Sunday, February 12, 2012

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

George and I are starting to relive our childhood through Claire. As products of the 70's, he and I are finding that we have much in common. Some of our memories are joyful, others painful or perplexing. Some make sense for the first time, now that we are on the other side of the family table.

And speaking of tables, the 70’s diet has had George and me laughing lately. Waking up to cereal that turned white milk into chocolate or had marshmallows shaped like stars, complete with promise of talismanic powers. Perhaps, mom rationalized that they were “fortified” with vitamins or that the milk made up for the sugar high.

Lunch was manufactured instead of cooked. Wonder bread and Kraft American cheese – the American public actually paying companies to deplete foods of their natural goodness. Bologna earned the term “mystery meat”. Likewise, I’ll give someone a dollar if they can tell me what fruit was in Hawaiian Fruit Punch.

If breakfast smacked of Willy Wonka and lunch represented the Corporate American Wasteland, dinner was purely puritanical. The dinner plate divided into a peace sign – a dry, unseasoned piece of meat in one quadrant, a potato in another. The last section held frozen vegetables revivified by boiling. Calling something a “medley” does not make it more appetizing. And carrots and peas are not tastier because they make pretty colors together. Either way, vegetables handed off to the dog or chucked into the nearest spider plant have no nutritional value whatsoever. Nor did the salad served up in individual wooden bowls. No one knew that iceberg lettuce is devoid of nutritional value. Much to our surprise, the tomato turned out to be a fruit. Thousand island dressing was a fancy term for ketchup and mayonnaise. The red flecks in Wishbone salad dressing were supposed to be red pepper, but really had the consistency of wet confetti. Dessert required no cooking, just a can opener and a flexible wrist. Heavy syrup cancels out the anemic nutritional value of a canned peach anyway. No one knew then and we are still scratching our heads over why they were called "cling" peaches?

But, all joking aside, let’s let our moms off the hook here. First, dad wasn't pitching in. Second, meals weren’t always that bad. There was the occasional French bread pizza or stir-fry when woks were all the rage. Third, even when the food was bad, we did gather around the dinner table as a family every night. And fourth, it’s clear our moms didn’t create this culinary poverty. It was a national phenomenon. The 70’s cultural vibe reached from George’s Connecticut upbringing to mine in Kansas. And it spanned our different socioeconomic backgrounds too. TV and Family Circle are probably partially responsible.

Surely, there will be culinary contradictions in the water that Claire will make fun of also. When did Cheerios served up in Glad Baggies become a ubiquitous snack? Do we really think cheese crackers shaped like fish are any more nutritious? Has anyone seen the sugar content in Dannon yogurt with the “fruit” on the bottom? And juicy juice, really? Or just because Subway is a little more nutritious than McDonalds, does it really mean it’s healthy? Plus, right now, Claire eats anything put in front of her. If and when she reaches the picky eater stage, maybe Count Chocula will do his thing on Claire’s milk too.

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