Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This has to win some sort of prize.

I have, in the palm of my hand, a small, silvery, innocent looking packet of snack mix, obtained on a Horizon Airlines flight.

It is called Northwest Nibbles (first eyebrow raised) and is manufactured by some corporation called Delyse. The back of the packet has a little metallic pink fleur-de-lys, next to which is printed in cursive: "J'adore Delyse" (oops, there went the second eyebrow).

It contains -- are you ready? -- no fewer than forty-four ingredients. That's counting the ingredients-within-the-ingredients (the parenthetical ingredients, as it were) rather than what I guess you would have to call superordinate ingredients (the things that the ingredients-within-the-ingredients make up). For example, one superordinate ingredient is Ranch Rice Triangles. But obviously that's not an actual ingredient, so they have to list the actual ingredients within that ingredient, like so: "Ranch Rice Triangles (Rice Flour, Yellow Corn Masa, Safflower Oil, Ranch Seasoning (Buttermilk, Salt, Dried Onion, Garlic and Tomato, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Toru a Yeast, Corn Syrup Solids, Nonfat milk, Whey, Soy Grits, Dried Cheddar Cheese (..."

I had several thoughts while transcribing that small portion of the ingredients list, which I put below in chronological order of occurrence. I would have put them in parentheses as I went, but there seemed to be a run on that particular punctuation mark at the time. Speaking of which:

1. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to close the parentheses, once you open them. You can't just keep parenthetically listing subingredients for all time. It's unfair to the grammarians of the world, and to the expectant reader who continues on, word after word, in increasing confusion about which sub-sub-sub-subingredient is being listed now. I thought there might be a collection of lost closing parentheses at the end -- something like "...Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Salt) ))))" -- but there was nothing of the sort. I feel disoriented and linguistically distraught.

2. This thing must fail every single food rule that Michael Pollan has in his book of that name. It is like the Anti-Pollan. I wonder what would happen if they collided. Possibly a new project of interest for CERN.

3.  I'm not generally prone to paranoid thinking, but why does the internet disconnect whenever I rest the packet on the edge of my laptop?

4. Why is "Garlic and Tomato" one ingredient?

5. What in the world is Toru a Yeast? Surely that must be a typo? A typo for what?

6. Why does Corn Syrup Solids merit capitalization for every word, whereas Nonfat milk only gets a capital N?

7. They still haven't closed the parentheses??

8. Ew.


  1. According to Wikipedia, torula yeast
    "is widely used as a flavouring in processed foods and pet foods. It is produced from wood sugars, as a byproduct of paper production." It supposedly adds a "gentle, slightly meaty taste" - similar to the flavor-enhancement provided by MSG, but with a name that sounds "natural."

  2. Mmm, a paper production byproduct used in pet food! I've been looking for a secret ingredient to add to my trail mix...