Slate magazine visited a prison food convention where they sell corn dogs without sticks because prisoners are less concerned about trans-fats than they are about getting stabbed before dessert. Manufacturers use some of the same clever dieting tricks we do, like selling lightly breaded chicken thigh nuggets that take up a lot of space on a plate. Inmates think they’re getting a large portion, but they’re really only getting four ounces. Being in prison obviously must suck, but I’d never thought about how unpleasant it would be to eat cafeteria food and “textured vegetable proteins” for 20 to life. While I at first resented cooking, now I enjoy it because I get to chose what I eat every night. I’d hate for that choice to be taken away from me, especially for “grade B type product” where price is more important than quality. Sadly, a vendor says prisons’ nutritional food requirements are a lot higher than our school systems. Pack your lunches, kiddos!
Speaking of nutritional standards, after I wrote about the Indiana State fair banning trans-fats, I realized I didn’t know whether my margarine contained any or not. I usually just scan the yellow price stickers at Kroger and throw the cheapest box in my cart without checking. I pulled the shiny, gold cardboard package out from behind my 12-pack of sodas to scan the ingredients list and – horrors! – discovered the words “partially hydrogenated corn oil” near the top of the list. There were trans-fats in my refrigerator! Trans-fats next to my cottage cheese! How had I let this happen? Thankfully, I usually only use the margarine when I make whole-wheat bread every couple weeks, so the damages to my circulatory system are minimal.
When I went grocery shopping this weekend, I pushed my cart with the wobbly wheel in front of the butter section. I grabbed margarine and vegetable oil spreads and read the backs of their boxes like I was skimming book synopses at Barnes & Noble. It took me at least three minutes to find a product that did not have the words “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients. I usually buy sticks of margarine, but none of the stick products met my criteria. I had to grab a tub of Promise spread, which was one of only two products I found that did not contain trans-fats. There were one or two other brands that claimed not to have trans-fats on the label, yet the ingredient list contained those dreaded words “partially hydrogenated” so I discarded them. Liars.
If I have to spend more time than a standard TV commercial break in the butter section searching for healthy food, no wonder Americans are getting so fat. A couple months ago I tried finding natural peanut butter that didn’t have sugar added to it and gave up after a minute because I couldn’t be bothered with a game of hide n’ seek at 9:00 in the morning.
Speaking of laziness, I’ve noticed that sometimes I eyeball the amount of olive oil to use in recipes when I’m sautéing meats and vegetables because I don’t want to wash oil off of my measuring spoon afterwards. Sometimes a recipe calls for a whisk and I’ll just use a spoon because I don’t want to be bothered with the difficulty of cleaning between the wires on my whisk afterwards. Which begs the question, why do I even have a whisk if I’m never going to use it?
The real answer to this problem might be to call maintenance and demand a dishwasher that actually cleans the dishes instead of coating them with soapy residue. However, that would require people to come into my apartment while I’m not there, which creeps me out, particularly after I noticed my air filter was recently changed and no one told me about it. Which means I should probably just get over it and demand the new dishwasher since maintenance people could be coming into my apartment everyday to have cocktail parties and I would never know about it.