No fun food for you!

In the last half of the 20th century, the captains of industry and the flight attendants of culture invested considerable energy and additives into making food fun. For most of mankind’s existence, food had been a daily struggle of growing and harvesting, hunting and gathering, choking and gagging. Then suddenly we had Tang.

Imagine: powdered orange juice, just like the astronauts drink! Simply add healthy, chlorinated tap water. Enjoy it with your morning waffle that you – is this a dream? – heat up in the toaster! Why not plop on a dab of Cool Whip made from genuine petroleum by-product!

Of course Cool Whip isn’t made from petroleum. My brother and I, though, were convinced it was. And here’s the thing: we didn’t care. As long as the food entertained us with colours, marshmallows and prizes inside, we were happy consumers. Plus, we had a good dentist.

But it’s the 21st century, a century of technological marvels and almost no fun at all. We know too much. And what we don’t know, the authorities make sure to tell us. This is the age of Foodland Security.

Take that miracle of tasty convenience, the frozen pizza. We grew up thinking this was the ideal food, covering all the food groups: grain, dairy, meat, vegetables and goo, the goo group, of course, being the most fun of all the food groups.

Thanks to nutrition labelling, I now know that one slice of my Delissio Thin Crispy Crust Deluxe frozen pizza contains 28% of my daily recommended saturated fat and 25% of recommended sodium. I see that. I shake my head. “That’s a lot of fat and salt,” I say. And then I eat three slices.

I always had my suspicions about pizza, but the truth about tinned soup felt like a betrayal. “Soup is wholesome!” No, tinned soup is essentially gelatinous salt. The only reason you should offer tinned soup to someone is for the insurance money.

I’m not saying that ignorance is bliss, because, in this case, ignorance is type 2 diabetes and premature death. But those chastising nutrition labels are destroying every morsel of pleasure. Canada made nutrition labelling mandatory only in 2005, and it’s probably no coincidence that since then we’ve been a far grumpier nation, yet not the least bit healthier.

Similarly, because I’m made aware of livestock conditions, eating meat has become increasingly unappetizing – and no fun at all! Except lamb. I feel no remorse for lamb. Those tasty baby sheep can gambol into my mouth any old time.

It goes on: last week, the World Health Organization recommended that sugar should represent no more than 5% of daily calories, down from its previous recommendation of 10%. That’s about 25 grams of sugar a day for an adult of average weight eating a healthy diet, i.e. no one.

As I write this, I’ve just eaten a cookie, a lovely, moderate Peek Freans with 5 grams of sugar. It was delicious. So were the four I ate in the afternoon. And the two brownies. Plus a chunk of chocolate. And some Ike & Mikes. And Good & Plenty. Now I’m Guilty & Remorseful.

In defence of my sugar intake, I stopped drinking alcohol three years ago when I developed an allergy to hangovers. It’s natural to replace alcohol with sugar cravings. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Another side effect of abstinence is that I drink a lot of tea. Tea is lovely. Tea is sophisticated. Tea goes really well with Peek Freans.

But just days after the WHO made us feel even worse about sugar, CBC reported that traces of pesticides in commercial teas regularly exceed acceptable Canadian standards. But don’t worry; the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that a person would have to drink 75 cups of tea a day over his or her lifetime to suffer any adverse effects. At 75 cups a day, I think the tea would kill you before the pesticides.

But that’s not the point. The point is that knowing this fact has taken all the fun out of tea, and let’s face it, tea wasn’t much fun to begin with, certainly far less fun than tequila.

The only fun food you can get away with guilt-free these days are smoothies, which are the educational toys of food. In the end, we’ll maybe add 2.3 years to our life expectancy, but those will be 2.3 years of smoothies when all we want is Tang.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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53 Responses to No fun food for you!

  1. markbialczak says:

    I, too, Ross, remember when the guiding principle used to be: Eat, drink and be merry. That was awesome!

  2. Robin says:

    Love this post. Funny, my husband and I were just talking the other day about when that exact moment came when we started caring about what was in our food. We never knew, way back when, even to pose the question: what’s in this? Makes me shudder to think what I previously consumed… Now it takes me twice as long in the store because of all the label-reading. But it’s all good. If we can live that life not-sick, it’s worth it! I’d bet you can find some nice organic/all-natural/Canada-sourced tea and sweeten it up with a little local honey? That might be fun and happy….maybe?

  3. The last mayoral administration here in NYC passed a law that all nutrition/caloric information must be displayed in all restaurants. The lines at McDonald’s are no shorter.

    Tang, schmang. Are you old enough to remember Space Food Sticks? Did you guys have those? God, what bunch of suckers our parents were.


  4. See how much you can err – smoothies are chock full of calories and sugar! Nothing is safe but rice cakes…maybe…

    “Smoothies and fruit juices are a new risk to health, US scientists warn” – Mawhahaha

    It’s gravel and rubber bands for me!

  5. Don’t forget all those fun breakfast cereals that are really just candy in a box. I used to be pretty fond of Quisp. Fun!

  6. Annie says:

    Tang. It always brings me back to SNL. My brother and I lost our cookies at that eposide, the moment Todd says “Good Tang.” Thanks for the memories.

  7. Amanda Fox says:

    I should NOT have been reading this at lunch. My broccoli smoothie – which before was tolerable if I plugged my nose – is not absolutely unthinkable now. OK, so I won’t eat half of a Delissio pizza, but I AM going to have a peanut butter sandwich, dammit. On bread, that’s right – whole wheat bread. It’ll be like heaven in my belly.

    As always, you make me laugh, Ross. 🙂

  8. Jennie Saia says:

    Food Lion (a local grocery store) sells these store-brand knock-offs of South Patch Kids candy. They’re just awful – you can TASTE the skin-melting chemicals in them – and yet I love them with a fiery passion. Sometimes you just want something that taste FAKE.

  9. Paul says:

    “Ike & Mikes. And Good & Plenty” Yummm! It’s not possible those are bad for us is it? Sigh. I have a health issue so I make it a habit to read those lttile nutrition information labels. Ha! There are some surprises. I had the munchies the other day while I was out and in a rush. I picked up a pre-packaged assorted submarine, flipped it over and read the nutrition stuff. Wow! 162% of daily salt intake . This seems somehow surreal. Shouldn’t any single serve food item with more than 100% of anything, be labelled with a large red, flashing cross? Sort of a warning like in those nuclear powered submarines (the real ones) you see in the movies where the captain orders emergency speed (“162% recommended speed helmsman!”) and the overspeed reactor warning lights flash, sirens scream and the vessel shudders and bucks and the sound of water rushing by the hull covers all conversation.And the chief engineer hollers “She gonna blow Capt’n!” Shouldn’t something like that happen? But no, it sits there benignly tempting you in its fresh bun with delicious meats and cheeses peeking out from inside – just begging you to unwrap and discover it’s tantalizing tastes and flavours tittilating the senses. My mouth waters. Ah damn – I put it back. But why? I would have so blissfully gone to my grave had there been no labeling. Stupid labels.

    On the “glass half full” side of the argument – we actually have so much food available to us that we have a hard time choosing and complain about the preponderance. There are millions who would die (and in fact are dying) to have our problem. We are spoiled rotten. Sigh. So, not only do I have to feel guilty about not eating right, I have to feel guilty that others are dying because they don’t have what I have.

    **Brightens Up** Time for a drink! It’s after noon here!

  10. franhunne4u says:

    Ok, will you get much older when you choose a healthy diet over a fun food one? Perhaps, perhaps not – but you will certainly FEEL it 😛

  11. What I especially like are the faux-foods that try to dress themselves up as health food: “Fruit Roll Ups! Contain actual fruit molecules plus enough sugar to send you into insulin shock!” “Chocolate Cheerios! Better for you than regular Cheerios, because everyone knows chocolate cures depression and PMS!” “Vitamin water! The most expensive pee you’ll take today!”

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Vitamin Water! Those folks are genius!
      I didn’t get into it, but did you ever notice the multi-grain versions of regular foods contain more salt and sugar?
      And “granola” bars!
      Urgh! Now I’m mad. And hungry!

  12. Go read Yoni Freedhoff’s blog, Weighty Matters. He goes off on these rants periodically. Actually, so do I. 🙂

  13. ksbeth says:

    can we make tang smoothies? and my greatest food love is velveta, there has never been a finer cheese product plastic greasy brick made.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Velveta stands in a class of its own. I remember the commercials well. For some reason, I associate Kraft commercials (with the demonstrating hands? know what I’m talking about?) with Carol Burnett.

      • ksbeth says:

        absolutely – the kraft commercials. and god i love it. i wonder if aliens will find it one day and wonder how we survived on earth for so long?

        • Paul says:

          OMG – Velveeta is the Best! It’s one of those foods that disconnects my “Full” warning – I can just keep on eating it on fresh buns with real butter until I can barely walk. I don’t buy it much anymore because it is about $9 CDN for a pound (500 grams here – steak is cheaper) in Canada. Last time I was south of the border, it was only $6 USD for 2 pounds (about 1 kilo here).I refuse to read the nutrition label. I almost applied for a green card. I’ll stop ranting now…sorry.

  14. nobsj says:

    A few weeks ago I decided to replace all my sugary study snacks with fruit. The ensuing shitstorm (lol literally) was a valuable lesson in excessive fiber intake and the perils of healthy eating. Haven’t done it since.

  15. Nic says:

    “I’m not saying that ignorance is bliss, because, in this case, ignorance is type 2 diabetes and premature death.”

    HA! Also, your intro to this is such great timing because I recently read an essay by Augusten Burroughs about the time he was in a Tang commercial when he was a child. And the whole time I was like “what’s Tang again?” NOW I KNOW!

  16. peachyteachy says:

    I had a Toast and Tang Brunch for my high school graduation. Before irony was cool. I am not kidding. So this post makes me happy.

  17. benzeknees says:

    Hubby & I are reducing our caloric intake in the vain attempt to shed a few pounds at the moment so I am all too familiar with food labels! Unless I eat plain meat, fresh potatoes, fresh salad without any dressing & drink nothing but water – my sodium intake is always too high! There is sodium in black coffee, there is sodium in a banana, there is sodium in every salad dressing, any prepared food of any kind. If you try to go for foods lighter in sodium, the food companies cheat you by upping the sugar to make the food taste good! I don’t know how anyone in this day & age can stick to the recommended guidelines.

  18. cat9984 says:

    Ignorance is bliss. I make all of our baked treats, so there’s no nutritional value available. And broken cookies have no calories – it all leaks out when they break.

  19. Pingback: Tang’s For The Memories « Mark My Words…

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