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The Essential Vegetarian

Fast Food Nation

By Katharyn Jeffreys

staff writer

I received a disturbing e-mail this week, which was sent to the Vegetarian Student Group mailing list <>. The writer had seen an article discussing Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation, which indicated that animal products are used in flavoring McDonald’s french fries <>. The article relates that “the legendary ‘subtle something’ that makes McDonald’s french fries a cut above the competition used to come from frying the fries in beef tallow. But when McDonald’s switched to vegetable oil in 1990, it wanted to maintain the subtle beef taste, so the company added a ‘natural flavor’ made at a flavor factory.” The originator of the e-mail wrote to McDonald’s to verify this, and received confirmation that “for flavor enhancement, McDonald’s french fry suppliers use a minuscule amount of beef flavoring as an ingredient in the raw product.” It went on to say that, “The reason beef is not listed as an ingredient is because McDonald’s voluntarily (restaurants are not required to list ingredients) follows the ‘Code of Federal Regulations’ (required for packaged goods) for labeling its products. As such, like food labels you would read on packaged goods, the ingredients in ‘natural flavors’ are not broken down.”

This is another example of the fast food industry’s not considering vegetarian needs. Vegetarians can either pretend they don’t know about these “minuscule” bits of animal contaminating their food, or switch to a diet that contains less processed foods and more certified vegetarian foods. I personally draw the line to include most processed foods, because of convenience. However, ideally I would cook with products that do not contain questionable “natural flavors.”

Over the weekend I went to Bangkok Blue, located on Boylston, just across from the library. As the name implies, the restaurant serves Thai food. However, I was less than impressed. I ordered the spicy tofu, but asked for it to be prepared slightly less spicy. Nonetheless the spice nearly drowned out the flavors of the food. There were maybe six wedges of tofu mixed in with some mushrooms, baby corn, snow peas, and a whole mess of bamboo shoots. I would have liked more tofu and less bamboo, but was full after pulling out the “good stuff” from the plate. The menu contained a whole section of vegetarian options, but none of the specials and few of the appetizers (which I had heard were wonderful) were vegetarian. In addition, some of the vegetarian dishes were served on oyster sauce, a quirk I have found at many Asian restaurants that really irks me. The service was relatively good; the waitress was attentive without being overbearing. The decor was very bright, with painted tile tables, glass bricks on the wall, and bright lights hanging just above every table. We went in at a little after eight on a Saturday night, and there was no wait at all, even for a party of six.

I love potatoes, and since McDonald’s french fries are now off limits, here is an alternative potato recipe that you can eat with your fingers as well.

Potato Appetizers

Preheat the over to 375º. Peel and chop potatoes. Place potatoes in a pot of water and cover. Boil until soft.

Mash cooked potatoes with oil and then add salt and pepper. Shape mix into 1-inch balls. Mix paprika and wheat germ together in a separate dish. Roll potato balls in paprika and wheat germ mixture until coated. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let stand on folded paper towels before serving with toothpicks.