What’s wrong with Coke’s calorie-washing campaign

Before watching a YouTube video about Something Very Important today (I think it might have been a cute porcupine), I was treated to an ad for Coke.

More specifically, an ad by Coke, about Coke, and for Coke… about how great Coke is.

This one really bothered me. Because it is more insidious than most. The logic is more twisted and so the message more dangerous.

I described it to the husband, trying, by describing it and raging out blindly for a bit, to pin down exactly what about it made me just so… angry.

Him: “So… basically it’s like ‘Yay! We’re beating you with a smaller stick!”

Nailed it.

Coke waxes PR and BS about all the changes they’ve voluntarily made (emphasis theirs) and about how every calorie counts — a message delivered just before they show some kids packing sandwiches in their lunches. (Careful of those sandwiches kids, they’ll rot your teeth and make you fat).

“All calories count, no matter where they come from”.

Did Coke have a teenager with an eating disorder write their campaign?

“Food companies no longer fear the calorie-counting message…the emphasis on calories allows food companies to take the focus of consumers away from the ingredients, processing methods, and the overall quality of their foods.”

“All calories count, no matter where they come from” is simplistic and dangerous nonsense.

To look only at calories is to be blind to the sweeteners and additives and deeply, deeply unfoodlike products that make up Coke’s food products.

And let’s be clear, Coke does not make any products which are good for you.

There is no message Coke can put out about how they are part of the solution. By existing, Coke is part of the problem. A big part. The best Coke can do is be less of the problem. You don’t go to a cigarette company for advice on fighting lung cancer.

Granted, adults (those who are not addicted to Coke’s many hyper-sugar saturated liquid candy crack drinks) can decide to make a time and place for eating – or drinking – garbage. But that doesn’t make it not garbage.

And that doesn’t make it not terribly suspect to suggest that swapping super sugary sugar drinks for super sugary juice drinks in vending machines in schools — a lucrative activity for Coke, those machines ain’t donated — merits a gold damn star.

“We call it ‘weight washing’. And it’s a bit of a worry when you see these large corporations get involved in public health,” she says. “They’re not public health experts. They’re in the business of making money and selling product.”

“They always focus on physical activity to draw attention away from the contribution of their products to overweight and obesity. What we’d really like to see is Coca Cola selling less sugary drinks, getting them out of schools and sports centres… and we’d like to see them not marketing to teenagers.”

I don’t buy it, Coke. The message or the product.

Thanks to the Center for Science in the Public Interest for cutting through Coke’s warm blanket of PR with their truth scissors:

Iceberg lettuce: The honey badger of produce

Iceberg lettuce is junk food. If you’re about to eat iceberg lettuce, you might as well reach for a candy bar instead. Comparably low nutritional value. In Dante’s food pyramid, they’re both in the ninth circle of sinner foods. Dinner for thieves and unbaptized babies.

This is how I thought of iceberg lettuce. This is how I was raised to think of iceberg lettuce. Kind of like eating garbage. Its delightful crunchiness belied its wanton and hedonistic provenance. You’re eating iceberg lettuce when you could be eating spinach leaves? Or red leaf lettuce? Or even a Boston bib or Romaine?


Only here’s what I have discovered: Iceberg lettuce is aaaamazing. Not for its own caloric or health (non)value, but as a conduit. An enabler of vegetables. The wheels on the mass transit of bounty. A vehicle for other, more healthful vegetables.

Where I would have zero salads, because gorramit I just can’t keep up with the stupid short life cycles and high maintenance needs of organic leafy munchables, iceberg lettuce understands me. It understands that I need to chuck it in the fridge and kinda forget about it until I need it. Iceberg lettuce doesn’t mind neglect. Iceberg lettuce don’t give a damn.

And then, when it’s lunch or peckish time, BAM! you just pull out your iceberg lettuce and add all your actually good vegetables to it. Maybe even some of those higher maintenance greens if they’re still alive (and not limply draped about your fridge like so many delicate ladies on their fainting couches). Load that shit up. Chop up 5 different kinds of veggies, slap ’em in with the iceberg (which is still clean and crunchy and ready for service… because it is undead), and voila! Salad.

And guess what? You just ate 5 more veggies than zero. All thanks to iceberg lettuce. Iceberg lettuce giving you a locker room slap on the butt and saying: “I got this one Hon. You just go grab some bell peppers and dressing.”

In conclusion: Question everything, and take allies wherever you can find them.


I am not bored.

“Boredom arises from the loss of meaning, which in turn comes in part from a failure of religio or connectedness with one another and with our past. This book is a modest plea for the realization that absolutely nothing is intrinsically boring, least of all the everyday, ordinary things. These, today, are after all what even we are prepared to admit we have in common. We have recently discovered in ourselves a determination to consider nothing to be beneath consideration, and a willingness to question passionately matters which used to be thought too basic for words. I think the reason for this is that we are fighting back with an altogether healthy urge to recapture ancient but pitifully neglected, thoroughly human responses such as participatory attention, receptivity and appreciation. We have learned well the lessons about the stupidities of superstition, of misplaced, because ignorant, wonder. It is time now to think about whether we have leaped from the trivial to the vacant. Boredom is an irritable condition, and an exceedingly dangerous one when it is accompanied by enormous destructive power.”

~ Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner

p.s. Matt, I have your book… ; )

Dinner at Boehmer

Dear Restaurants:

I am a good cook. I make food that I enjoy eating. So when I go out for dinner, what I’m looking for and paying for is good food and a good experience. Please don’t ask me to be an enforcer to make those things happen. The bar? It’s not that high. Don’t rip me off, don’t upsell me, and don’t act like we’re in your way by dining at your restaurant. I’ll tip well, appreciate all of your effort and expertise, I will tell friends about your place, and I will come back.

Assume I will want tap water, and have sparkling as the option. Toronto’s tap water is very good. Collectively, we’re very lucky to have it. I enjoy drinking it. Don’t hairy eyeball us over our choice to support it.

When you bring us the menu, please say something about it. Don’t dump a pile of papers on the table and then run away.

Don’t upsell me on bread. Especially without making it clear that you are selling me bread ($3). And if I say yes to bread, and then discover that the dish already comes with bread, I will be very unhappy.

Don’t assume I am stupid. I have probably seen prosciutto before. That is probably why I ordered it. So if you serve me thickly cut prosciutto, like, rashes of streaky bacon thick, and it’s intentional, it’s probably best to say something about it. Otherwise, I will probably assume that someone, somewhere doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I know. If I am served food which is not prepared properly, like freakishly thick prosciutto or grey boar chops, I should point it out, and I should send it back. But please understand that I hate doing this. Many people hate doing this. Many people (like me) will just never come back.

Though. Even those of us who are loathe to send our plates of ill-prepared food back to the kitchen, even we will tip you off. If you come to collect a plate, and there is a sizeable amount of meat left on it — you really should ask why. Ditto a sizeable amount of cheesecake. And we don’t mistake avoidance for efficiency. Whisking away a plate on the sly without asking how it was denies the diner the chance to either ask you to make it right, or to give you feedback on how you might make it right for someone else.

And, finally, failing everything else, please, please do not drop off our desserts and then abandon our table. There is nothing that sours an evening more quickly than being abandoned. I literally cannot leave until you return. No one likes not being able to leave. By the time the table is at the point of joking that they’re being forced into a dine-and-dash, the server’s tip percentage has been severely compromised.

And speaking of being unable to leave. It’s Toronto. In October. I’d like my coat back. If you took it, please be ready to return it. If I’m standing at the front and standing at the front and standing at the front for long enough that I give up and go rummaging through the coatrack myself, it’s a cold itchy scarf of bitterness on a jacket of disappointment.

I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for a while. And, yes, it was a group buy coupon that finally motivated me to get around to going.

But it was the letdowns from every station that left me tipping only on the post-coupon bill. And that, for me, is terrible. I am a good tipper. I am an overtipper. It’s a perverse expression of some remnant of Catholic guilt, and I can’t shake it. So it has to be a truly bad experience to show up in my tip. The kind of experience that ensured I won’t be back, and that I’ll tell others why.

Trompe l’oeuf

So, after a couple of years off, this Easter I resurrected (

I give you… The Fondant Egg:
Breakfast for dinner?
I may have been chucked into adulthood with no idea how to cook a chicken breast, and an echoing chasm in my brain where “quick and easy” dinner recipes belong. But anything sugar-based? I have that shit down cold. You show me a greeting card-worthy day, and I will show you a recipe that combines at least three forms of sweetener.
Fondant egg -- innards.
These fondant eggs are not for the faint of heart, or diabetic. Or… Look. Human beings were really never meant to eat these. But on this, the holiest of zombie weekends, does it not make sense to celebrate by pushing the boundaries of our physical constitution? Can we not, nay, should we not mark Zombie Jesus Day with sugar mixed with sugar, wrapped in sugar, dipped in chocolate? Yes. Yes we should.

If you haven’t asked me to set one of these aside for you, and you want to know what it feels like to eat one, I have made this Highly Scientific Graph(TM) which should explain everything:
Easter Egg Graph

(click to enbiggen)

Some people would say that the trick is to eat the “egg” in a single bite. Those people would not be wrong.

In summary, don’t forget to put carrots out for the Easter Bunny or he won’t leave you any crucified chickens!

I may be fuzzy on how this holiday works.

Happy Thursday!

The Editing Process: Your cheeky is showing

I am asked, fairly often, how much what I write gets edited before publication.

The answer is that it varies. Some publications edit more extensively than others. Some have a stricter “voice”. But, to answer the question, and because I loves me an empirical answer — here’s a lifecycle of a short little something I wrote recently, submitted to a publication with a Very Strong House Style. Hold on to your version control socks!

Version 1 – Short “proof of concept” test:
An early short version sent to editor for style check — I know when I’m in the cheeky danger zone.

“Once upon a time, there was a burrito. And that burrito didn’t have grapes in it. And the burrito didn’t know what it was missing, because it didn’t know that grapes in a burrito are awesome. But then one day, the good people at The Drake Hotel said “don’t be sad little chicken burrito, for you shall know fruit!”

And lo! The chicken curry burrito was made. And it was good. And its goodness went forth and multiplied, with zippy apples, and crunchy walnuts. And unto the walnuts and apples was added creamy curry and tender chicken. And the burrito saw that it was delicious, and it said “let me be priced so reasonably that all the people might enjoy my bounty!”.”

Result: Editor agreed it was funny, but wrong style for publication.

Version 2 – For realsies this time:

“The Drake Hotel pities the fool who doesn’t have time for a sit-down lunch. No, actual
pity. In the form of making us sandwiches, so that we can grab them and go. Aptly titled
their “Grab + Go” menu. (Decidedly more congenial than “Grab + Get Out”)

Nothing says grab and go quite like the mother of all one-handed sandwiches, the
burrito, so we tried The Drake’s Chicken Curry version. And, for the win: these
pitywiches aren’t the standard shrink-wrapped, cardboard-laced, essence du cubicle

Look at that picture. Now back to me. Now back at the picture. Yes, those are grapes.
Burritos didn’t know what they were missing and what they were missing was grapes.
It’s fruitapalooza in the Chicken Curry Burrito. Yes, there is chicken (nice’n’moist). And yes, there is curry. But when the chicken turns his back, the fruit understudies steal the spotlight. Juicy grapes, zippy apples, and crunchy walnuts. All unexpected, and all delicious, and all priced at the extremely reasonable $5.95.”

Version 3 – Editor’s edit:

“The Drake Hotel is showing a bit of mercy to busy office workers who don’t have time for a sit-down lunch. Their new (and aptly titled) “Grab + Go” menu features one-hand-required burrito-style sandwiches that break away from shrink-wrapped, cardboard-laced cubicle fare. The chicken curry version is fresh, filling and even surprising. Yes, it comes with moist meat and just the right amount of spice, but its most impressive features are fruit and nuts: juicy grapes and apples, set off by crunchy walnuts. Available when the café opens at 8 a.m., the sandwich can be procured mid-commute and even stays crisp until midday.”

Version 4 – My edit of the edit:

“The Drake Hotel is showing a bit of mercy to busy office workers who don’t have time for a sit-down lunch. Their new (and aptly titled) “Grab + Go” menu features one-handed “Type + Eat” sandwiches that break away from shrink-wrapped, cardboard-laced cubicle fare. The chicken curry burrito version is fresh and filling. It comes with moist meat and just the right amount of spice, but its most impressive features are fruit and nuts: grapes, apples, & walnuts. Available when the café opens at 8 a.m., the sandwich can be procured mid-commute and the grapes and walnuts ensure the sandwich is still both juicy & crunchy by midday.”


So peeps. When you say “that doesn’t really sound like you”, now you know why.

Next week: “We’re humped” ; )

Mr. T, the Old Spice guy, and “fruitapalooza”

What do they have in common? My revised copy for a lunch pick. One of them has got to make it through!

Nah. Not really. In fact, I wouldn’t be the teeny tiniest bit surprised if none of them make it through. That’s how you know they’re finished making it sound like them: when it stops sounding like me. In the end, it’ll probably say something like “the moist chicken was delightful, and had us coming back for more!”. (Oop! Spoiler alert! CHICKEN!)

I try to swallow my voice and write in theirs, I really do. But some days, it just feels dirty. And maybe chalky? Just a soupçon?

My voice will out.

p.s. I also used the word “pitywich”. COME ON!

p.p.s. This is my second pass at copy after my first version was rejected flat out. While it made my editor laugh, it wasn’t “right” for the brand. But, I ask you, what can possibly not be right about a lunch review as biblical parody?! Other than eternal damnation, I mean.

I’ll post V1 once the final version’s online. : )