Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ladies who eat Lunchables

In keeping with my recent revelation that going without food is dangerous for my mental status, I've been making a sincere effort to take a meal break when I am working. In so doing, I have turned more and more to that anathema of healthy and thrifty people: convenience foods. I know, I KNOW. As a former member of La Leche League, Tightwad Gazette devotee and participant in the Mothering magazine discussion boards, I am well aware that convenience foods are the grey, tasteless symbol of that great horror: Mainstream America. Consuming them implies being un-green and complicity with Monsanto's plan to destroy all botanical diversity and rule the world. Shame! Shame!

But what lunch is more pathetic than the homemade sandwich, slightly squashed in its baggie, the mayo beginning to congeal and lunchmeat like a limp latex glove? So I opened the freezer case door and entered the world of Lean Cuisine. Indeed, I spent at least fifteen minutes studying their assorted products and wondering why, within the Lean Cuisine brand, there are boxes with a blue strip at the top, or green or yellow, or brown. Now I know they've divided their meals into categories, each with a color coded strip at the top of the box so we consumers don't get confused. There's "Market Creations" (new!), Casual Cuisine, Spa Cuisine, Cafe Cuisine, Comfort Cuisine, etc.

I know I could spend my day off cooking a week's worth of meals and freeze individual portions for myself. I could cut up "veggies" (how I hate that coy substitute for the word "vegetables") and store them in the fridge to grab on my way out the door. I could stock up on healthy snacks and pack up my meals the night before I go to work. I could sow my own wheat and grind it by hand and bake delicious homemade breads and spread them with natural peanut butter that I made myself and mashed up organic bananas and honey from my own bees. Or I could reach into the freezer case and with one gorilla-arm swipe, fill my cart with "Shanghai style shrimp," "Hunan stir fry," and "Fiesta grilled chicken."

In keeping with my new devotion to convenience, I checked out of the library Back of the Box Cooking: 500 Quick and Easy Family Recipes from America's Favorite Brands. I imagined that cooking would become a thing of the past and that from now on I could dump the contents of assorted jars and cans together and call it "dinner." I was actually a bit disappointed that the cookbook turned out to be much less artificial than I was expecting and that most recipes call for a number of whole foods with a couple of brand name products for flair. They taste OK, but not spectacular, which is not unlike my assessment of the Lean Cuisine meals: acceptable as fuel but nothing to write home about. The quest for a cooking-free life continues. At least there is fried bologna sandwiches and fried chicken from Stoney's.


  1. I know exactly what you mean! One thing I found that assuaged my guilt about convenience foods a bit was find some premade meals at rebecca's. A bit pricey, but at least I felt like I was eating pretty healthy.

  2. I thought hospitals were supposed to have good cafeteria food. But I also thought that about schools.

  3. You nurses are so lazy. Ain't nothing wrong with a lunch of Doritos and a sody pop. I thought I was the only one who shivered at the "veggie" abbreviation. Don't even get me started on "panties."

  4. I first read "Hunan Stir Fry" as "Human Stir Fry". And now I can't remember what else I was going to say.

    Keep eating!