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No such thing as a tasty, healthy cookie

I judged a cookie contest this week, a charity fundraiser. Sat in the sunshine, nibbling baking with a pretty television news anchor named Astrid. Tough work, I know, but it was for the kids. Jack Knox lives to give.

I judged a cookie contest this week, a charity fundraiser. Sat in the sunshine, nibbling baking with a pretty television news anchor named Astrid.

Tough work, I know, but it was for the kids. Jack Knox lives to give. Only one problem: We were looking for the Tastiest Healthy Cookie. With all due respect to the organizers (not to mention the bakers) that's like searching for the fastest fat guy, or the funniest Albertan. You can have totally healthy, or you can have totally tasty, but you can't have both. Saying "that's pretty good for a healthy cookie" is like saying "not bad for a Canadian sitcom."

Admittedly, asking me to judge healthy food is like hiring Tiger Woods as a marriage counsellor. When scanning packaging, I prefer ingredients that read like a Grade 9 science experiment, tend to categorize the likes of sodium nitrite and potassium bromate as comfort foods. Forget homemade, I like my cookies baked by Union Carbide, or Dow.

Alas, there were no chemical-laced concoctions at Cookies For A Cause, as the event, a fundraiser by provincial government employees, was known. Propylene glycol alginate out, flax seed in. And nuts. Plenty of seeds and nuts. One cookie appeared to have been made entirely of ingredients scavenged from the bottom of a bird feeder.

"Try it," Astrid said.


"It's for the kids."

"I hate the kids."

Another entry boasted of using carob as a substitute for chocolate.

"But I don't want a substitute for chocolate," pouted Astrid, no doubt voicing a sentiment felt by millions, or perhaps billions, worldwide.

Substituting carob for chocolate is like replacing David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar -- safer, but far less enjoyable.

And there's the rub: The lo-cal alternatives pushed by the Food Police (usually perky women in lululemon gear) rarely taste as good as the evils being replaced. While most of the cookie contest entries were, in all honesty, surprisingly good, they were still not as addictive as, say, chocolate chip, the crack cocaine of confectionery. People eat chocolate

chip cookies because they like them; no self-respecting stoner rifles the cupboards for carob after smoking a joint.

Government, in an attempt to make us change our eating habits, has spent years trying to persuade us that healthy tastes better. Yet no matter how often we try to convince ourselves that nutritious food doesn't remind us of compost ("You can really taste the kale!" exclaimed Woody while trying to sell a veggie drink on an episode of Cheers) it's the smell of bacon, not Tofurky, that makes people's mouths water.

Even politicians recognize this fact. This is what George Bush (the first one, not the total doofus) had to say back in 1990: "I do not like broccoli, and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." Angry farmers reacted by sending Bush tonnes of broccoli, which was then given to Washington-area food banks, which is why poor people hate Republicans. (By the way, the L.A. Times reports that Barack Obama hates

beets, though he has yet to inflict them on the homeless.)

Bush caught hell, but he was just being honest. So was the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, when he released a report last month showing that lousy lifestyle choices are costing B.C. taxpayers an extra $2 billion a year in health care costs. We're getting fatter, wolfing down deep-fried diabetes even when we know it's bad for us, sending not only ourselves but our children to early graves with pre-packaged heart disease.

Yet while our diet might be killing us, it's too convenient and tasty to give up. The U.S. Institute of Medicine, noting the utter failure of Americans to voluntarily reduce their salt intake, has thrown its lentil-stained hands in the air, asked government to regulate the amount of salt in packaged food. The message is that someone needs to save us from


It's Thanksgiving week, turkey time. Pass the gravy. Hold the brussel sprouts. Keep 9-1-1 on speed dial, just in case - if not for you, then for the kids.