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Food is food

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Can we all just agree that only in America could you have an entire industry pop up that treats food as entertainment?

Not only do we have the Food Network, but we also have four-color glossy magazines devoted to food and millions of online bloggers posting recipes and food pictures daily. We have websites like Pinterest that allow us to sort our online recipe collections from those bloggers. Applications like Instagram allow us to post artistic pictures of the divine locavore/natural/homeopathic/ethnic/choose-your-adjective-here cuisine we just ate at a some out of the way cafe.

Is it any wonder that we've become a nation obsessed with food? I mean, talk about your first-world problems--there are people surviving on less than a dollar a day in many parts of the world, and we have the audacity to complain that we can't find the capers at the grocery store.

Good grief, where have our priorities gone? When did we let three simple meals a day take over our lives?

Look, I like to be creative in meal preparation. I like the Food Network; I can turn it on and listen with half an hear while puttering around the house. I have a board on Pinterest of nothing but tasty recipes that I might try someday--and a few I've tested out on co-workers here. I've posted pictures of my pretty plated entree on Instagram a time or two.

But if the chefs of the Food Network ever got a peek into my cabinets and my refrigerator, I'm sure they'd freak out.

I believe in canned or frozen vegetables, and hamburger purchased from the meat case at the supermarket. I don't have a personal relationship with a free-range chicken farmer and I don't know the name of the bird on my plate. And, while I've been known to buy a jar or two of homemade jam at a farmers market, more often than not the jar reads "Smuckers." My herbs are from little tins and not the indoor herb garden that everyone seems to have. There's not a caper, package of goat cheese, or bottle of extra virgin olive oil in sight.

The horror.

You see, in my world, food is food. Sure, I like being inspired to try new recipes and expand my culinary boundaries. Occasionally, I get a little education from a chef demonstrating a new recipe. And, during the holidays, I'll even peruse their magazines and blogs for new ideas.

But food is food.

Do I like that jam made by two sisters in their home kitchen and sold at the farmers market? Yes. Do I enjoy the occasional batch of cinnamon rolls made by the sweet hands of Mennonite women and sold at the craft fair? Yes. Will I buy fresh veggies and fruit when they're in season? Sure, if the price is right.

But, I'm practical. I like the fact that scientists have figured out ways to increase shelf life in my bread I buy at the supermarket, because I remember the frustration of opening a brand-new loaf and finding mold on the first slice. I like frozen and canned vegetables because it means I can have corn even if it's not in season. I am a big fan of convenience, including frozen pizzas and microwave popcorn.

I'm this way because I trust science more than marketing. We've made incredible advances to increase safety in food preservation and preparation in recent decades. It's science that has our grocery stores devoting entire aisles to breakfast cereals. It's science that means that even in the midst of great tragedy we have a stockpile of safe and nutritious canned goods that we can send to our fellow man.

I'd venture that many of our consumers are just like me. But they feel guilty saying so. It's just not cool to eat store brand milk and buy nameless chicken.

So, I'm taking this column, this week of Thanksgiving--when we'll all be reaching into our collective memories to determine the precise cooking time for a 20-pound turkey--to speak out.

I'm buying a frozen bird. I'm making green bean casserole using canned cream of mushroom soup. I'll even buy the heat and eat dinner rolls. And I'm not going to apologize.

Food is food. And I'm thankful for the bounty that we enjoy in this country--whether it's artisanal or store bought.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

Date: 11/19/2012

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