Not so far out of the box…

26 Jan

A co-worker and I had a brief conversation today about what we’d each had for dinner last night.  She’d experimented with making her own hibachi-style stir-fry, and she was happy with the outcome.  I must admit, even the leftovers she was having as today’s lunch looked tasty.  I shared that Jason and I hadn’t gone too crazy last night – we made one of our standbys: brussels sprouts and salami pizza.  “Y’all always try the weirdest things!” she responded.

Truthfully, the recipe came from RealSimple.com, so it’s not obscure at all.  But she got me thinking…are we really that adventurous?    I mean, brussels sprouts are better when they’re paired with a savory/salty protein like pancetta.  We’ve sauteed sprouts with salami when the price of pancetta at our local grocery seemed unreasonable, so surely it’s not that adventurous to slam it down on a pizza crust.  I mean, it was a whole-wheat pizza crust, but still…

We’ve been so programmed to believe what we “should” eat and enjoy.  This starts when we’re young when the food industry starts promoting sugary “cereal” with cartoon characters.  It continues as we get older as we’re saturated with fast food commercials.  Do you ever see commercials for foods that aren’t “bad” for you?  The “incredible edible egg” campaign didn’t pick up until we started worrying about our cholesterol.  Now that eggs are okay for us to eat again, they’re not being pushed down our throats. 

Check out artist Ron English’s take on one of my childhood favorites, Frosted Flakes: Fat Tony

I don’t want to rail against the food industry and how their constant promotion of bad foods makes us bad eaters.  While I think everyone’s susceptible to marketing to some extent, truthfully no one from Kellogg’s forced my mom to buy me Frosted Flakes as a kid or made me go through the Wendy’s drive-thru as an adult.  I have free-will…I get it.

I do believe that when we’re bombarded by so many images and messages about what tastes good, that we tend to be lured away from potentially enjoyable flavors.  When we’ve had a hectic day and the last thing we feel like doing is making a decision about what to cook for dinner, it’s easy to fall back on the images that have been played for us consistently since television was invented.  What’s good?  The easy answer is fast, convenient, greasy food…or frozen processed food that’s been marketed as being just like the food your mother used slave away for hours to create (Stouffer’s Lasagna, I’m talking to you!).

Yesterday, the First Lady had lunch with some elementary school students in Virginia to tout the new lunch standards established when Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed last year.  It boggles my mind that introducing kids to more vegetables and fruits has become such a political issue…no wonder we can’t solve relatively complex problems if handling a no-brainer like this takes so much effort!  But in any case, it’s great that kids are being introduced to more nutritious options at a young age, and hopefully they won’t have to suffer some of the same culinary indignaties like Mexican pizza that kids from my generation were subjected to.

When you look at the messages we all received about food growing up, and even now as adults, the words “eating adventurously” are watered down.  You don’t have to stray too far from the norm to seem adventurous.  Make your own mind up about what tastes good and what doesn’t…if it hasn’t been advertised extensively on tv a la Hardees, that’s probably a good thing.  Cheers to expanding culinary horizons and throwing “weird” things on pizza.

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