Grandma made a wicked pecan pie, and so did Mom, and I’ve baked a pecan pie or two myself. I might bake one again some day. So I was very interested to learn, from Liz Gutman at Serious Eats, the difference between traditional, regular corn syrup, and the relatively new-fangled high fructose corn syrup that people are so worked up about these days. Here is the lowdown:
Corn syrup is made by adding an enzyme to cornstarch that breaks it down into sugars. This is exactly the same way that brown rice syrup, barley syrup, and many other corn syrup alternatives are made: same process, different grain. HFCS undergoes further enzymatic processing, increasing the amount of sweeter fructose, which is then mixed with straight corn syrup to achieve a desired sweetness and/or texture.
Of course, that’s not all; Gutman has more to say about the differences between old-school corn syrup and the radically different HFCS, so check it out.
Now, from the Corn Refiners Association, comes a TV commercial called “Brothers.” The older bro, strangely reminiscent of Wally Cleaver, catches his younger sibling eating a breakfast product saturated with high fructose corn syrup, and delivers a scathing put-down. The wiser, younger brother, strangely reminiscent of the Beav, puts the smart aleck in his place by revealing that HFCS is nutritionally the same as sugar.
Funny thing about that: apparently, HFCS both is, and is not, nutritionally the same as sugar. Not exactly. We have remarked on the research from Princeton University showing that, calorie for calorie, HFCS somehow transmutes into more actual body fat than refined sugar does. In other words, although a dose of either sweetener may contain the same amount of fuel, which theoretically ought to supply the same amount of energy, the body mysteriously decides to retain more of the HFCS calories and paste them onto your hips.
The younger brother also chastens the older by saying that HFCS is made from corn. The implication being, of course, that corn is a vegetable, and everyone knows that vegetables are good for you.
Well, as Dr. Pretlow points out, another commodity made from corn is booze, but few people would feed their kids moonshine for breakfast. It’s always very tempting for creative folks to satirize any logical fallacy the ancient Romans had a name for, or any argument described by Schopenhauer in his “Stratagems.”
In fact, some creative folks took this concept and ran with it, making a parody “Sweet Surprise” commercial. It starts with a young man cooking up a spoon of heroin. When his friend objects, the boy with a tourniquet on his arm reminds the friend that opium is a natural product made from poppies.
This does bring back memories. I once brought home something yummy from the farmers’ market and told my less-than-enthusiastic boyfriend, “It’s organic.” To which he replied, “So is manure, but I don’t eat that either.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Serious Chocolate: Corn Syrup vs. HFCS,” SeriousEats.com, 06/30/10
Source: “Brothers,” Youtube.com
Source: “HFCS ‘Brothers’ Ad Parody — Sweet Surprise,” YouTube.com
Image by chadmiller, used under its Creative Commons license.