Friday, August 3, 2007

he is what he ate

Coupon Culture

I like to take a reading on the Sunday newspaper coupons a couple of times a year because they are a handy guide to the current state of American Culture. Sort of like divining bird’s entrails, or digging through Dylan’s trash. Today’s reading tells me:

1)Americans still wistfully believe that you can lose weight by drinking canned substances rather than exercising. These canned substances consist mainly of water, sugar, milk, vitamins, and something to make you speed, like caffeine or a pseudoephedrine. This is of course nonsense, as no human being in the history of earth has ever lost weight this way and stayed at that artificially lowered weight for more than half an hour, but it apparently makes people feel that they are doing something about their weight problem and it is much easier than thinking. If one were to think about the problem, it would be obvious that a person could use portion control and exercise to lose weight, thus at least being able to eat small amounts of real food. However, a further examination of the coupon glossies reveals this:

2)Americans have ceased to eat real food, thus cans of flavored sugared milk with vitamins aren’t so awful as they might seem. We now eat things like “Croissant Pockets” filled with pizza (?), “Crescent Dogs” (refrigerated dough that tastes like newspaper wrapped around your imitation “frankfurter” of choice), artificial butter-flavored popcorn (God only knows what that is), frozen one-dish meals with the meat and gravy and everything included so you pry it out into a pan and “cook” it yourself in twenty minutes (the exact amount of time it would take to make scratch rice, brocolli, and sauteed chicken breast with a sauce), coffee in styrofoam cups that tastes just like the cup it comes in, orange-flavored sugar water that “tastes just like orange juice” (so why not just drink orange juice?), pretzels (which are supposed to be slimming, but covered in fudge and chocolate, so you can pretend to be not getting fatter as you gorge), and frozen hamburgers (this is interesting- never in the history of the universe has there been anything easier or faster to make than a real hamburger). All of these items presumably can be nuked of course. And should be.

Erstwhile President Gerald R. Ford attempts to eat a tamale, shuck and all, to the horror of the natives at the World's Fair, San Antonio. He was not subsequently elected (either) as he was not considered bright enough to be President after this. It is unknown if he swallowed the shuck as he was wrestled to the ground by mystified Texans and shielded from the Press, the lying dogs.

3)Tex-Mex items have entered mainstream culture with a vengeance. We have Denny’s advertising flour tortilla breakfast tacos, coupons for Pace salsa and Mission flour tortillas with recipes for ground beef tacos, and a coupon for canned corn with another recipe for “Cheesy Corn Quesadillas” with salsa and hot peppers. This is somehow endearing, but it probably doesn’t taste much like Tex-Mex, more pretends to be than is. It’s kind of a shame to see a great cuisine be all screwed up by marketers again, and again, and again…

tortilla soup (real Tex-Mex)

weird frozen mystery ingredient enchichangadita thingies (not real Tex-Mex)

4) Americans are also eating a variety of foods that was unthinkable in the 50’s of my childhood. Mango and Guava juices, yogurt, bagels, croissants, Nutella (hazelnut and chocolate spread seen only in Europe before yesterday), balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes in our bottled salad dressing, frozen fish with “garlic & herb” coatings, “natural” whole grain breads (what the hell does “natural” mean, anyway? I would say exactly nothing), organic cereals, and of course pizza. Ethnic foods have permeated the old boundaries; New Yorkers are making quesadillas and Texans are eating bagels. Words like “organic” and “natural” are showing up in mass marketing now, surely at least a good sign.

what passed for food in 1955- most Americans ate the plastic, too

5)Modern babies have a lot better selection of diapers than I did. They can choose from swim pants (instead of the horror of a water-soaked, drag-ass cloth one), diapers with built-in “rash guard”, diapers that are like little pants they can pull off and run around naked afterwards. My diapers were big, heavy, cloth things that were decidedly inelegant. This is one area (so to speak) where life has definitely improved. Remember the diaper bucket in the bathroom?

6) PT Barnum lives. Apparently there are people out there who will buy literally anything they lay eyes on. Ridiculous hocum “magic” rings, little “Biker” and “Eskimo” dolls, absurd psuedo-Indian pocketknives, copper things (some imbedded with magic crystals) that will cure anything that ails you, cheap looking Christmas and Easter knick-knackery, diet pills that “melt away fat without exercise”, horrible side-of-the-road plates comemorating dubious events or concepts or Country Western stars, funky girdles and clothes in shocking pastels. If you can think it up, somebody out there is waiting to buy it in three easy installments.

Magic healing crystal shaman Dr. Larry C. Moe at work

Is this a great country or what?