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The Unhealthy Alternative

with 16 comments

When I went to bed last night, I had pretty much convinced myself that I’d get up this morning and get some work done.  When I got up this morning, I was in that physical state that I usually label “wrung out,” which probably shouldn’t have surprised me. 

I am at the stage where not working in the morning is getting me really annoyed, but I am something else as well, and it’s beginning to drive me completely nuts.

I’m starving.

Okay, on  one level, this is probably the good news.  I’m hungry at least in part because I’ve been ill and I’m getting better–always good news.  And I’m hungry in part because I spent two days eating almost nothing at all, and my body is acting like a cat–hey!  where’d the food bowl go?  do something!

The problem is that the food in this  house is not arranged in such a way as to accommodate a problem like this.

I have plenty of food for formal dinners and lunches.  I could make you a meatloaf or a chicken.  I could stuff peppers or give you  pasta in tomato sauce with hot Italian sausage.  I could get fancier than that if I had the energy.

What I can’t do is wander over to the refrigerator or the kitchen cabinets and just get something fast to take the edge off of cravings that, let’s face it, do not make a boatload of common sense.

I can’t even make toast, because I don’t usually  keep bread in the house, and I don’t have any here now.

But the situation is even worse than that.  I don’t want toast, and I don’t want to make a meat loaf at seven o’clock in the morning.

I want potato chips.   Millions and millions of potato chips.

And there is absolutely no way I can drive out anywhere in the  next couple of days to get any.

Now, here’s the thing.

It’s possible that this craving for potato chips is related to the abcess and the antibiotics and the Vicodin.

The Vicodin especially tends to make me extremely dizzy if I don’t eat something when I take it, and most doctors tell you to take antibiotics with food.

And something starchy and bland and easy to get hold of would certainly fit the bill.

So if somebody came and asked me why I feel as if I’m going to strangle a puppy if I can’t get my hands on some potato chips very, very soon, that is the explanation I would give them, and I’d feel perfectly justified.


The thing is, I often crave potato chips.  From childhood, potato chips have been my snack of choice.  Yes, I truly love chocolate, but if I had to choose between the chocolate and the potato chips, it would be salty over sweet almost every time.

On top of that, I am born and bred in New England, the Potato Chip Mania capital of the world.

In most parts of the country, when a big storm hits and you’re likely to be holed up for a couple of days, people go out and buy bread and milk.

In New England, when the Nor’easter is going to be a two foot fall, we go out and denude the grocery shelves of potato chips.  If you don’t get to the grocery store at eight o’clock in the morning on the day before the storm, you’ll find the snack aisle virtually bare and all the potato chips gone.

I saw a statistic once that said that New Englanders ate more potato chips each year per capita than any other people on earth, and I believe it.

I also believe the one that says that North American women eat more chocolate per capita than anybody else on the planet.

But that’s another issue, for another time.

Right now I’m  just sitting here sort of bemused at myself.

Part of me feels that I have failed somehow in prudence–I  know I get cravings for potato chips.  I should have bought some at Costco when we did the regular shop.

Part of me feels that I as silly to feel this way for two reasons.

First, because I couldn’t anticipate that I was going to get a tooth abcess that would make it nearly impossible for me to eat for days and too tired to do a lot of cooking and too whacked out to go to the store.

Second, because if I had bought the damned things, I almost certainly would have eaten them before the crisis hit.

There are good reasons why we don’t just keep potato chips on tap around here.

At any rate, it really is very early in the morning, and I am demonostrating the reason why the Healthy Eating People are never going to get the response they want from the American public.

Some things are choices.

And some things are potato chips.


Written by janeh

June 24th, 2013 at 7:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses to 'The Unhealthy Alternative'

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  1. Ah, I can sympathize. I eat sweets sometimes, and enjoy them, but I’ve never had the craving for chocolates and other sweets that so many people assume all women have. I crave salty and greasy – in particular, chips, and especially in particular, one particular flavour and brand of chips. I love them. When I’m tired and bored with housework and don’t want to cook (which happens quite frequently, even without dental problems), I reach for the chips. The man who runs the convenience store next door knows what the only thing I buy when I go there is.

    Now, if I’m really feeling sick, oddly enough, while I will eat chips if they’re in front of me (I’d have to be dead and not merely sick not to), I want canned tomato soup, preferably with saltines. I almost never eat it otherwise, and I don’t know why I want it then. It’s not as though my mother fed me tomato soup when I was sick as a child, although she did sometimes feed us various types of canned soup for ordinary lunches, often with toasted cheese sandwiches. I don’t want toasted cheese sandwiches when I’m sick. It’s odd, and also not really a rational choice. I should be eating small amounts of something highly nutritious – if soup, a home-made soup with lots of meat and vegetables. But that’s not what I want.


    24 Jun 13 at 7:38 am

  2. I am, generally speaking, in favor of potato chips, and particularly in favor of Wise Brand. And I can understand a reluctance to have them around. There’s a reason my refrigerator seldom contains mint chocolate chip ice cream.
    But on the more general problem of only having in the house food which requires extensive preparation time, I believe I’d speak with the person who purchases the food. Spam or canned ham, canned baked beans and chicken soup all have serious shelf life and require little preparation. They can be a great comfort in times of trouble.


    24 Jun 13 at 10:53 am

  3. No, no.

    You fail to understand the extent of the problem.

    In the state I’m in, canned soup IS high preparation food.

    You need a pot, then you need to heat it up, then you need a bowl and a spoon, then all that has to be cleaned off…


    24 Jun 13 at 11:01 am

  4. Perhaps this is gasoline on the fire, but did you know that Trader Joe’s sells chocolate-dipped potato chips? Of course if you buy those, having them on hand more than 4.2 nanoseconds after you get them home becomes problematic.

    My go-to “can’t bear to prepare anything” food is generally hard-boiled eggs. We try to keep a bowl in the fridge at all times, so all we need to do is peel & eat. Plus they’re there when we want to make tuna salad or just a nice green salad. Or deviled eggs. Yum.

    Then there’s always crackers with either cheese or peanut butter & jelly. Somehow the fact that all you dirty is a paper plate & a knife makes it seem reasonable when you don’t want to fix anything.

    As for chips, I get along okay with classic Lay’s, but I seriously miss Better Maid chips, produced in Detroit. They’re not available outside the midwest, and are the thinnest, crunchiest and most perfectly salted ever. Sigh. A few things I miss about Michigan, that’s one of them.


    24 Jun 13 at 11:32 am

  5. My snack of choice is corn chips rather than potato chips bit I recognize the problem.

    Robert, my emergency food supply consists of cans of Campbell’s Chunky soups. Which, as Jane pointed out, does require preparation.


    24 Jun 13 at 2:54 pm

  6. “Some things are choices.

    And some things are potato chips.”

    Yep. That’s what I said a few weeks ago. Chips, potato, corn or otherwise are intentionally *designed* to be addictive, to set off the fat/salty sensors, to have just the right amount of “crunch” AND to not fill you up so you can sit down and eat an entire bag of overpriced calories without realizing it.

    I seem to recall some scoffing when I posted the link about it, and here everyone is saying the article was exactly and completely true. Hmm.

  7. Personally, I’m glad that the people who offer to sell me food try their best to make it tasty and appealing (or addictive, if you prefer). My mind boggles at the idea of food manufacturers sitting around doing their best to come up with something to sell me that I don’t really like! About the only product I can think of that routinely does this is Buckley’s Mixture, which used to have a popular ad campaign about how bad it tastes, and I’ve never bought the stuff.

    If they left the crunch, salt and fat out of potato chips, I wouldn’t like them as much, they wouldn’t satisfy my requirements for snack food and I wouldn’t buy them, just as I rarely buy chocolates and almost never buy candies, which are manufactured for people with different likes and dislikes.

    I am absolutely baffled by the idea that there’s something wrong with the food companies’ attempts to make food that the customer will enjoy and want to buy.

    PS – I have a vague idea that in US English, chocolates and candies are the same thing. I’m using ‘candies’ to mean the sweet things that are neither exclusively made of chocolate nor in the cake and cookie category, like the ‘hard candies’ people have out at Christmas.


    25 Jun 13 at 3:27 pm

  8. Nah, everybody isn’t saying the article is true.

    In fact, my situation goes to prove that it’s not true.

    I don’t know how long it’s been since I posted that, but I still don’t have any potato chips and I haven’t done anything to get them.

    Somehow, all the sinister machinations of the evil corporations don’t result in so much as a mild impulse to buy any the several times a month they’re waiting by the cash register at the gas station.

    I’m under the weather ad I want fat, salt and carbs. That’s not because I’ve been secretly programed by devil capitalists, but
    because it’s what I want. If no corporations had ever existed I might want corn chowder (salt pork and heavy cream), but it would still be fat salt and carbs

    It’s a myth that if we weren’t corrupted by “toxic food environments” we would want healthy green leafy food. We wouldn’t. We’d want fat, salt and carbs.

    But we obviously don’t have to eat them if we decide not to. I didn’t.


    25 Jun 13 at 3:44 pm

  9. I agree, Jane. It’s always annoyed me how people try to absolve themselves of any blame for their failures to avoid or to deal with their bad habits.

    As a former heavy smoker (very heavy – up to 80 a day during my shift-work years), it never once occurred to me that the evil tobacco companies were conspiring to force me to smoke. (However, I do sometimes suspect that the evil Big Pharma and the anti-smoking zealots are deliberately conspiring to boost the consumption of nicotine replacement stuff, for their mutual advantage.)

    If you don’t like it, just say no.


    25 Jun 13 at 4:08 pm

  10. Actually, from what I’ve read of it, at least some anti-smoking zealots oppose nicotine replacement systems like those e-cigarettes, supposedly on the grounds that they may be dangerous to people’s health although I don’t think there’s much if any evidence of that.

    It’s not the ‘no personal responsibility’ aspect that annoys me; it’s the “I know better than you do” aspect. Of course,there are billions of people out there who do in fact know more than I do about any number of subjects, but they don’t tend to try to micro-manage my life – or resort to manipulation and bad science to try to convince me that they are right to do so.

    I also don’t think much of the ripsote I’ve gotten sometimes in the past that ‘Of course, these proposed measures aren’t meant for people like you and me, it’s meant to help the poor ignorant souls who don’t understand things as well as we do’.


    25 Jun 13 at 6:21 pm

  11. “…everybody isn’t saying the article is true.”

    That would be easier to believe if the language use dot describe the cravings – and the tactics used to avoid succumbing to them — didn’t sound so much like what would be written on a board for ex-alcoholics discussing their cravings and tactics for avoiding relapse.

    Alcohol is legal and widely available, in many states at quick markets that sell gas and supermarkets just like the chips.

    So the challenges for an alcoholic are very, very similar. So I at least am not the least surprised that the, um, testimonies given sound so much like what one would here in a support group for alcoholics.

    That everyone boasts of how well they control the craving is the exact opposite of proving that chips aren’t designed — very effectively — to be addictive.

  12. But I described no strategies for avoiding cravings. I don’t keep potato chips in the house for the same reason I don’t keep peanuts. I tend to eat from sheer nervous energy and I do it without thinking about it. If it’s small and easy to get, I pick at it. At my time of life, that’s a good way to gain a lot of weight.

    The peanuts, by the way, are the kind that come in the shell. No oil no salt, no design by a corporation.

    And the pt of my story about the gas station was precisely that I requie no strategy. I see them and I just don’t care.

    But even in cases where people actually do have cravings, that’s no evidence that somebody designed the object for the effect. Bill would eat pistachio nuts until his fingers bled, but pistachios are not designed by corporations.

    This is intelligent design theory appled to fod. X has an effect I don’t like. That can’t be by chance! It must have been designed.


    25 Jun 13 at 7:54 pm

  13. “But I described no strategies for avoiding cravings. I don’t keep potato chips in the house for the same reason I don’t keep peanuts. I tend to eat from sheer nervous energy . . .”

    And an alcoholic keeps no alcohol in the house – even though s/he may buy booze for a party – because. . .they know if its there they’re likely to drink it. Whether the excuse is “nervous energy” or something else is irrelevant.

    The end result and the coping strategies are the same, to avoid giving in to the inevitable compulsion, the object(s) of the compulsion are banished from the houshold.

    “…, that’s no evidence that somebody designed the object for the effect. “

    Um, the evidence is that the people who in fact designed chips for the stated effect both admitted to doing so and were quite forthcoming with the details of the entire process.

    What more evidence do you need? Do the researchers, past and present have to show up at your front door with signed depositions ? Will you also require signed depositions from the focus groups? Access to the raw data?

    Do no transitional fossils count unless we can line up a fossil/skeleon of every mother/daughter from the ancestral species to the living species or evolution is false?

    “…pistachios are not designed by corporations.”

    Roasted, salted, partially opened pistachios, conveniently and attractively packaged in carefully selected color schemes most certainly ARE “designed by corporations”.

    Unless you think pistachios just fall off the trees, having roasted and salted themselves and then jump into a nice cellophane bag also on their own.

    “This is intelligent design theory appled to food. X has an effect I don’t like. That can’t be by chance! It must have been designed.”


    When you in fact have the people who in fact designed the product telling you exactly how they designed it and the effect they were (successfully) striving to achieve — well, that most certainly is the very defintion of something that is intelligently designed. Attested to by the very people who did the designing.

    Again, what do you want, the designers at yo

  14. Again, what do you want, the designers at your front door with signed depositions in hand, available for sworn testimony on camera in your living room?

  15. Mike, I think most people who think about it at all understand that processed food of whatever kind is “designed” to taste good to as many people as possible. Why do you think there is anything wrong with that?


    26 Jun 13 at 4:10 am

  16. Mique, from MichaelF’s point of view, it’s wrong because it encourages people to do something he doesn’t like. I’m waiting for some liberal moron to decide that since we ought to be sitting cross-legged on the floor the evil furniture-makers have conspired to addict us to comfortable furniture. In fairness, I’m sure if the government “helped” design furniture, I’d soon be sitting cross-legged on the floor.


    26 Jun 13 at 12:27 pm

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