Why do Americans love crappy food?

Garrison Ebie

Let’s talk about food.

To make a long story short, I love it. I can eat more in a single sitting than some families. I’m always the first one done at the dinner table. If anyone out there ever wants to show their appreciation for an excellent column I write, don’t hesitate to just make me a homemade gourmet dinner.

Regardless of my infatuation with most edible substances, I’ve found myself wanting to eat at restaurants less and less. Microwave dinners have gone out the window as well. Even mac and cheese doesn’t find its way in my pantry anymore. Just about anything in a box that that comes pre-packaged or made on an assembly line seems overwhelmingly sketchy. If I haven’t seen the raw ingredients first-hand, I am skeptical.

This isn’t to say that I completely avoid these foods altogether. We live in a culture where it’s hard to avoid fast food, and I have a lifestyle that practically demands it. If I had enough time to round up fresh vegetables, milk a cow, slaughter it and gather freshly laid chicken eggs every morning, I would probably make myself a pretty solid omelet for breakfast. But let’s face it, time is something that is constantly fading away into oblivion. And more of it? Let me consult my magic wand for that one.

However, I’m stuck. Most of my days and nights are spent away from my kitchen. Since the choice of not eating at all is completely out of the question, what I must do is trust the line cooks wherever I choose to get a bite. I must trust them not to drop my chicken wings on the floor after they leave the fryer, to use gloves when touching raw vegetables and to thoroughly clean and sanitize the dishes. But who am I kidding? I’ve been working in the food industry for a long time. Sometimes I’d like to be hungry enough to not care how the food ended up on my plate.

Now, say I’m at home and get hungry. Maybe my mom spoiled me with totally awesome meals as a kid, but I’ve been trying to recreate those for a couple years. Boxed food is a no-no, and sometimes I even avoid cans. Habits like these might take up an annoyingly long part of the night, but really they’re totally worth it. And at least when my homemade food sucks, there’s nothing to blame beside my own awful culinary skills.

I choose to cook based on how unnaturally easy it is to just throw something in the microwave. Something about that does not seem normal to me. Upon close examination of a Budget Gourmet or Swanson’s dinner, I feel like I’m being fed a science experiment. The potatoes have the consistency of chicken broth, sirloin steak is not supposed to be cut apart this easily, and the side of melted butter looks like it has a few kernels of corn in it. Who would settle for this garbage?

Even opening up a bag of chips and digging in seems strangely familiar to the way we feed dogs and cats. Cereal like Cheerios and Corn Flakes comes from silos the same way animal feed does on a farm. When companies need to slash their budgets, additives are introduced to replace formerly natural ingredients. It would be nice if Cheetos had some authentic cheese, but that’s just not going to happen. There is certainly no chicken in chicken Ramen. Even some Hershey’s candy bars use vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter now.

There is a cause for concern in the food industry that is not being met with the scrutiny it deserves. Consumer demand for cheap food has driven down the quality of it to disgusting levels. While the problem may pale in comparison to what you might read in Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” this still cannot be safe. This is not the way humans are supposed to eat. Why is it that we accept such crappy food?

I could understand trading delicious meals for a satisfying life and a promising future, but I don’t think our world is collectively any happier just because a 24-hour McDonald’s opened up. Even eating TV dinners as an excuse for not having enough time is contradictory since, by definition, they require enough time to watch television. I believe that if evolution takes hold on our species, the next generation may possibly be born without taste buds.

Garrison Ebie is an electronic media production major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].