We are constantly bombarded with judgments of how we live our lives. People who wouldn’t last a day in the shoes of an average American beat us over the head with a non-stop stream of demands and commands on how we should exist nonetheless. Generally these judgments come from liberals and, of late, have become about what we consume.
The latest target for these “do-gooders” is the food we eat. With a mindset seemingly stuck in the 1970s when TV dinners were freeze-dried slop, the judging class has taken to criticizing families who do not cook nightly meals for their families from scratch. While that may sound like a great idea, it’s impractical and expensive.
But financial reality has no place in minds of these judges because they, quite frankly, are immune to it. But detachment from another person’s reality doesn’t stop the judging.
To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, bad ideas never die, they just fade away…until someone else revives it and it eventually becomes the law. The New York Times recently ran a piece entitled “Pay People to Cook at Home.” In it the author, Kristen Wartman, argues for the government to pay for a parent to stay home so they can cook for their family. Without this subsidy, she argues, “Americans continue to rely on highly processed and refined foods that are harmful to their health.” But harmful how?
There’s no doubt that canned peas lose a little nutritional value compared to the freshly picked variety, but the difference is negligible. It’s hardly “harmful to their health.” In fact, a frozen lasagna can actually be better for you than one made with ingredients bought from a grocery store.
In fact, over the last 90 years advances in frozen food technology have improved the nutritional value of frozen food significantly. Scientists and nutritionists will tell you that fruits and vegetables that were picked at the peak of their ripeness and freshness, quick-frozen in the appropriate conditions, and whose “cold chain” was carefully maintained offer superior nutritional value than if bought fresh. So to blame non-fresh-picked food for, say, the obesity epidemic is folly. But folly is where too many of these do-gooders live.
Taxpayers are inundated with ads they subsidize encouraging them to “Eat Jersey Fresh” or buy California almonds but no one ever shows concern for the price. Who wouldn’t like a fresh meal each night prepared from Gwyneth Paltow’s cookbook? But aside from the overly restrictive nature of it, you’d have to be a $20 million per movie actress married to a rock star to afford it (a $30 duck egg omelet?)
The creation of mass-produced and frozen food did not harken the end of western civilization, it expanded it. The ability to quickly heat up a nutritious meal for yourself and your family at a price nearly anyone can afford should be hailed, not attacked, not scorned.
If journalists at the Times want to pay for a personal shopper and chef for every American out of their own pockets, more power to them. But they want to pay for it out of ours.
The idea of paying a parent to stay home, shop for groceries and cook may sound obscene, but so did the idea of a city banning trans fats or attempting to regulate beverage size not so long ago. Processed and frozen foods may not be ideal, but when the alternative is an inability to afford to feed yourself or massive government taxes and subsidies so do-gooders can feel better about themselves is the worst of all options.
We live in a time when more food is available in more ways, ways healthier than ever before, but that’s not enough for some. We don’t have an obesity problem in this country because people can’t afford fresh arugula and $120 tuna salad anymore than we have one because people like the convenience of a microwaved dinner. We have one because people live sedentary lifestyles in front of televisions watching people who judge them to be too stupid to be able to take care of themselves.
It’s not what we put in our bodies as much as what we don’t do once it’s in there. And while it would be easy to treat this latest attack on food as just another crackpot firing off a crazy idea, it’s important to remember New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has systematically attacked and/or tried to regulate nearly everything in a restaurant’s kitchen at one point or another. He still has another year in office to get to the pantry. And if he doesn’t get there, there will always be another do-gooder right behind him to pick up where he left off.