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A Meal That's the Real Deal (With Apologies to Dr. Seuss)

September 19, 2004|Jim Sollisch | Jim Sollisch is creative director at a Cleveland advertising agency.

I like yogurt. I like to eat it in a bowl. I like to eat it with a roll. I will eat it for a snack. I will eat it on my back.

I will not, however, eat yogurt from a tube. That's right. Yogurt is now available in a squeeze tube. Like toothpaste. Or oil paint. Or foot cream. Apparently eating at a place other than a table is big doings in America, the land of the free and the home of the harried. Consider this fact: Americans eat 19% of their meals in their cars, according to research from John Nihoff, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America.

Many of these cars now have more cup holders than my kitchen cupboard has cups. According to Consumer Reports, some models of minivans now come with 12 cup holders. Some are even rectangular to hold juice boxes.

I like juice. I like it in a glass. I like it when I relax. I will drink it with a fox. I will not drink it from a box.

Here's a fact even more nauseating than the percentage of meals we eat in cars: 72% of your fellow Americans admit to eating portable convenience foods at home. The list includes single-portion servings of soup in sippy cups, macaroni and cheese in push-up dispensers, frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It also includes, believe it or not, various items on a stick. Like hot dogs and scrambled eggs.

I like scrambled eggs. I will eat them cooked with cheese. I will eat them when I please. But I will not eat them on a stick. Not even a single lick.

The idea is that the less time we spend preparing food, the more time we save. As if there's a time savings bank or online account into which we can deposit our stolen minutes. Defrost PB & J instead of preparing PB & J -- deposit 1.5 minutes. But even if we could really save time, what are we saving it for? Unfortunately, so we can work more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 75% of full-time workers work more than 40 hours a week. Today, the American worker spends 163 more hours a year on the job than he or she did in 1969 -- the equivalent of one work month.

I take a different approach. Instead of eating faster so I can save more time for work, I take shortcuts at work so I have more time to prepare food.

At our house, we still use bowls instead of tubes. We drink juice out of glasses, not boxes, and at the risk of appearing hopelessly out of date, we use antique utensils such as forks and spoons. We have five teenagers, and we expect them to sit down to an old-fashioned family dinner every night. I believe in the family dinner. You could say I am obsessed with the family dinner. If it were an object, I would keep it in a safe. If I had been a founding father, I would have enshrined it in the Constitution.

I like the family dinner. I like to eat it every night; I like to swallow every bite. I will not eat it on a stick. I think that's really sick.

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