I have read hundreds of PR pitches in my time; first at the Red Herring, the dot-com magazine where I worked during the boom, then as a freelance business writer, and now for the Ethicurean. There are some super-savvy public-relations firms out there, like Straus Communications (which represents Bon Appetit Management Co., CAFF, and "King Corn") and Shev Rush Public Relations (a good friend who reps Estancia grass-fed beef): both write great pitches, represent interesting clients, and (shocking!) actually read the publications they target.
But as the Ethicurean has grown, we have started to get some really off-the-wall e-mails from food-industry PR people. I can no longer resist publishing the most head-scratching of them, with the identifying information compassionately removed.
SUBJECT: What's in your whipped cream?
My name is [name withheld] and I work for [a division of Con-Agra Foods]. We pay pretty close attention to your posts, so we wanted to send you a quick heads-up about something we thought you might find interesting.
One of these whipped creams is made with real cream, and the other is made with a cocktail of hydrogenated oil, water and synthetic ingredients. Can you guess which is which?
Most consumers can’t either, but there's actually is a big difference. Check out what’s in the one on the right. Reddi-wip (on the left), on the other hand, is made with real cream.
I’m here if you have any questions….
[PR Agency Name Also Withheld]
His link goes to a funny Wired article titled "Cool Whip: A delicious blend of sugar, wax, and condom lube," by Patrick di Justo, whose gig listing the origins of food additives is one I highly covet.
What PR Dude does not mention in his e-mail to the Ethicurean is that in addition to "real" cream, Reddi-wip Extra Creamy is made with a lot of the same stuff as Cool Whip, and if they'd paid a smidgen of attention, we're not big fans of "machine cuisine" here at the Ethicurean. (That's a phrase I learned last night.) Con-Agra doesn't list the ingredients on its Reddi-wip site, but Dietfacts.com does. Reddi-wip Extra Creamy also boasts "non-fat milk solids, sugar, mono- and diglycerides, carrageenan, artificial flavor, nitrous oxide (propellant)," and Reddi-wip Original follows cream with "nonfat milk, corn syrup, sugar, mono- and diglycerides, natural and artificial flavors, carrageenan, nitrous oxide (propellant)."
I am not a food scientist nor do I have any interest in becoming one. If I want whipped cream I take cream, add a pinch of sugar, and whip it with an immersion blender for all of 45 seconds. Amazingly, it tastes fine without any diglycerides or carrageenan, a thickener derived from seaweed using powerful solvents and also used in air freshener gels and shoe polish.
I'm just sayin'...
And no, this is not an April Fool's!