A lot of food claims to be real, but it's never really made clear what the alternative to that is. For example, if you read the ingredients on a jar of mayonnaise and a jar of REAL mayonnaise, you'll see they're exactly the same-- soybean oil, eggs, latex house paint, hog semen. If there's any difference at all it's usually that "fake" mayonnaise contains modified corn starch and xanthan gum-- two thickening additives with the nutritional value of sawdust. They're what you add to a vat when you want to turn 300 pounds of food into 500 pounds of food-scented pudding.
"Real" has very little meaning in food. You can say a cat food has REAL chicken flavor because your cat doesn't know how to call you liar and cat owners are so used to puns that they can't spot horrible violations of language. But sometimes "real" on a food implies actual legal classification and not that one or more ingredients were replaced with quick-dry cement.
For example, on a box of Chips Ahoy!, the words "REAL CHOCOLATE Chip Cookies" appears next to a worried cookie with a face that says he wasn't ready to deal with the existential burden of finding out there was a debate about whether or not he was real.
A quick check of the REAL CHOCOLATE ingredients, and I see that it's made of five things, no one knows what two of them are, and chocolate isn't first. That's like saying Tila Tequila's breasts are "real" because one of them is filled with actual cadaver fingers.
From the FDA's perspective, "real chocolate" means a candy with actual cocao fat in it, the thing that gives it its creamy texture and a melting temperature of human mouth. This doesn't quite add up either, since a Chips Ahoy! cookie takes 3 weeks to break down inside a mouth and has the texture of ancient brick. If you throw a Chips Ahoy! cookie into the ocean, the sea level drops 11 inches around the world. They added a nervous face to their mascot to warn consumers that this food will put up a struggle if you try to digest it.
Aside from Chips Ahoy!'s obvious misunderstandings of the words "real," "chocolate," and "cookie," there have been many controversial semantic arguments about what is and isn't chocolate over the years. In 2007 the FDA tried to reclassify standardized chocolate to include products that had no cocao fat in it, and it quickly turned into a war. You might be able to trick fat people into disposing of political prisoners by calling their remains "McNuggets," but don't you dare try to call chemically flavored vegetable fat "chocolate." After months, the FDA lost the battle and now if you replace cocao fat with a different oily by-product of man's hubris you're not legally allowed to call it chocolate. It seemed like a victory at first, but by the end of this sentence they'll realize that they pissed off the organization in charge of regulating how much cockroach debris is okay to leave in a candy bar. One day they're going to use food descriptions against us and force Chips Ahoy! to rename their product, "Mass insect graves and rodent droppings in bleached wheat flour."
Almost every sugary candy calls itself "A FAT FREE FOOD," as if we're idiots. Why would we think there's fat in a Lemon Head? Is some mad man running loose in your factory and putting a drop of love handle in every box? Of course candy is fat free-- it's technically everything free since edible glue and corn syrup aren't food groups.
Are you insecure, candy? Because you don't see gravy bragging about being sugar free. This label is so irrelevant to consumer health that I think it's only there so doctors can laugh when they ask you questions about how you got diabetes. If someone is really stupid enough to need a fat free label on their candy, it does more harm than good from a marketing perspective. They're probably telling the clerk, "Red Vines are fat free? Fuck that, give me the pizza. I didn't come to the movies to work out."
And nothing's worse than vegetables that are proud of themselves for not having fat. Way to go, fat free refried beans. You managed to get smashed into a can before a time traveler from the '40s put lard in you. And while I'm on the subject, stop labeling things "vegetarian" when there's no reason they wouldn't be. The only thing that clearly labeled vegetarian products do is make life easier for vegetarians, and if that's what they wanted, they wouldn't have done hormone therapy to turn their penises into flowers.
After a lifetime of eating, no words mean less to me than "all natural." A bottle of Arrowhead water claims to be 100% NATURAL* CALORIE-FREE. Why did anyone speculate that I'd think differently? Was there a conspiracy going around that their product was bottled android sweat? Outside of a hydrogen fuel cell, where does one even find unnatural water? Witch toilets? Arrowhead, are you implying that your competitors get their product from witch toilets? Because that's fucking crazy, Arrowhead.
On that same bottle of what I assume was non-witch toilet water, I searched for the asterisk referred to by "100% NATURAL*" and it led to the explanation, "*100% Natural Ingredients." Oh, ingredients. That clears it up, Arrowhead. I'd like to kick the shit out of bottled water marketers just to see how long it would take for them to describe it to authorities. "The attacker used pure, viking violence... his intentions as clear as an alpine waterfall I felt a 100% natural blend of pain* and discomfort."
*Painful Bowel Evacuation
Of all the products meaninglessly described as "all natural," I think I have the most problem with clam juice. What loathsome lack of ethics would allow someone to make synthetic clam juice? And how in the world would it be easier than making it the regular way? Do you hold a jar under a fisherman while he jogs? Do you milk a dumpster outside a Chinese restaurant? Any factory worker trying to scare a fish into peeing will tell you: artificial clam juice is more trouble than it's worth.