Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Convenience Food

On the heels of yesterday's post regarding the "proper" use of silverware in the UK, I've been thinking about the concept of fast food/convenience food and overall eating "on-the-go" in America and the UK.  In Britain, it's perfectly acceptable to eat "on-the-go" - as long as you sit down and do it, say, on a park bench or preferably indoors.  It is not acceptable, for example, to eat and walk at the same time.  Or eat and drive (I only did that in high school when running late - I don't endorse eating and driving at the same time, although sometimes it's necessary!).  I used to order a chicken and coriander baguette from a Broad Street sandwich shop in Oxford and eat it while walking to my next destination, which seemed perfectly normal to me, but obviously not to other students and inhabitants of the stuck-up city, as I got strange looks as I walked past.  And after conferring with a Brit, I learned it wasn't good manners to do so.  So I'm always excited when I go home to shop at Target, where I can buy a drink and/or a hot dog and happily eat it while I'm doing my shopping without having to confine myself to the "cafe" area of the store.  I feel like I'm almost doing something wrong as I sip my supersized Coke (and wastefully throw the other 2/3rds away as I can't finish it without having to use the supersized bathrooms 4-5 times during my shopping trip). 

In general, food and convenience often go hand in hand in America and Brits look down on this idea in disdain, I think.  In an age of Jamie Olivers, whose current campaign in America aims to highlight "why the diet of processed food and snacks is causing so many health and obesity problems", Britain maintain a sort of superiority and smug satisfaction that they have, on the whole, generally healthier eating habits than their Yankee counterparts (if someone calls me a "Yank" one more time, punctuated by a "heh heh heh heh", I'll pour a pint of Guinness over their head) because convenience foods such as my beloved Hot Pockets (above) are simply not available here.

But I believe a balance can be struck - you can eat heathily and still enjoy frozen, convenience food.  Heck, growing up, our fridge was filled with Hot Pockets, frozen Costco chimichangas and other microwaveable snack foods to be had before our hour(s)-long after-school activities.  But that didn't mean that my mom neglected to feed us our 5-a-day portions of fruits and vegetables or that we developed (knock on wood!) long-term health conditions from these fast food indiscretions.  Moreover, I miss things like Hot Pockets, etc. - and maybe it has to do with portion control, but Brits' ideas of "snacks" are very different to Americans' ideas of snacks (i.e. tea and biscuits or a packet of crisps versus a Hot Pocket, for example).  I miss all the creative frozen snack foods found in the supersized aisles of Costco. 

My point is, I'm still going to try and stay on the high and mighty "healthy" path, but once in a while, I feel no shame in saying "Supersize Me" and walking around while I do it too.

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