Vienna Sausages Don’t Grow on Trees

Or… How To Make Dinner ala Costco
Food? I think not!

One of the side effects of living overseas for three years is that you get out of the all-American habit of buying food in BULK.

Large supermarkets are not as rare over there as they once were, but Europeans still tend to shop for the day, picking up ingredients for tonight’s supper at the little market they pass on the way home.

I remember in the years before I moved to London when Sam’s Club, et al, was still a novelty: people bought food there in order to save money. Things have changed.

The old American Consumption Machine has worked its magic because I can officially report (based on anecdotal research only) that wholesale clubs are not just for stocking up, unless some of my neighbors have nuclear intelligence I haven’t been given.

Case in point: Colin and I were at the local BJs (an East Coast duplicate of Costco) to pick up bagels. We go there to buy bagels because, quite frankly, they have GREAT bagels, 9 for $2.99 and unlike the grocery stores, they never seem to be out.

I spotted a nice young mother, and her husband nearby. He was pushing the cart. She was slinging a CASE (that’s right… not just a sneaky, curb-that-craving single serving size) of VIENNA SAUSAGES into their cart, behind their 2 year old.

My Sainted Mother (Not Dead), And the Era of Convenience Foods

NOW, I’ll be the first to admit, Vienna Sausages (and other canned meat) would have been a delicacy in my house when I was growing up. My mother was a dreadful cook: she burned cauliflower while heating it up in the microwave. Her meatbricks– er, meatloafs, were an appetizing black on the outside, and a lovely shade of brain-gray on the inside. Even so, in my early years, she made an effort to make things from scratch because, well, that’s how food is usually made.

Then came the late 70s, early 80s. Meet our new friends, the Boyardees and the Swansons. My mom was onto the Frozen Food Convenience Trolley like green on Jell-o Brand Gelatin. Mini Frozen Salisbury Steaks in gravy in a disposable tin pan that you just stick in the OVEN, straight out of the box!!?!?!?

This wasn’t just convenience for my mother: it was heaven in a waxed box.

Meanwhile, back at the Wholesale Club….

Fast forward to today. Mothers still deserve convenience, right? Parents need a break. So what has changed?

The problem is… information. I was researching “processed foods” and discovered that not all processed foods are bad. Milk is processed (pasteurized). Frozen vegetables and fruits are processed (flash freezing captures the vitamins and minerals). Under the title “Processed foods that may not be as healthy as fresh foods,” bookending the list are meat and, meat.

  • canned foods with lots of sodium (such as Vienna Sausages)
  • white breads and pastas made with refined white flour, which are not as healthy as those made with whole grains
  • packaged high-calorie snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
  • high-fat convenience foods, like cans of ravioli
  • frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners
  • packaged cakes and cookies
  • boxed meal mixes
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • processed meats (such as Vienna Sausages)

“Processed meats (such as Vienna Sausages) might be some of the worst of these foods. Eating these meats may increase your risk of colorectal, kidney and stomach cancer. Processed meats include hot dogs, bologna, sausage, ham and other packaged lunch meats, ” Shereen Jegtvig, nutritionist.

So why eat it, when people not just mothers, but all sorts of people, know now that processed food is bad for you?

It’s bad for your kids. It makes you sick, gives you cancer, clogs your arterties. More imminently, it’ll make you FAT and make you really tired and generally feel like crap.

Processed food has lots of chemicals in them that though proven “safe” at some point by the FDA (ie. didn’t cause cancer the week after eating them??), researchers are now finding they cause all sorts of interesting changes in our bodies: make our kids develop breasts early; make our breast milk unhealthy; make us infertile.

So why do we eat on with Vienna Sausages, eat more, even buy them in bulk?

America, repeat after me: Consume more. Consume better. Consume into oblivion.

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