October 05, 2012

Chill it and grill it | Arsenic in your rice

When I first came upon this post about grilled polenta I was very excited. We had just acquired our first gas grill and I was grilling everything in sight. I love polenta and couldn't wait to try it on the grill, and, I just knew Cadry's post was going to be one of my links for the first week of vegan mofo. What I didn't know was that my photo was going to look like this. I pictured the polenta all golden with toasty grill marks - you know, like Cadry's.

Around the same time, I had a copy of Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker to review, and I decided to try the recipe for chipotle-polenta bake. The polenta was delicious, and I had what seemed like a brilliant idea to use the leftovers on the grill. I carefully pressed the leftover polenta into an eight-inch square dish, and refrigerated it overnight. The polenta was nice and firm the next day, and I didn't anticipate any problems. OK, so I knew the polenta was kind of brown and not gold, and might not be as pretty as plain polenta, but what I didn't consider was my polenta had things in it - beans and corn, for example - that might affect its cohesiveness.

What started out as polenta squares soon started crumbling once they hit the grill, and ended up being roundish and uneven. And they were brown. Oh well. They tasted good even if they looked like ... $@&?/#. Next time - plain polenta!

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Arsenic with your rice?
Have you been reading about the alarming amount of arsenic that has been found in rice? And I don't just mean bags of grain - I mean rice cakes, baby rice cereal, rice flour, rice pasta, rice crackers, rice syrup, rice crispies - all rice products. It doesn't matter if they are organic or conventional, brown or white, all rice products are affected, though rice from different growing areas may contain more or less arsenic. And from what I've read, brown rice is worse than white. Arsenic has been used in pesticides that have been applied to fields, and also fed to farm animals whose arsenic-tainted excretions are used for fertilizer. Did you know, for example, that chickens are fed arsenic to make their flesh pinker? (Chicken manure plays a big roll as fertilizer in certain states with large chicken production.) Arsenic is believed to cause skin, bladder and lung cancer.

Rather than reproduce material that's already available, I'm providing two links with information about arsenic in rice, and I encourage you to read them, especially if you are pregnant or cooking for children. The Consumer Reports article gives a complete report including name brands and how much arsenic the products contain.

I'm adding a third link about arsenic, and other unwelcome additions to animal feed. This affects not just those who consume animals, but all of us. Manure from arsenic-fed animals is used for fertilizer, adding arsenic to the soil.

Consumer Reports: Arsenic in Your Food

Getting Arsenic Out of Your Diet  EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Arsenic in Our Chicken? Nick Kristof op-ed NY Times


29 comments:

  1. Well it definitely looks good, even if it didn't turn out as you planned :)

    And now I'm worried about rice (I have some cooking right now!) Thanks for the links

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    Replies
    1. It tasted good, too, but it didn't make for an inviting photo.

      I'm worried about rice, too. Our environment is so polluted.

      Delete
  2. But it does look so tasty! We bought a grill a couple of weeks ago but we still haven't used it. It's either too hot or too rainy to grill outside!

    It seems to make too much sense to keep arsenic away from anything people eat. Unbelievable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too hot, too cold, too late, too dark — none of those have stopped our grill-fever. Too rainy hasn't been tested yet. We'll see.

      If sensible people were in charge, the world would be a happier place.

      Delete
  3. The polenta looks just fine to me no matter what color it turned out. I especially love the grilled veggies next to it

    I'm going to have to read those links. I had no idea & now I'm wondering how on earth it gets on organic rice. Ugh!

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    1. Think about what organic foods are fertilized with. I read somewhere that the states with the most chickens had the rice with the most arsenic, because so much arsenic-laced chicken poop was used on the crops.

      I think I'll be eating more polenta, millet, buckwheat and quinoa.

      Delete
    2. Ah, that makes sense!

      Yeah, we won't be cutting rice out completely, but other grains will definitely be making appearances much more often. Mike has rice milk every morning on his cereal & will be switching to almond milk once he uses it up. Thanks for posting this, Andrea!

      Delete
  4. Grilled polenta sounds great!! What fun to try new things on your new grill.

    I've been following the rice issue ever since the baby formula with brown rice syrup was recalled early in the year. It's alarming that more and more of our food supply is tainted with poisons!

    I've cut way back on rice and rice products. But, we still eat it once in a while.

    I took a bit of a summer hiatus away from the blogs, but I've missed you guys!
    And, I had to check back in for MoFo.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. ROSE! I was so happy to see your name pop up. I've missed you!

      The safety of the food supply is something to be alarmed about. There's a big recall on for peanut butter that just got expanded to other nut butters, in addition to the arsenic problem. I'm cutting back on rice, too, and planning to buy varieties with the least amount of arsenic, though that's small comfort.

      Delete
  5. Haha! I didn't realize that was the polenta in the middle. I thought you were talking about the yellow in the background off to the side.
    I only recently heard about the arsenic... I was waiting for the bus outside the supermarket and an older woman started talking to me about voting and politics and then said "I hope you didn't buy any rice!" Sad stuff. Thanks for the links.

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    1. Exactly. Polenta should be yellow. Maybe I should have photoshopped it. :)

      I know that rice soaks up more contaminants because of the way it's grown, but it's probably just a matter of time before other contaminated foods are found.

      Delete
  6. ooooooh yum! and arsenic! oh my gosh!!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Arsenic isn't what we want in our food.

      Delete
  7. The arsenic thing bums me out because most peeps don't even get that VEGANIC farming would solve this.....Sigh.
    Shat my pants when I saw "Veganic Farming" on a food package the other day. Good to see.
    Polenta looks SO amazing although I would never even attempt it because I can't make ANYTHING stick together and am LAZY!! But it LOOKS amazing!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Veganic farming is a hard sell as long as animals are raised for food - what would happen to the billions of pounds of manure, blood meal and bone meal? It's a horrible circular system.

      I'd love to know what you bought that said veganic on the package.

      You could make polenta. It's soft when you first cook it, and really delicious. after it's refrigerated it gets firm and you can pan fry it. So good. You can also cheat and buy it in a tube, already cooked and ready to sizzle.

      Delete
  8. I'm sorry to laugh at your pain, but that story about the polenta had me cracking up as I read the whole debacle to David. I'm glad at least that it tasted good, even if it didn't agree with you on the grill. I hope your subsequent grilled polenta attempts are more successful!

    That bums me out about the rice. I wonder if they've tested other grains to see what the levels are there. I enjoy barley, bulgur, and farro, and I wouldn't mind just eating those instead if it would help. (I'm not eager to give up rice milk, though. That's my go-to favorite!)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thank you for recognizing my pain - even if by laughter. :) Plain polenta is what I should have made, and is what I usually make, but the chipotle-polenta sure was delicious, if not pretty.

      You might want to cut down on rice milk and alternate with other milks just to be safe. But is it even avoidable? I wonder how much arsenic is in fruits and vegetables grown in contaminated soil and irrigated with contaminated water. If much of the arsenic is coming from livestock waste used as fertilizer, it's everywhere!

      Delete
    2. I also wanted to let you know that because of you I've been looking up information on silent film actress, Sadie Thompson. It's so funny that your mom made you dress as her for multiple years, even though you didn't even know who she was. I bet you were awfully cute, though!

      Delete
  9. Oh I thought this post was going to be about the movie , "arsenic in old rice". Great shoutout to Cadry's yellow brick road polenta.
    Congrats on the grill. Everything lookks great. Thank you for that scary info. It's good to know.
    Crazy boy likes a couple of rice cakes during the day with PB, today I will encourage him to have triple that amount.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It's a remake — "arsenic and new rice." Scary readings just in time for Halloween.

      You could add some rice syrup to the peanut butter (is it one of the recalled brands of peanut butter?) and serve it with a tall glass of rice milk.

      Delete
    2. Can't wait to see the remake ;)

      Fantastic ideas, Andrea. First I must renew his life insurance policy.

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    3. I perceive that Larry has a very highly developed sense of humor — but I still feel bad ... I'm sensitive, you know.

      Delete
  10. The trick to ideas that don't quite pan out as expected is to rename them something else, like Super Delicious Grilled Patty. :-) I've been following the arsenic in rice thing, so bummed. It's getting to the point where I'm a little frighten to eat anything.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ha! Too late for this super delicious grilled patty but maybe next time.

      I know what you mean about being worried. It's bad enough to have tons of junk food in the food stream, now we have contamination of an important grain.

      Delete
  11. Yep, still looks pretty good to me, even if it didn't turn out as you planned! Grilled veggies look fantastic too!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Good, yes. Pretty,no. :). I was hoping for a pretty photo for mofo.

      Delete
  12. hi
    Andrea
    u simply made me hungry
    I think I’ll be making that for dinner next week
    Continental Treat Fine Bistro

    ReplyDelete
  13. Grilled polenta looks fab. Arsenic in such a widely available and used foodstuff is so disturbing/scary. Thanks for the info and links.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You're welcome. It makes me wonder what else we don't know about our food supply.

      Delete

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