Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Food Wars: or How The Corporate World is Slowly Killing Us

I am in RAGE mode once more with my 14 year old step son. Actually, maybe it's not so much him I'm angry with as his mother and father. After all, he is only 14 and does not have the worldly knowledge to make good decisions about his health and his future.

Just when I thought things were looking up on the Small Boy front (we've identified his specific learning difficulty through assessment, liaised with the school and Himself is now actually regularly communicating with his ex), he arrives at our place this week with a bulk-buy mega-pack of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Now, I don't know what your feelings are on the moral bankruptcy of cereal companies but it reminds me of an excerpt from one of my favourite books 'Good Omens' (from whence the title of this blog is derived).

There are Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, according to Revelations, known varyingly as Plague (Pestilence or Conquest), War, Famine and Death. Their arrival will signal the beginning of 'The End' of all things unless, just suppose, they've been here all along...waiting for the beginning of the End of All Things......

Sable had black hair, a trim black beard, and he had just decided to go corporate.
He did drinks with his accountant.
"How we doing Frannie?" he asked her.
"Twelve million copies sold so far can you believe that?"
They were doing drinks in a restaurant called Top of the Sixes, on the top of 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. This was something that amused Sable ever so slighty. From the restaurant windows you could see the whole of New York; at night the rest of New York could see the huge red 666s that adorned all four sides of the building. Of course, it was just another street number. If you started counting you'd be bound to get to it eventually. But you had to smile.

Sable and his accountant had just come from a small, expensive and particularly exclusive restaurant in Greenwich village, where the cuisine was entirely nouvelle: a string bean, a pea and a sliver of chicken breast, aesthetically arranged on a square china plate.
Sable had invented it last time he'd been in Paris.
His accountant had polished her meat and two veg off in under fifty seconds, and had spent the rest of the meal staring at the plate, the cutlery and from time to time her fellow diners, in a manner that suggested she was wondering what they would taste like, which was in fact the case. It had amused Sable enormously.

He toyed with his Perrier.
"Twelve million huh? That's pretty good"
"That's great."
"So we're going corporate. It's time to blow the big one, am I right? California I think. I want factories, restaurants, the whole shmear. We'll keep the publishing arm, but it's time to diversify, yeah?"
Frannie nodded. "Sounds good Sable, we'll need-"
She was interrupted by a skeleton. A skeleton in a Dior dress, with tanned skin stretched almost to snapping point over the delicate bones of the skull. The skeleton had blonde hair and perfectly made-up lips: she looked like the person mothers would internationally point to muttering: "That's what will happen to you if you don't eat your greens"; she looked like a famine relief poster with style. She was New York's top fashion model and she was holding a book.
She said: "Uh, excuse me, Mr Sable, I hope you don't mind me intruding, but, your book, it changed my life. I was wondering,would you mind signing it for me?" She stared imploringly at him from eyes deep-sunk in gloriously eyeshadowed sockets.
Sable nodded graciously and took the book from her.
It was not surprising that she had recognised him for his dark grey eyes stared out from his photo on the foil embossed cover. D-Plan Dieting:Slim Yourself Beautiful the book was called. The Diet Book of the Century!
"How do you spell your name?" he asked.
"Sherryl. Two Rs one Y one L."
"You remind me of an old, old, friend," he told her as he wrote swiftly and carefully on the title page. "there you go. Glad you liked it. Always good to meet a fan."
What he'd written was this:


A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

Rev. Ch. 6 v. 6

Dr Raven Sable

"It's from the Bible," he told her.
She closed the book reverently and backed away from the table, thanking Sable, he didn't know how much this meant to her, he had changed her life, truly he had...
He had never actually earned the medical degree he claimed, since there hadn't been any universities in those days, but Sable could see she was starving to death. He gave her a couple of months at the outside. D-Plan. Handle your weight problem, terminally.
"Thank you," said Sable, and he broke the connection.
He was particularly proud of MEALS (TM).
The Newtrition corporation had started small, eleven years ago. A small team of food scientists, a huge team of marketing and public relations personnel and a neat logo.
Two years of Newtrition investment and research had produced CHOW(TM). CHOW(TM) contained spun, plaited and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweeteners; mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, colourings and flavourings. The end result was a foodstuff almost entirely indistinguishable from any other except for two things. Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman. It didn't matter how much you ate, you lost weight.*(*and hair. And skin tone. And, if you ate it long enough, vital signs)
Fat people had bought it. Thin people who didn't want to get fat had bought it. CHOW(TM) was the ultimate diet food - carefully spun, woven, textured and pounded to imitate anything, from potatoes to venison, although chicken sold best.

Sable sat back and watched the money roll in. He watched CHOW(TM) gradually fill the ecological niche that used to be filled by the old, untrademarked, food.
He followed CHOW(TM) with SNACKS(TM)-junk food made from real junk.
MEALS(TM) was Sable's latest brainwave.
MEALS(TM) was CHOW(TM) with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS(TM) you would a) get very fat and b) die of malnutrition.
The paradox delighted Sable.
Sable's limousine was parked in the lot of a Des Moines, Iowa, Burger Lord- a fast food franchise wholly owned by his organisation. It was here they'd been piloting Hamburger MEALS(TM) for the last six months. He wanted to see what kind of results they'd been getting.
He leaned forward, tapped the chauffeur's glass partition. The chauffeur pressed a switch, and it slid open.
"I'm goig to take a look at our operation Marlon. I'll be ten minutes. Then back to LA."
Sable sauntered into the Burger Lord. It was exactly like every other Burger Lord in America. McLordy the clown danced in the Kiddie Korner. The serving staff had identical gleaming smiles that never reached their eyes. And behind the counter a chubbby, middle aged man in a Burger Lord uniform ladled burgers onto the griddle, whistling softly, happy in his work.
Sable went up to the counter.
"Hello-my-name-is-Marie," said the girl behind the counter,"How-can-I-help-you?"
"A double blaster thunder biggun, extra fries, hold the mustard." he said.
"A special thick whippy chocobanana shake."
She pressed the little pictogram squares on her till. (Literacy was no longer a requirement for employment in these restaurants. Smiling was.)
Then she turned to the chubby man behind the counter."DBTB, E, F hold mustard," she said."Choc shake."
"Uhnnhuhn," crooned the cook. He sorted the food into the little paper containers, pausing only to brush the greying cow-lick from his eyes.
"Here y'are," he said.
She took them without looking at him and he returned cheerfully to his griddle singing quietly, "Looove me tender, loooove me long, neeever let me go......"
The man's humming, Sable noted, clashed with the Burger Lord muzak, a tinny tape loop of the Burger Lord commercial jingle, and he made a mental note to have him fired.
Hello-my-name-is-Marie gave Sable his MEAL(TM) and told him to have a nice day. He found a small, plastic table, sat down in the plastic seat and examined his food.
Artificial bread roll. Artifical burger. Fries that had never even seen potatoes. Food-less sauces. Even (and Sable was especially pleased with this) an artificial slice of dill pickle. He didn't bother to examine his milkshake. It had no actual food content, but then again, neither did those sold by any of his rivals.
All around him people were eating their un-food with, if not actual evidence of enjoyment, then with no more actual disgust than was to be found in burger chains all over the planet.
He stood up, took his tray over to the PLEASE DISPOSE OF YOUR REFUSE WITH CARE receptacle, and dumped the whole thing. If you had told him that there were children starving in Africa he would have been flattered that you'd noticed.......

This, as far as I am concerned, sums up the evil that is Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. They are almost worse than Coco Pops and Froot Loops which at least do not pretend to be food. One might as well have a handful of toffee covered peanuts for breakfast! Dental research confirms (I was assured once by my dentist) that even after brushing and eating other foods for the rest of the day, cereals like these are still being dug out of children's teeth at 6pm that night!

And so, it is with a sense of powerlessness and resentment that I observe the arrival of this excuse for breakfast food into my house. The Not So Small Boy smirks at me with 14 years worth of teenage contempt and the smug knowledge that I cannot do a thing about it.

It doesn't stop me examining the nutritional information on the packet the following morning and inscribing

9. 5 grams of sugar per serving

onto the front of the box in felt tip pen.

I know. I'm pathetic. 



dawn marie giegerich said...

You're not pathetic, just seriously drunk. I would understand that.

Arizaphale said...

Which bit? The writing on the cereal packet or being seriously drunk? :-)

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh that book was so funny! And I'm always fighting food wars here.

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