Friday, September 28, 2007

Convenience Foods

So this weekend I started auditing at the store. In this context, what audit means is that I scan every item in the store and check to make sure that the signage matches the price ringing at the register. Since signage is my job, I then correct any mistakes with new signs. I enjoyed the relative monotony of scanning, beeping, looking, scanning broken only by questions from customers or the occasional error which required a few additional keystrokes. It reminded me of doing inventory when I was a teenager, a job I found both rewarding and interesting.

Like doing inventory, I got to see many more store products than I might have noticed otherwise. That's great, because I got to learn about the existence of pickled asparagus, canned chestnuts and lime curd, but it's also frustrating because I find the whole range of convenience foods an indicator of how lazy and detached from food our culture has become. Now don't get me wrong, my great food love is itself a convenience item, so I'm aware there is a double standard here. However, I think I've identified the category of convenience foods that irritate me: sweets and non-meals.

The aisle I was auditing this weekend included spices, cereals, baking goods, cake mixes, cookie mixes, and canned fruits and vegetables. Nothing too offensive in the canned fruits and veggies, no complaints in among the flours and sugars, and I even smiled as I looked over the array of spices. It was the baking mixes that put me in a foul mood. I grew up on baking mixes, despite my mom's great talent for baking. With three growing kids and a full time job, she probably just didn't have time for scratch baking. Put it that way, many modern people probably don't. I have compassion for my mother in this, but I find it hard to cop to in others. I find myself frustrated by the varieties of baking mixes available to us: plus blueberries, plus marrion berries, with brown sugar on top...'s days or weeks later and I just can't finish this rant. It's in my nature to be relativistic and forgiving and once I realized that the convenience foods are just there for people with busy lives, whatever their priorities are (just because someone doesn't have kids doesn't mean they don't want ease in the kitchen), I couldn't stay upset. I guess I was just lamenting because so much food available is just crap - not good for people, animals, children or the environment - and that I wish people knew the joy of cooking.

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