Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Candy for Breakfast

Here's my garden last year at this time. Well March 23.

And here it is this morning...

From the look of things there is going to be snow in my life for the next month, at least.

Please excuse me if I have nothing more to say on the subject.

I decided five days ago, when they were predicting this Spring snow storm, that I'd go on a weight loss diet for a month.

Misery likes company, and if I am going to be miserable for another month, I might as well not enjoy my eating either.

I decided on a low-carb diet, similar to Perricone's, lots of fish and lots of oatmeal. Easy, because  I like fish and I like oatmeal. Right?

Except after just five days I HATE Fish and and I HATE oatmeal.

I almost gagged on a piece of fine Pacific coast salmon yesterday. And last night, around 7 pm, I looked lustingly at the two giant boxes of brand name cereal I keep on the Ikea mobile table by the kitchen door.

This cereal.

And that cereal. One by Post and one by Kellogg, the cereal giants of the past century.

They are both 'healthy' cereals: I rationalized. One has got bran the other cranberries...You see,  I'm in my 50's so I don't eat crap. Right?

But I checked the ingredients table on the side of this cereal and it said Sugar, Sugar, Sugar.

Gee. The Guardian has this story online today. What a coincidence!

In fact, just two weeks ago, while I was shopping the cereal aisle at Costco, I saw a woman holding a bag of the some other SUPER HEALTHY nut and fruit and raw grain cereal and carefully scrutinizing the ingredients label.

"It's a very good cereal," I said. I often bought that brand.

"Yes, but the sugar," she said. "My kids will get mad at me."

Wow! How times have changed. Today's kids get mad if Mom brings home a 'healthy' cereal. What next? Will they be doing the food shopping themselves after clipping coupons and scoping the Net to check out which  store has which specials?

I laughed. "Gee, my kids never did that. They love sugar."

"It's the schools, " she replied.

So they are teaching kids in the schools about nutrition and these kids are coming back home and lecturing Mom (or Dad) on their purchases. (Tell Jamie Oliver it has worked!)

In my day, it was cigarettes. But if I had gone home and told my Mom to stop smoking, I would have got a slap on the top of the head.

I know, because I sometimes tried, not to get her to stop smoking, but to get her to open the car window on her side as I drove with both my parents in our little Austen Cambridge, precariously perched between them on the front seat 'hump' with no seat belt.

Both my parents smoked in the 60's, which was pretty typical.

 "I'm choking," I'd say, waving away clouds of cigarette smoke from the Matinee brand with filter tips and Players Export A without. (My father's nails were all jaundiced-looking.) "Can you open the window?"

(I know, I got most of my exercise going to the store to buy the cartons of said ciggies for my parents.)

"No," my mother would say. My father would crack open his window, a bit.

My mother could have cracked open her window too, but she thought she was practicing good parenting for standing her ground and showing me who's boss. (My mother was a great cook who made us delicious cakes from scratch, Mint-Chocolate was my favorite. These cakes were made almost entirely from flour, shortening, eggs and cups and cups of white sugar, and still we kids were all thin.)

(Me in March 1971 after that record snowfall. The next day was nice and warm so I walked around in my shirt. My father did all the digging, much like my husband does all the digging today. I was 5 foot 11 (like today) but about 135 pounds and I thought I was fat! Ha! True story, that day my mother ran out of cigarettes and she was smoking butts form the ashtrays around the house. So she sent me out up our suburban street to the corner store to get her some. I seem to remember plowing through snow up to my waist.)

Ah, the 60's.

She wasn't alone. Mothers had funny ideas in those days. They actually felt good sending their kids off to school with nothing but  a bowl of sugar in their stomachs, sugar that came disguised as a healthy cereal product like Alphabets, my favourite, or Coco Puffs, my other favorite. Candy for Breakfast. (What next, booze?)

Only old people ate bran flakes.

They pumped these cereals on advertisements in prime time on television. In fact, the Beverly Hillbillies, about a family that ate hog belly and corn pone, had a continual product placement for Corn Flakes.

Who can forget that GIANT bowl of cornflakes that Jethro ate every morning. And Jethro was the healthiest and strongest human being on TV.  Well, Superman actually was, and if I recall the Man of Steel also shilled for Wheaties or Shredded Wheat or something.

And then, the companies famously, added a disclaimer to their ads:

"A bowl of  Sugary-Whatevers PLUS a glass of milk is PARTof a healthy breakfast." Part of a healthy breakfast. What were they trying to pull?  I was twelve years old and I figured out it was all a clever ruse to separate us from our money, a convenient, tasty and oh-so-sugary ruse.

Cereal was the FIRST perfect consumer age product. Well, after Coca-Cola. If Coke sold happiness, cereal sold FUN to us kids.

Convenient, cheap to produce and people were willing to pay through the nose for it, as long as the cereal companies kept producing and airing the advertisements to keep us kids entertained. Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs, Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids,etc, etc.

I saw a documentary a while back that revealed the origins of  the century's cereal craze.

It actually had a health-food origin.

At the beginning of the 1900's, with industrialization, many North Americans didn't need the traditional hearty breakfast of the farmer.

Someone, forgot who, a Mormon I think, in the place where Shredded Wheat comes from, concocted the ideal breakfast of grains.

It caught on. The Giant Mega Corps took over.

They processed the grains until they weren't so good for you anymore and added tonnes of sugar (and later replenished some of the vitamins they's processed out)  and then created colourful brands destined to become legend with the Boomer Generation.

In the 70's, President Nixon gave subsidies (or something) to the farmers, so grain was even cheaper to produce.

There was no reason for us to have to pay so much for cereal back then.

A food critic in the Gazette, in the 80's, complained about the high price of these processed cereals. Grains are cheap, she wrote. These ridiculous cereal prices, 3 dollars a box, would have to come down. But they didn't.

We weren't paying for the grain in the box, but for the advertising. Just like with perfume and jeans, except that breakfast cereal wasn't a luxury, or was it?

If we wanted to save money, we could always go to the "health-food" stores and buy oats in bulk, spooning the grain from giant generic bins into plastic bags. Like a Hippie.

.And slow cook them over the stove overnight, like my British dad sometimes did. Boy, did that oatmeal taste good, all caramelized with cream and molasses on top. And still I was nicknamed Stringbean.

I tried that the other day. To buy oats in bulk at some Canadian chain Bulk Outlet. What a giant rip-off, in my humble opinion. No brands, no packaging, but all the grains (which you spoon out yourself and put in plain plastic bags)  are humungously shockingly over-priced! I refused to pay for the walnuts. What were they thinking? I could get them for half the price at Costco.

Proving that it's expensive to eat healthy these days, as if we didn't already know.

It's not like the Consumer-Age is going away any time soon.

My cat was mewing at the kitchen door to go out. Silly kitty. He won't walk on snow, even a tiny powdering, but the other day we let him out and he found a path around the house and up to the end of the driveway. Not today.