We expect a lot out of the things we eat. We clip coupons and browse sales ads to make it the most affordable.
We count calories, tally sodium content and check for the latest no-no ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.
Hours and entire networks of television are dedicated to cooking and eating, and, what naturally follows, obesity.
I found it particularly humorous the other day when, while watching one of those Discovery Channel documentary shows about people struggling with their weight (you know, "Half-ton Mom," "Half-ton Teen," etc.), one of the subjects said something like, "I don't know what went wrong. I always cooked healthy dinners, things like fish sticks and macaroni and cheese."
At the time I laughed at it. As much as we all obsess about food, how could anyone be that naive?
It's actually become kind of an inside joke in our family:
"What's for dinner?"
"I'm in the mood for something healthy. How about fish sticks and mac'n'cheese?"
But I have a confession to make: I'm afraid I'm becoming that woman. Even though I know better, I admit that same combo has wound up on my kitchen table more than a couple of times.
My husband and I both commute between 40 and 50 miles each way to work, full time, and since adding a little one to the mix in October (a boy who now requires his own evening meal, bath, story-time and bedtime), a Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray, I am not.
We've eaten frozen fish. We've put off grocery store trips. Many times, I have bought bags of salad mix that expire well before we've finished them off.
With so many approaches to dieting out there, I think the one thing most people agree on is that fresh food -- fruit, vegetables, lean meat -- is ideal. But when both adults in a household work, get home late and are beat when they do, fresh food goes to waste pretty frequently.
At least it does in my house. I have friends who have confessed to similar habits, so I know it isn't just me.
Sometimes a frozen pizza or a frozen lasagna -- or fish sticks -- are all we have the energy for.
The other day I thought maybe I was on to something: What about a no-recipe diet? Just have a couple of veggies and a meat every day and call it a day. I could write the newest book, it'd become the latest fad and I'd make millions.
Forget the lasagnas and casseroles and just steam a vegetable or two and grill up a chicken breast or something. It'd take some of the thinking and planning out of it at the least.
Of course, it probably wouldn't taste all that great. And at the end of the day when you come home starving and in the mood for something "good," people would probably look forward to my "meat and vegetable" suppers just about as much as they would breaded fish and macaroni.
That's the thing about food. For as much as we obsess about it, we don't only want it to be affordable, healthy or quick -- what we really want is for it to taste good.