Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Premise #4: No Food, Only Ingredients


I stole that phrase from a young friend of mine, who was quoted by his mother. He wanted frozen pizza. She had cheese and tomato sauce. He wanted chicken nuggets. She had frozen chicken breasts. He wanted hamburgers. She had ground beef. He complained, "Mom! We don't have any FOOD in this house, only INGREDIENTS!"

Which, so, okay. I mean, yes. We like the convenience of hastily prepared meals, like frozen burritos, frozen fish sticks (I'm afraid I can't even TYPE that phrase without thinking of South Park and snickering- sorry.), pizza kits (Ah, Joe Corbi! How I miss thee!), packaged cookies, sliced cheese, Lunchables... but we begin to wander into the territory of what Michael Pollan refers to as "edible food-like substances".  Some of these (cheese puffs? Velveeta? Slim Jim?) I'm not sure even rate the term "food-like", as they really are not. I do not kid myself when I'm consuming half a bag of puffed corn product covered in orange dust that this is "food". It's not. It's cargo, and I'll be carting it around or physically offloading it later.

What was my point, here? I'm distracted because the kids and I were talking the other day about food tax. Which items do we tax? I'm in favor of a soda tax, and a tax on chips and cheese curls. So we were talking, the kids and I, about how food is currently not taxed, even the dubious food-like products, but dog food and baby wipes are taxed. So where's the line? Pugsley said "prepared foods. Like Lunchables should be taxed, but not lunch meat."

"From the deli counter, right," I agreed, "but what about, say, tuna salad at the deli counter? Clearly, we don't tax tuna in a can, but tuna salad at the counter, is that taxed?" Pugsley thought it ought to be. "It's prepared," he said.

Where's the line? Do we tax pastries, but not bread? Or do we also tax bread, but not flour or yeast? Do we tax crackers, pudding, yogurt? I see where legislation could get very sticky, and Nabisco has plenty of lawyers to tie the whole thing up for decades.

Here's my shopping list for the week:

Aldi                                                              Costco
                                                                          astronaut chicken*
apple juice
cheese x2
cream of chix soup
frozen California medly veggies
sour cream
canned beans: 1 white, several chili
canned veggies
biscuit mix

Wish list: Yams, crackers, piecrust, cocoa powder, saurkraut, hot chocolate, Saturday cereal, peaches, shaky cheese, salmon, tuna kits, pesto sauce,  pineapple and cottage cheese

*This refers to a rotisserie chicken, already cooked and packaged like an astronaut in a plastic capsule. I wish I'd come up with the term, but it was Stephen King in Duma Key. I must content myself with having coined 'snowceries'. It'll catch on, I'm certain of it.

"So what did you have?" I asked my friend, owner of the 'no food, only ingredients' offspring. "Pasta," she said, "like we usually do."

Pasta. Yep. Brown that ground beef, dump a can of soup on, open a can of green beans, boil the pasta, call it done. Boil the pasta, heat the sauce, top with shredded cheese. OR... and we've done this... take the Ingredients, warm them and serve them together like a meal. OF COURSE you can. I have baked sweet potatoes in the microwave, heated a can of corn and a can of black beans (separate pots), spiced up the beans with some pepper and cilantro, dropped a generous pat of butter on each finished potato, and served up plates of sweet potato, black beans and corn to happy eaters. It's a warm, nourishing, comforting colorful meal that is always more filling than I remember- I usually have something left. I have been known to give cinnamon toast and half a yam as breakfast, with no complaints.

I may drop Saturday Cereal from my list this week and buy raisin bread instead. French Toast is food, you know.

1 comment:

  1. The problem with taxing prepared meals is that it will hurt lower-income people. Preparing meals takes time and energy that not everybody has. People who have multiple jobs in order to get by, non-professional caregivers (who are likely to have jobs in addition to taking care of whoever they need to take care of), and people with disabilities would all be negatively affected by raising the cost barrier to prepared food. Not only that, but the existence of food deserts means that people who live in lower-income areas will be more heavily taxed on food than people who don't.