Tuesday, December 11, 2007

She's All Worked up About Sodium Citrate at Perkins

My fantasy author, Sandy Lender, works from home now, writes from home, edits from home, and pretty much stays glued to the computer. I don't think this is healthy, so I encourage her to get out when friends invite her to lunch. A friend grabbed her and went with her to a restaurant called Perkins yesterday. They've actually gone there before, and had the same angry service, so I don't think they'll be going back. (One of the wait staff was actually throwing silverware this time...like a petulant child, Sandy says.)

Anyway, Sandy likes to eat organic food when she can afford it because she hates the thought of putting pesticide-laden poison into her body. She figures cancer already has a fighting chance of killing her, given her genetics; why feed it what it needs to work faster? So she shops at the organic grocery store when possible, avoids bizarre preservatives, and watches out for unsafe food conditions. She doesn't even add salt to her food. (Sodium raises your blood pressure, she tells me.) Sitting at Perkins was dangerous enough, but when her friend read the ingredients of the Half & Half containers sitting in a little bowl on the table, and finished with "Needs No Chill" and a laugh, Sandy's eyes shot open. "WHAT?"

Anyone who knows her knows this began an internet search. Yes, the ingredients of Half & Half (the Perkins variety, at any rate) are milk, cream, and sodium citrate. Two of these ingredients should remain refrigerated. (Even I know that, and I don't hail from this society.) So what is it about the third ingredient that renders the other two no longer in need of "chill?" You people put this stuff in your coffee and drink it. (Sandy drinks neither coffee nor Half & Half, but she was still curious.)

Turns out that Sodium Citrate is a preservative; trisodium salt. And it's hazardous, according to a variety of sources on the internet. (The main source I'm using for this column is www.jtbaker.com. ) It can cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It has a flammability rating of "slight." Under normal storage and use conditions, the product is stable, but when you heat it to decomposition (more than 302 degrees F), it produces carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Now, being from another society, I have no idea what those things are, but Sandy assures me they're bad things for humans to breathe for a long time.

What it boils down to is my fantasy author won't be eating at Perkins anymore because the service has been bad each time she's been in there and the food is less than healthy (she says I don't have to describe the grease because people already know this about such restaurants). But the Half & Half put her over the edge and she wanted me to spell this out as just another bizarre moment in a writer's life.

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