I love food in general and good food in particular. I cook the majority of the food I eat from scratch and there are all sorts of vegetables and fruits and whole grains, lean protein, etc. etc. in my regular diet. I support organic agriculture, have bought quarters of beef, grow a few of my own vegetables and massive amounts of potatoes. I think a lack of good food is a large part of what ails this country and I wish that everyone felt as passionate about food growing, preparation and preserving as I do.
With that said, I must confess that I have a great love for microwave entrees.
Walking down the freezer aisle of the grocery store, I feel a feeling not unlike the feeling I used to get walking down the toy aisle as a child. There are so many choices! And they all look so pretty! The boxes look neat and tidy, with their square corners and their attractive photos. The prices are quite cheap and the nutrition information is already calculated and prominently displayed.
Unlike so many areas of my life, I can have exactly what I want. Italian? Yes, there are tons of pasta choices, from low fat to full fat, budget to gourmet. Burrito? Yes, so many attractively wrapped little packages. Quiche? Nancy’s has a mini quiche just for me. What about a full meal with way too many calories in it? Marie Callender’s can step up to the plate. Personal sized pizzas? Lean Cuisine has me covered. What about a grilled panini? There are several choices.
Even heating up the food is fun. The directions are all different, meaning I have to pay attention. Sometimes I have to remove the plastic entirely, sometimes just poke a hole in it. Sometimes, as with the paninis the packaging transforms into a space age type microwave “grill” after careful tearing along a perforated line. I know the marketing people have figured out that people feel better if they have to be involved at some level of their food preparation, even if the extent of that preparation is squinting at the label and stabbing plastic repeatedly with a fork.
The other thing I love about microwave meals is portion control. When I’m wandering the frozen aisle, I do not feel like cooking. Because the funds for my personal chef have not yet come through, when I don’t feel like cooking my choices include finding food in the frozen aisle or going out to eat. I love to go out to eat, but it’s a love/hate relationship. The portions are always extremely large and I’m not very successful at limiting my consumption of the large servings. Unlike restaurants, with microwave meals, most of the brands I buy clock in at 350 calories or less.
Take the grilled paninis I’m currently a fan of. I get two thick slices of sourdough bread, beef, peppers and cheese all for 330 calories and less than four dollars. If I were to purchase that same Philly-style cheesesteak from a vendor, it would cost me seven dollars, minimum, and clock in at at least three times the calories, if not four. If I were to make it myself, it would involve purchasing an entire loaf of sourdough bread as well as making a beef and peppers mixture that would be more than one serving. This way I have my cheesesteak, eat it and when the next meal rolls around I’m actually hungry again.
There are a ton of drawbacks to frozen entrees. I don’t really like supporting agricultural food conglomerates by purchasing them, the packaging often seems wasteful and isn’t recyclable and most of them have entirely too much sodium. They also have a factory made sameness about them that I can’t abide on a regular basis. But I only have a frozen entrée every month or two, so for me they remain so much of a treat.