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“Convenience” Foods?

July 23, 2009

According to several studies reported in an article on Grist, the use of convenience foods really doesn’t save much time in the kitchen. Unless you call ten minutes much time.

The author, Tom Laskawy, concludes that more food education (such as home economics classes) would reduce the amount of kitchen illiteracy and that larger sales of prepared fresh vegetables (such as the bags of salad mix or containers of cut fruit) would decrease the amount of industrialized convenience food sold and increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I understand what he’s saying. I learned a lot about food from my involvement in 4-H as a child and teenager. (Well, I should say that I had opportunity to learn about food. I usually worked on craft and sewing projects and eschewed food projects until the day before judging.) However, 4-H is a great educational opportunity for children and their parents to combat kitchen illiteracy. (Hint, hint, to all you parents out there . . .)

However, I wonder about his promotion of packaged prepared fresh fruits and vegetables. The salmonella tainted spinach outbreak several years ago was pre-packaged prepared spinach. Is convenient produce the way to go? I’m a little more dubious. Produce, by its very nature, is not that convenient. And if it’s convenient to eat (think a peach or lettuce), it takes work to grow and keep the bugs and critters away. Make fresh produce convenient for consumer consumption requires more industrial work, more government regulation, and more packaging.

Perhaps its an issue of priorities. If we care about what we eat, we will take the time to prepare it. Really, it’s not that hard to cut a carrot, slice an apple, or wash lettuce–especially if you didn’t have to grow it.

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