OK, this is my first ‘official’ blog rant. A few days ago I was getting ready to make dinner, which meant that I had to unload half a shelf of canned goods to find the ones I wanted. That’s probably typical for anyone who lives in a starter ranch that predates the 60’s, but that’s not my rant.
As I went through a list of things for my recipe, I realized I’d automatically grabbed doubles of almost every ingredient. Why? Because every product has decreased in size and weight so significantly that I can’t make a simple recipe without doubling most of the ingredients.
Ahem! Did the food industry think we wouldn’t notice that a “pound” of coffee is now 5 ounces short of a pound, or that a can of soup has shrunk so much that any recipe that used to call for one can of soup will probably need two? And most of the casseroles that I used to make with one box of pasta now need (at least) half a second box, if not more. It’s either suck up and use a second box of pasta or you can forget about having any leftovers. Why? Because that ‘pound of pasta’ now weighs only 13 ounces. And don’t get me started on tuna. I can’t even make two regular sized sandwiches with a single can of Tuna anymore.
You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal. After all, how hard is it to add a little more pasta to the pot or open a second can of soup to make a dish the right consistency? That’s not what bothers me. Much. What truly gets my goat is that while the size and weight of these goods have been shrinking, the COST has been rising. Significantly. So now, not only do you get 1/3 less coffee in that cheesy little plastic container, you pay MORE …. for LESS. It’s like getting screwed …. twice!
Yes, I’m sure none of this is new news to most, but it bugs me that the incredible shrinking proportion has hit everything from Quaker Oatmeal to Dannon yogurt. In fact, I refused to purchase Dannon products after they shrunk their containers down to the size of a kiddie snack pack. What’s next? Downsized toilet paper? I can see it now; smaller squares and less squares per roll. Great! Talk about not being able to “spare a square!”
But then there’s the biggest ripoff of all: Commercial Pet Food.
Try comparison shopping for a bag of dog kibble. Some bags are 33 pounds, some are 42, some are 38 and a multitude of various weights in between … and that’s just the mid-size range. For smaller sizes you might have one bag that’s 11 pounds, one that’s 14 and another that’s 16.8 pounds, and so on. Forget price comparisons …. the prices are all over the place! You might see a 38-pound bag marked $42, or $39 for 33 pounds. What ever happened to the standard 25, 50 or 40-pound bag of dog food? All this nonsense drives me a little batty. I hate feeling like I’m getting rooked every time I shop. The packaging keeps getting louder and the marketing more competitive, but we’re getting far less for our money.
OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I sound like Andy Rooney …..
I’m a weightlifter, so it should come as no surprise that I don’t eat junk. Not routinely, that is. Every couple of years I’ll go on vacation and have myself a real field day. I won’t even try to eat right, but gorge on raspberry strudel for breakfast, chips and peanuts for lunch, Mike’s and Ikes and M & Ms all day long. Then I’ll have whatever junk I can pack away at night. My theory is that you need to overload your system and you’ll throw things off if you try to eat something healthy too soon. No sense prolonging the burnout process. Make no mistake, this is a serious strategy! If I stick to the plan, by day three I’m so miserable that I crave healthy food again.
I haven’t had fast food or soft drinks in over two decades. Yup, no Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, or anything even remotely similar. As for snacks, chips and other assorted munchies? They seldom trip my trigger. I go to the movies about once every five years, get a big bucket of popcorn and refuse to share it with anyone. I’ve been known to change seats if anyone tries to hone in on my movie munchies.
Now just to set the record straight, I don’t believe I’ve ever uttered the words “too sweet.” Excuse me, but if you can’t eat a whole slice of Mud Slide Pie by yourself then you’d better check your weenie meter. I could probably down an entire pan of Baklava if I set my mind to it. No regrets, either! And I’ve never met a homemade cookie I didn’t like. As long as pastries are made from scratch, they’re OK by me. In fact, I don’t think an occasional dessert should be considered junk unless you’re wolfing down a couple of Whoopie Pies a day. Or something to that effect.
I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, which means I won’t go out of my way to buy or consume it. I inherited that gene from my father. If dark chocolate happens to cross my path I might splurge, but I won’t gorge myself silly or start to plot my next chocolate encounter immediately after. I’ll crave donuts once in a great while, but every time I succumb I come away from the experience feeling like I’ve been cheated. Donuts are a bit like some men; they have the fine distinction of looking and smelling much better than they really are.
I don’t think foods that are more than 75% protein should be considered junk, which covers things like pizza, tacos and chili. Fried food is cutting it a little close, but if it’s a fried protein source then I’ll grant you some slack. Foods like fried chicken, calamari, or deep fried turkey … the latest rage in backyard artery-clogging home cooking … are probably a go in limited quantities. That doesn’t mean I’ll eat fried foods, but I’ll give those who do some wiggle room. However, if you eat hot dogs or processed cheese you should probably be shot on the spot.
I wasn’t always a food Nazi. I quit eating fast food and junk when I left home because I was broke and couldn’t afford things like soda, ice cream or pre-packaged meals and snacks. And somewhere along the line I had the epiphany that living on Hostess Twinkies and Pepsi might not take me very far in life. Seems like a no-brainer now, but that was a rare and unique view on nutrition when the idea of convenience was taking the country by storm. Even so, I could barely afford healthy food and I was lucky if I bought a pound of beef a week. So I ate a lot of tuna and peanut butter and consoled myself thinking about all the money I saved forgoing the extra stuff. Mind you, I wanted to buy junk, but nothing short of aiming a gun at the cashier’s head was gonna help me score.
Mom wasn’t what I would call a fancy cook, but she was a marvelous baker. Usually my siblings and I would come streaming in from the afternoon school bus to find our mother and every kitchen surface covered with a fine dusting of flour. She baked weekly, so we seldom had a dessert that wasn’t made from scratch. Unfortunately, her culinary skills completely missed my gene pool.
When my husband and I started dating the first home-cooked dinner I served him made him ill. Here’s a little tip for new lovebirds: Don’t try to impress your date by cooking their ethnic favorites unless you share their ethnicity or know what you’re doing. To this day he claims the spaghetti sauce was “A tad to sweet.” I’m thinking maybe it was the copious amount of wine before, with, and after dinner.
Predictably, every few weeks I accidentally let the water evaporate while steaming broccoli. I have the scorched pans to prove it. We still eat the broccoli because my husband will eat just about anything, and I hate to waste food. There are only two things my husband won’t eat: liver and eggplant. I’ve never tried to slip liver by him because let’s face it, there’s no hiding the taste, texture or smell of liver. But I did manage to make some God-awful concoction that had chunks of eggplant in it. He ate that without ever knowing and seemed to like it too! He’s pretty easy to please. Besides, he eats so fast that half the time he couldn’t tell you what he ate five minutes ago. The second time I made it he casually asked if there was eggplant in it. “Of course not, dear!” I said. But I know I didn’t fool him and haven’t made it since. No sense pushing my luck.
I’m not a bad cook, I’m just not a fancy cook. I simply don’t care enough to fuss. Heck, I don’t even care much about eating. Yes, it’s a curse. I can’t understand why people get so excited about a special restaurant or meal. My view of food is admittedly odd, but competitive bodybuilding changed the way I think about food. Eating and cooking got reduced to a game of numbers and nutrients. Unfortunately, I ate that way for so long that it became a habit I just can’t seem to break. I admit, I think of food as fuel and little more. I suppose a great tasting meal can be nice, but it still ranks pretty low on my thrill meter. My motto is the simpler the better. I eat to live, not live to eat.
This genetic flaw drove my gourmet father nuts. Every time he came to visit my lack of cooking finesse became a focal point.
Dad: “Don’t you make a sauce for anything?”
Me: “Yeah. Nestle’s Chocolate sauce. We pour it over ice cream.”
Dad: (Makes face) “That’s drizzle. You drizzle it over ice cream!’
Me: “Right. That’s what I said … we pour it over ice cream.”
Dad: “Don’t you have anything to put on a potato?”
Me: “Yeah. Pepper.”
Dad: “Don’t you ever use any salt?”
Me: “Sure. On the sidewalk after it snows.”
Dad: “I see you’re making Honeymoon Salad.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Dad: “Lettuce alone”
I know he thought he failed as a parent. He was probably right.
I grew up on a small farm. We raised our own polled Herefords, which is steak minus the horns. Our family ate some form of beef at least twice a week and it was always excellent. So I know steak. No doubt about it, we were steak snobs. We’d go out to dinner and someone would always order beef, then mumble “I think ours is better, don’t you?” We tried not to be jerks about it, but it was usually true.
One thing I can tell you is that a prime cut of beef shouldn’t cost forty dollars. And it doesn’t take much skill to prepare. Apparently when you go to a good steakhouse you’re paying for the atmosphere and service. OK, so perhaps I should dim the lights, fix a cocktail, smile at my husband and say, “Hi! My name is Bambi and I’ll be your waitress tonight!” as I slap a steak in front of him. If I return in ten minutes (to see if he needs the Heimlich maneuver) do you think I’ll get a twenty dollar tip?
Not in your wildest dreams.
The first time I had dinner with my future husband I noticed he had some rather ‘odd’ table manners. He sat with his non-eating hand curled possessively around his plate and inhaled his food. He never came up for air or conversation until everything was gone from his plate. Needless to say, that took all of about six minutes, regardless of content or amount.
I soon discovered he was one of four kids, three of them boys. Dinner was a war zone and his brothers and Dad were the enemy. It wasn’t just matter of eating fast to finish first, but finishing first to get seconds! Every time I dined with his family I was … well, shocked. Not at the feeding frenzy, but at the overall quantity of food consumed. If his mother cooked fourteen hamburgers, there wasn’t a burger left in sight by the end of the meal. Heck, there wasn’t a crumb from a bun left in sight! He told me there was a time when his parents actually had to padlock the backup refrigerator-freezer in the basement. I believed him.
His table manners have improved somewhat, but his appetite is still the same. We never have leftovers. If dinner isn’t ready when he gets home he’ll stand at the stove and eat anything that is ready, straight from the pan. I never put anything in the refrigerator and expect it to be there when I want or need it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve peered into a cupboard or the refrigerator, only to realize something I had plans for is long gone. Keeping him fed can be a full time job, which made me pity his poor Mom, who had two sons just like him and a husband who was as bad when he was younger.
My eating speed increased greatly for a while. It was a matter of survival. But I eventually slowed down, which means I have to pinch-grip my plate or my husband will clear it from the table and finish anything I haven’t polished off myself.