flavors of spices, smoke, etc.
In other words, nitrates are the best tasting carcinogen out there.

Will you be killing your guests, you ask? Not according to my friends in the 32nd state.
The following information on nitrite toxicity is from "GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) Food Ingredients: Nitrates and Nitrites (Including Nitrosamines)," 1972. This report was prepared for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Battele-Columbus Laboratories and Department of Commerce, Springfield, VA 22151.

According to this source, the fatal dose of potassium nitrate for adult humans is in the range of 30 to 35 grams consumed as a single dose; the fatal dose of sodium nitrite is in the range of 22 to 23 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Lower doses of sodium or potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite have caused acute methemoglobinemia (when hemoglobin loses its ability to carry oxygen), particularly in infants, resulting from conversion of nitrate to nitrite after consumption. There is no confirmable evidence in the literature on the carcinogenicity (cancer-causing capacity) of nitrate as such.

It has been reported that people normally consume more nitrates from their vegetable intake than from the cured meat products they eat. Spinach, beets, radishes, celery, and cabbages are among the vegetables that generally contain very high concentrations of nitrates (J. Food Sci., 52:1632). The nitrate content of vegetables is affected by maturity, soil conditions, fertilizer, variety, etc. It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources. Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract. This has resulted in nitrite toxicity in infants fed vegetables with a high nitrate level. No evidence currently exists implicating nitrite itself as a carcinogen.
So, as long as I don't serve celery everybody's safe?! I feel so much better.

(My apologies to the nitrates for calling them carinogens. This is how ugly rumors get started.)

Next year, I'll be selling "The Feast of the Seven Nitrates" T-shirts on my website. They'll only come in X-Large because, after all that high-caloried meat, it'll be the only size that fits.

Feast away at humor-blogs.com.

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