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Bad food points to societal problems

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:10 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

The latest reason I’m grateful that I’m underweight is the low-carb craze.

Because the two slices of bread that wrap any delicatessen sandwich are the only part I consider worth eating, I’m not willing to give them up. For me, homemade deli sandwiches involve baking a ham, a beef roast and a turkey to get meat that can’t substitute for shoe leather. Of course, my vegetarian friends would suggest I eliminate the meat altogether and order veggies, which would be all right, provided I could find decent vegetables.

The popularity of poorly prepared fast food has convinced food producers that our taste buds have been numbed to the point where we will eat anything. And it does seem to be true: Many children raised on fast food do not care for home-cooked meals. And because we are dominated by the youth culture, that is where food producers wish to appeal. No thought, I suppose, is given to the older folks who are paying for what some farm families would think of as fodder for the pig’s trough.

Good food is one of the things I miss in this era when technology supposedly has made most things bigger or better. I’ve never had a large appetite; I’ve always preferred small portions of tasty food to large portions of mediocre fare. In most restaurants, I find the latter rather than the former — huge plates overflowing with food that has little or no flavor. But most foods tend to be pumped full of preservatives and other additives, and little can be done in the kitchen to improve the taste. I realize most folks have problems keeping the pounds off even though the food seems to get worse. I guess our demand for tasty eats diminishes as food becomes less flavorful.

I find the same thing to be true in other areas of life. Issues involving quality seem to have taken a back seat in our desire to live larger, more acquisitive lives. We strive for ever bigger homes and automobiles, as if we need them as stage props to help us define ourselves. Yet we seldom seem to make demands on home builders or car manufacturers to adhere to standards that will produce more dependable products. We buy larger, more expensive appliances from companies whose ideas of customer service are to add more items to the menus on their voice mail. We take it for granted that we will never be able to personally speak to anyone who can repair the appliance or give us instructions on how to fix it ourselves. We have become the kind of people who are willing to settle for whatever we can get, from spoiled meat to defective appliances and second-rate political leaders.

Some people buy into the belief that passive acceptance is a vital ingredient in the process of building relationships of all kinds. The theory seems to be that people who raise questions, no matter how essential, do not get promoted or invited to spend the weekend at the boss’s vacation cottage. They think that the willingness to forgive, overlook or do whatever it takes to be a “team player” is the sure-fire route to a successful career, a happy marriage and effective parenting.

People who voice complaints are often referred to as whiners. If one expects to be treated fairly, kindly or with reasonable consideration, he or she is said to entertain unreasonable expectations. So, if one wishes to be socially acceptable, they “don’t make waves.”

Every now and then, a young person will come to me seeking advice on how to fit into their situation. They are always surprised when I ask them if they are really sure they want to and suggest that they weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. Although I can understand how a harmonious group of employees benefits the people in charge, I’m not sure how it affects the members of the group. Every person likes to feel that she is unique and important, and forcing her to submerge her own personality in favor of a unified attitude isn’t always the best way to peace and harmony.

I don’t know that we will ever have wholesome, farm-fresh meat and vegetables again. Still, memories of sitting around the table — brimming with a meal of cupboard staples surrounding a nice, plump chicken — propels one back to a simpler time. Those were the days when a meal was a feast to be enjoyed rather than an endurance test where the mind weighs the ultimate cost of a tablespoon of potatoes over a celery stick.

From this day forward, I suppose, our houses and cars will radiate technological marvels. It probably won’t be long before household appliances will perform every task on their own power.

But the question is: For all our beautiful bodies, our fabulous material possessions and our technological expertise, are our lives really easier or more comfortable? Are we more loving and devoted to our families — more compassionate and tolerant toward friends and neighbors? Is the price we are paying worth the value received?

Sometimes, I wonder ...

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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