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Sep 16, 2012 03:19 PM

Foods that are Unfairly Maligned

In the spirit of the "foods that don't live up to their reputation" , what foods do you think have an unfairly BAD reputation?

for me:

american chinese food. casseroles. "american cuisine" as a category. anchovies.

i think most of these get a pretty bad rap, but i actually think in a lot of cases they're all pretty great! what food for you, personally, exceeds its reputation?

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  1. I think it's sad that some people seem to be embarrassed by liking foods that the trendy ones deem unfit.

    Also sad that people won't try the new things that the trendy ones are espousing.

    1. Love this thread. I was just having a conversation with my SO that "American Chinese" food is unfairly attacked to the extent that it is. I think that most would consider my diet fairly "clean" - mostly organic, unprocessed, grass fed, etc- with nearly all meals prepared at home, but from time to time I enjoy a big plate of General Tso's chicken and fried rice. I used to have a lot of guilt whenever I indulged, but then realized that all of this was related to the widespread media driven opinion which has equated Chinese food to instant death. I no longer feel guilt. While it's not the healthiest food on the planet, most batter-fried Chinese food dishes are protein based dishes (chicken, shrimp, beef, etc.), and the additional smattering of more fat and sugar than you should usually eat on top does not make them things that should be labeled completely devoid of nutrition and "do not eat ever" foods. The occasional increased intake of saturated fat and sugar will not send one to an instant grave. +1 for Chinese food as an occasional treat. Life in moderation and balance.

      23 Replies
      1. re: fldhkybnva

        agreed! moreover, i feel it's kind of garbage that people say "oh, that's just an AMERICANIZED chinese dish", as if that somehow automatically makes it 1) horrible for your health, and 2) horrible tasting.

        as far as "health concern", i know, right? people look askance at a plate of general tso's, then skedaddle off to chow down on a cobb salad with commercial dressing, or something. for that matter i know of a couple americanized chinese places that use no MSG, emphasize their low- or reduced-fat options, fry and cook only with trans-fat-free oil, offer brown rice as an option, etc, etc. but as you say, this isn't even all that necessary. tasty food is tasty food. some of it is healthier than others. a plate of general tso's is no more a cardinal health sin than is a serving of eggs benedict for sunday brunch, or a ribeye with a loaded baked potato for sunday dinner...

        as far as taste, is it "authentic" chinese food? does it have a centuries-long tradition among peasants or nobility in china? no. is it a completely valid, often delicious, fusion cuisine that evolved among chinese emigrants and has taken on an identity of its own? i say vehemently YES!

        a cuisine that has "roots" somewhere, or draws influence from somewhere, is no less valid as a delicious option than is something with a longer "history". every food idea was new once. people who wave the "authenticity" flag typically annoy me. so do the ones who blindly stereotype cuisines one way or another ("japanese is healthy", "british food is gross", "french food is rich", "american food is trashy"). just me though!

        yay americanized chinese! +1 you!

        1. re: chartreauxx

          I love real Chinese. And I love Americanized Chinese--it's a comforting treat with lots of associated childhood memories--a treat to go out for something other than surf & turf. (Most embarrassing, my father asking for flied lice and my mother being smug about ordering moo goo gai pan.)

          Similarly, I love real Italian and I love Americanized Italian, sometimes gross in its excess, over-salted and over-sweet and ABBONDANZA.

        2. re: fldhkybnva

          "...the widespread media driven opinion which has equated Chinese food to instant death."
          Hmm, I haven't read of or heard of this. Could you give some examples? Curious.

          (Are you thinking of the "melamine flap" some time back? Or did the media really say that eating a plate of Mapo tofu with rice, or steamed grouper w/ ginger & scallions &etc led to death?)

          1. re: huiray

            Well, that was a bit of hyperbolic flare, but yes most of the mainstream opinions on Chinese have been overwhelmingly on the side of statements similar to "avoid if at all possible," "the worst takeout out food that you could possibly eat" and then unhelpfully suggest dishes to order which in no way resemble what most people gravitate to these restaurants in search of. And, in every day conversation it seems that it's a pretty widely held opinion. If there is ever any mention of Chinese takeout or delivery for lunch or dinner at work or among friends, many people grumble and lament that "it's so hard to find anything to eat that is not complete junk and ruin my diet." This has just been my personal observation though.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Interesting. I can't say I've especially noticed these opinions myself, hence my query.

              1. re: huiray

                I, too, must say that this is the first I've heard of this sentiment.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Just google "Chinese restaurant food, health" and you can view a ton of articles with this same sentiment that fldhk is referring to.

                  1. re: sedimental

                    These are the results:


                    I see nothing about the hysteria that fldhybnva refers to.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      It was noted to be "hyperbolic flare" . I thought it sounded like you had never heard of restaurant American Chinese food as being the unhealthiest or worst diet food choice...which is common. Other than the one dramatic statement, everything said was accurate.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        I thought it sounded like you had never heard of restaurant American Chinese food as being the unhealthiest or worst diet food choice...which is common.

                        I've never heard that American Chinese food as being the "unhealthiest". Unhealthy? Yes. Unhealthiest? Especially as a cultural meme? Nope, never.

                        And who in the right (or wrong) mind would choose American Chinese food as a "diet food" choice? WTF? Even Jared had enough culinary, and common, sense to choose Subway as opposed to Krispy Kreme ...

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          @ ipse: What you said.

                          @ sedimental: Well, even setting aside the "instant death" thing, other cited phrases like "the worst takeout out food that you could possibly eat" (even searching for "worst takeout food" alone returns only this CH thread); "avoid if at all possible"; "complete junk" seemed weird and extreme to me. As ipse says, certainly it has been reported that "Chinese" food (let alone just "American-Chinese" food) is high in salt, calories, can be oily, have MSG (another VERY unfairly maligned ingredient - see other posts) etc - i.e. not food to be eaten with wild abandon by diet-crazed and fat/calorie-phobic caucasian USAmericans and any others of similar sentiment – but the extreme nature of the reported sentiments seemed, well, extreme.

                          1. re: huiray

                            Those other sentiments are not extreme from what I observe either. Most people I know have not eaten in American Chinese resto's in many years. It has nothing to do with eating it with "wild abandon"...or by" diet crazed.....etc,etc" (those are extreme statements to). It has to do with the perception that food served there is much "unhealthier" than making other choices. Even though the other choices might be a huge carb/fat laden sandwhich or buger or a chefs or Cobb salad with lunch meat and bottled dressing.

                            I understand if you don't hear those sentiments where you live and work, but clearly many of us do.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              Panda Express is surprisingly healthy (all things considered).

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Looking at the nutrition data for their chicken dishes, it's possible to achieve decent numbers (though much of it is a sugar and calorie bomb due to heavy breading and sweetening of otherwise healthy ingredients). But when you look at the total serving sizes for the dishes, they made them miniscule to improve the numbers. If you limit yourself to 180 calories at Panda Express, you can get a reasonably healthful snack sized meal.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  180 calories sounds to me like exactly that - a snack :-)

                        2. re: sedimental

                          Indeed "hyperbolic flare," nor do I think that there is any hysteria regarding the whole topic but just that the general opinion and slant of most of the articles exaggerates the "unhealthy" nature of Chinese food to what I feel are unfair, unnecessary and somewhat epic proportions.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            +1 as if hot dogs and hamburgers with mystery meat, french fries, fried taco shells, refried beans and sour cream, pizza are somehow healthier options.

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Glad for that sentiment from you. :-)

                    2. re: huiray

                      CSPI... led a huge charge against it years ago. They think all you should eat is carbs, no fat, not much protein. And ridiculously low sodium.

                      1. re: mcf

                        D'you mean articles like these two?
                        I don't see "extreme" statements in them, even with all the verbiage about large amounts of salt, fat etc etc. Certainly no more than expressed in their articles about American-Italian food, for example in: or . Their blurb about their restaurant guide ( also mentions that the single worst food they have ever had analyzed was cheese fries in a steak house. ;-)

                        [Or Mexican: ; :-) ]

                        I would also remark that they commented on the difference between Italian food in Italy versus American-Italian food, but made no such comparison between what seems largely like Americanized (to greater or lesser extents) Chinese dishes they analyzed and food one might find in China or Hong Kong or SE Asia. A defect in their reports on "Chinese" food, it seems to me.

                        As for your comment: " They think all you should eat is carbs, no fat, not much protein. And ridiculously low sodium" – yes, it does seem that way with them!

                    3. re: fldhkybnva

                      I've seen similar articles about Chinese food, usually not differentiating "American/Chinese take-out" from more authentic dishes, and bashing them for unhealthiness, MSG, etc.

                      But then again at least American/Chinese take-out has higher nutritional content between the protein and vegetables than pizza which is so beloved and has a poor fat and calorie to nutrition ratio.

                      1. re: Pookipichu


                        And what about all the stuff about "fast food" - e.g. comparisons of fast food hamburgers and even so-called "healthy" salads at fast food places ?

                  2. re: fldhkybnva

                    Agreed ... I had some truly fabulous General Tso's just last week (first in a long time). I'm ordering from that place again ... Ironically the more authentic dish I ordered wasn't good and literally went to the dogs.

                  3. So many! Brussels sprouts (and lamb), haggis (great on pizza) turnips ...

                    1. Sardines! Whenever I open a tin of King Oscar's at work I get these weird looks from my coworkers. One of them is a pescatarian and she refuses to try one. Really, any food with a face or food in a can gets unfairly maligned in our culture. Sardines have two strikes against them in that regard. Heck, in Spain or Portugal you would be paying top dollar for a tin of quality seafood.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MINosher

                        "stinky" foods and canned/pickled/jarred/otherwise preserved foods (except fruit in some forms?) seem in general like they get unfairly slammed as a rule in the states..

                      2. Liver, kidney, sweetbread,brain

                        Not lungs though, they deserve their bad rap!