Letters from Home

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.

12 thoughts on “Vienna Sausages Don’t Grow on Trees

  1. Pingback: Middle Zone Musings » What I Learned From 2008 - Elizabeth Howard
  2. Ok- lay off the fish sticks or we may have to break up. I am a fan, and am probably the reason they keep them in stock at the Tesco near our house.

    And as far as the photo here, I cannot even LOOK at Vienna Sausages because, I mean, what part of the animal is shaped like that?? Not natural.

  3. The Europeans shop every day!!? They don’t buy in bulk!?!??

    How come I don’t see your famous environmental rage at this?

  4. Alright, while I may not have had the pleasure of dining at “Howard’s Kitchen” – I LOVE STUFFED PEPPERS! I think it has something to do with the fact that You, my wonderful, eco-friendly girlfriend – are not big on veggies!

  5. Corwin,

    There’s a reason why you were always Mom’s favorite and now I know why: Taco Casserole was decent, but Stuffed Peppers?? Yuck. You were sucking up to her even then. I do know, though, that Philippe has strangely fond memories of Mom’s cooking. Must be a hungry-young-male thing.

  6. Funny how Vienna sausages are canned in so many parts of the world.

    I mean apart from the fact that you will search long for Vienna sausages in Vienna as they are called “Frankfurter” here there is also another major difference.

    You get them completely fresh or packed but not canned and you have to cook them first before you consume it. They are well done when they start to be plump but not chaped yet.

    I just tried the canned ones once in Italy. Not my stuff actually. I think no one who tries the real ones, will ever want to go back to canned ones…

    … now you know more about them, than you ever wanted to know πŸ˜‰

    PS: This is not the blog of a Vegetarian I hope πŸ˜‰

  7. How bad is sodium anyway? I can give up fat (somwhat) avoid sugar almost entirely and count calories. BUT I LOVE SODIUM. Ramen noodles, dirty rice,BACON, salty snack crackers, any homemade soup, I luvs the sodium. I don’t have high blood pressure, in fact it is quite good for a 41 y.o. father of 5. Do i really have to avoid it?
    BTW, mom’s cooking, while far from Julia Child, wasn’t all bad. I still crave taco casserole, use her recipe for vegetable soup and enjoy her stuffed peppers. And Phillipe still craves her Manwiches with hair entree, all the way in Belgium.

  8. I saw your Vienna sausages photograph and immediately thought of how my Dad and Uncle say Vienna. Vy-eeeeeee-knee sausages. Must be an Indiana thing….

  9. Hey. You advertised this post as “rambling”, which I don’t think it is! Can I have my money back?

    I must admit that the big-box-buy-it-in-bulk stores have always intrigued me. I have a strange desire to purchase the 10000 pack of Q-tips. We’ll use them eventually, right?

  10. Oh yeah. I never understood what the intrigue was with Vienna Sausages. On the east coast, they are eaten like there is no tomorrow!! YUCK! My kids I nannied for were addicted to them. I agree with you totally. And seriously- HOW HARD IS IT TO LOOK AT A LABEL to look at sodium content and to see if there is ANY nutritional value to what you’re serving? After a college-level nutrition class, I’m so incredibly anal about balancing my family’s meals, it drives them insane!

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