California Forum

It’s July Fourth. Eat like you’re politically incorrect.

Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream? Politically dubious.
Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream? Politically dubious. MCT

As edible patriotism, hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake should be non-partisan traditions on the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, this celebration seems increasingly to conflict those who try to eat healthy and green.

Every bite doesn’t have to be a vote. If ever a holiday menu were built for rebellion, it’s this one. So I’m taking a leap and offering a word in defense of a politically incorrect table this holiday.

Hot dogs. Are they virtuous? No. Even if an animal was massaged and slept in a climate-controlled suite, its muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, lips, head meat, feet, blood, liver and other edible by-products are fair game to a hotdog maker. Nitrites cure them and make them pink. Good people who want to avoid nitrites (which you can’t really do because it’s in our saliva) use celery juice. Why bother? The rest of the country will consume about 150 million of them.

Every bite doesn’t have to be a vote. And if ever a holiday menu were built for rebellion, it’s this one.

Burgers: Grain-fed beef along with their industrially farmed livestock brethren emit more methane-based greenhouse gas into the air than car exhaust. Rainforests are downed to make pastures for cattle to graze. This is how vegetarians are made.

You have 364 other days to ponder the detriments of red meat, including what you’re missing – B12 (vital for brain function), protein (a word derived from the Greeks, meaning “first in life”), all nine amino acids, and zinc, which is good for your complexion. Lists of brain food often include a serving of lean beef a week. This is your week.

Buns: As satirist Fran Lebowitz once said, bread that is more comfortable than a couch can’t be good for you. The typical grocery store bun, even it’s got whole wheat, is not a first-choice carb.

Corn on the cob: Most corn on the cob sold in national chains starts life as a Monsanto GMO seed variety. Even its sweetness is engineered. This is the company that told us Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe. It’s your choice.

But genetically modified organisms are hard to avoid. The book “Tomorrow’s Table” argues for a blend of genetic engineering and organic farming. It was written by the market garden coordinator at the organic farm at UC Davis who is married to the book’s other author, a UC geneticist who engineered rice to resist disease and tolerate flooding so southeast Asians wouldn’t starve. If they can dine together, can’t we all get along? At least for a day?

Whipped cream: We don’t really love skim or low-fat milk. Coffee shops can’t move it fast enough for the health department’s two-hour window of safety. Some keep it chilled in back, on demand.

Instead, we drain the 18 percent fat half-and-half carafe so often it’s replenished regularly. Besides, low-fat milk won’t whip. Only cream with 36 percent to 40 percent fat can do this. Enjoy the miracle, with strawberry shortcake.

Strawberries: What could possibly be politically incorrect about sweet, juicy strawberries? Here’s a fruit with antioxidants, polyphenols, Vitamins C, A, K, D, thiamin, riboflavin – the list goes on. Only problem is, strawberries are the No. 1 agricultural product most heavily-laden with pesticides.

No dessert for you? I doubt it. You can think about the environmental consequences later. A week of kale should take care of one day in the pursuit of happiness.

Elaine Corn is an award-winning author, former food editor and founder of the Sacramento chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She can be contacted at