Some Things Are Just Bad For You: Tart’s Nutrition Series, Sodium Edition

Part One: Hello, Shakers. First, let me explain the inspiration for this new series which I have started today: I had the TV on while I was getting ready for work this morning, and one of those Campbell’s commercials came on, with the kids playing outside and then running in to slurp on chicken noodle soup while mom looks on approvingly. As the catchy jingle wormed its way into my head, I thought about the issue of vital importance not being addressed in the ad, the one which supersedes in importance the tastiness and ‘tradition’ of the soup-eating experience:

Campbell’s® Condensed Soups

Chicken Noodle Soup

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving (serving size) = 1/2 cup condensed

Calories 60

Total Fat 2g

Sat. Fat 0.5g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 15mg

Sodium 890mg

Total Carb. 8g

Dietary Fiber <1g

Sugars 1g

Protein 3g

% Daily Values**
Vitamin A 4%

Vitamin C 0%

Calcium 0%

Iron 2%

So, for one can of chicken noodle soup, you’re getting 1,780 mg of sodium; that’s more than half your USDA daily recommended intake. And that’s just one can of soup out of an entire day; add to that other canned/jar products, snack foods, and table salt, and we’re looking at 4,000-5,000 mg a day taken in by the average American. Consuming this much sodium is not natural for our bodies. We didn’t evolve with that, which is why it’s making us bloated and overweight, and contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease. Scientists and doctors have known for years about the connection between reduced sodium intake and reduced risk of obesity, high blood pressure (which leads to stroke) and heart disease. And I believe most Americans have at least a faint idea that this is true; fat, sodium, cholesterol, yeah yeah yeah, it’s all bad. But clearly, we don’t really care. Why is that?

Maybe we aren’t considering our options. Maybe we aren’t saying to ourselves (out loud if necessary!) that just because there’s a McDonalds on every block (or so it seems in Manhattan), a Coke in every grocery store refrigerator, and a smiling mommy on the soup commercial, we don’t actually have to buy that stuff.

Of course, some people do not have options. A discussion of the American diet would be unfair and incomplete if we didn’t consider the link between diet and income. High sodium foods are often cheap, and fresh, fiber-rich foods and low-sodium packaged products are, for many families, prohibitively expensive. I know I don’t have any business advising lower-income people how to grocery shop, and I won’t. But it is important to note that these are not the only people buying Campbells’ soup and Kraft Singles Processed Cheese Food Product. And they certainly aren’t the ones being advertised to by Campbell’s; the kids in the commerical I saw this morning ate from white ceramic bowls in an upper-middle-class kitchen. What I wish to address here is the fact that pervasive marketing campaigns

In the fifties you could put advertisements for cigarettes anywhere: TV, print, radio. Friggin’ cartoon characters smoked cigars. When we found out they were killing us, the government stepped in and put restrictions on the tobacco industry’s self-promotion, as a way of protecting Americans from the impression the industry would like to give us that smoking is an acceptable and attractive lifestyle choice. And such was a good idea, because as much as we would love to tout free will and rational decision-making as ideals which exist in a vacuum (because it’s so convenient), that’s just not how it is. Marketers are smart; they can get in our brains, create desires and cravings, manufacture demand. It is in our best interest as a country to restrict tobacco consumption, which costs us loads of money in health care and reduced productivity; if we are to grow as a nation, we can’t be dying at 60 and raising obese children, right? As Waveflux reports, the same efforts are currently being applied to the alcohol industry. And yet efforts to address the issue of the average American diet are sadly lacking. It shoudl be obvious that the government isn’t going to do anything, at least not until childhood obesity leads to decreased army recruitment, and surely the food industry’s lobbyists can tie the hands of many well-meaning members of congress. We’re seen it happen at elementary schools that tried unsuccessfully to ban soda machines; in the end, it’s all about the money.

Which is why it’s so important that we (those of us who can afford it financially) begin to think critically about the way we allow cultural dietary mores, as created and perpetuated by advertising campaigns, to influence the way we treat our bodies. A good start would be to begin to toy around with the concept that perhaps that stuff we’ve been eating since childhood, that tasty, salty, hot bowl of m’m m’m, is delicious to us because our diets are dangerously imbalanced. The cutesy, sing-songy commercials are not going to stop anytime soon, but we can begin to address the various causes of our steadily increasing rate of obesity. Or we could just eat some soup, whatever.



Filed under 01_tart

68 responses to “Some Things Are Just Bad For You: Tart’s Nutrition Series, Sodium Edition

  1. Kevin

    If you’re looking for salt try a Lunchable and some V-8.

    That’ll get your heart pumping.

  2. nightshift66

    The real problem is that salt tastes GOOD, as does fat, simple sugars, and starches. Frankly, I know it’s healthy if I turn my fat nose up at it, and know it’s unhealthy if I like it. All the knowledge in the world isn’t going to make celery taste like anything but lawn clippings.

    I speak for no one but myself, but I do NOT want to live 100 years eating cardboard. I’ll take my 70 or so with my guilty pleasures.

  3. Bless you Tart for this post.

    Yes, yes, yes! There are so many things I love about this post I don’t know where to start.

    Bottom line fresh, unprocessed is better.

    Many can’t afford it.

    Corporate American has taken over our food supply as well as our political process.

  4. oddjob

    Lots & lots of animals are strongly drawn to salt because they have difficulty finding enough. My guess is we evolved in an environment where we also had difficulties finding enough and so we are hard wired with a taste for it.

    Likewise fatty food and almost certainly because evolved in a famine-prone environment.

  5. oddjob

    (… WE evolved ….)


  6. I know I don’t have any business advising lower-income people how to grocery shop, and I won’t.

    Related: There are no grocery stores at all in many poor, predominantly-minority, urban communities, and, even when there are, they are vastly different from their counterparts in white neighborhoods.

  7. Bottom line fresh, unprocessed is better.

    Many can’t afford it.

    Corporate American has taken over our food supply as well as our political process.

    …and is propped up by OUR TAX DOLLARS

  8. Angelos

    Healthy food is not expensive at all.

    Rice? Bags of dried lentils, red beans, split peas, etc? A whole chicken (as opposed to labor-intensive, and thus more expensive skinless breast) is cheap.

    I can go to Price Chopper tonight and put together a $15 stew that would feed my wife and me for 4 days, other than breakfast.

    People are stupid and lazy, and Big Food and the FDA just keep on poisoning them.

    Also, almost every soup you buy in a can, even “Healthy Choice” (ha!), has MSG, even if it says it doesn’t. (

  9. Angelos

    Shit, I got distracted, and I forgot to add a point about access. I see that Shakes beat me to it though.

    That’s another important issue. Sure, I can buy cheap food, but I do have to drive 6 miles to a wonderfully-appointed super grocery store.

  10. Tart

    Liss and Angelos are both right. Even if you can’t find fresh veggies in your grocery store, an industrial-size bag of frozen peas is just as good nutritionally speaking, and won’t go rotten in a couple days.

    Also, I have to bet those inner-city people are still eating at McDonald’s, which is expensive (I think), as far as energy-to-cost ratio.

  11. Living in Brazil makes eating well a lot easier actually. Just about everything we eat is fresh, and the fruit is great. And affordable: I get about a 3-4 pound bag of tomatoes for $2.

    You definitely get frozen and packaged foods here, but not with the intensity as in the U.S.


  12. Angelos

    And don’t forget the $2 bottles of Pitu, WKW. (Costs me $19 by the time it gets here.)

    Through in some limes, and you’re happy and scurvy-free!

  13. Tart

    It’s also important to note, re the discussion of food-availability in some areas, that for the most part, the people living in those areas are NOT the same people spending hundreds/thousands of dollars a year on diet products. I’m not talking about eat-to-survive people; I’m talking about the middle class, who eats utter crap, loses its health, then turns around and does everything in the book except change their eating habits and exercise more.

  14. Angelos

    Holy crap my homophonal typing skillz are non-existent today.


  15. Tart

    Okay, that sounded a little harsh. What irks me is the marketing and irresponsible corporations (who have the gall to claim their food is GOOD for you, aka McDonalds). I don’t mean to be all ‘I hate overweight Americans.’ But it is frustrating to see those ridiculous diet pill/powder companies succeed while the lettuce rots on the shelf, so to speak.

  16. And who says that healthy food can’t taste good?

    Consider these, just off the top of my head:

    Blackberry sorbet, fresh-baked bread, a ripe peach, just-picked cherries, a fresh egg from a free-range chicken, mozzerella and basil with fresh tomatoes, onions sauted in olive oil with carrots and served over organic ravioli, sushi, yogurt smoothies with honey, lavender-mint lemonade, veggie burger with sauteed mushrooms and home-made roll, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, home-made chicken-noodle soup…

    Fat, sugar, and salt aren’t evil – in moderation. And there are plenty of things that taste good without large quantities of them. One bag of fries a week won’t hurt you – if you’re eating tasty lower-fat things the other six days.

    And, ’cause I’m reading it now, a plug for Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. There are tasty recipes and more at the link.

    (For the record, I am no sort of food role model; I live off of carbs and dairy, because I am lazy. But I don’t kid myself and think that this is because there aren’t tastier, healthier options out there. There are, in great numbers.)

  17. Also, I have to bet those inner-city people are still eating at McDonald’s

    You know, I have to say, I think presuming anything about someone else’s eating habits is totally shitty. I’ve gained more weight in the last six months than any other 6-month period in my life even with cutting back calories and upping my activity. Why? Because I quit smoking, which completely fucked with my metabolism.

    So in doing one healthy thing for myself, I now “look” like I’ve been incredibly unhealthy and “irresponsible” in another.

    We can’t know what anyone else’s situation is, and I really wish that was something everyone could get through their heads.

  18. And who says that healthy food can’t taste good?

    Just to add to this, I think if you eat too much processed food, you lose your taste. Processed food doesn’t really have a taste, it has flavor created and/or enhanced by chemicals.

    So if you’ve been eating processed food and transition to real food, it takes a while for your taste buds to readjust to the real taste of food.

  19. Tart

    We can’t know individual people’s situations, but I don’t think it’s unsafe to draw a general link between lower-middle-class and working-class geographical areas and fast-food consumption.

    I don’t think anyone would accuse somebody who just quit smoking of laziness or idiocy…at least I wouldn’t, and I apologize if I came off as rude in that way.

  20. rabbittime

    On the subject of pretending things are good for you when they’re not is the bottom of this Coke Zero case I saw at my office. They’re claiming it contains ‘95% water, so it can hydrate you too!’ which I guess is nominally true but incredibly disingenuous.

  21. I’d like to add to Wolfrum’s comment, because I used to live in Honduras, one of the poorest of the Latin American countries. I mean, the majority of Hondurans are seriously, seriously poor, even when compared to America’s poor, but especially when compared to America’s working and middle classes.

    And yet their diet is better, overall. They eat fresh and locally-grown produce (because no-one could afford imported processed crap–even ex-pat families like mine rarely bought American or British imports like cookies or cake-mix, as they were prohibitively expensive). Whole grains like corn and rice, with black beans, make complete proteins. And true to what is colloquially known as “peasant cooking” (for my money, the very best, most tasty food in every country), garlic, spices, and old-school make-it-yourself techniques mean that simple, cheap ingredients are turned into delicious, plentiful, rib-sticking meals.

    When the boys were really little, we hired an elderly lady from Costa Rica who babysat them; she and her family were not wealthy or even middle-class by their nation’s standards, much less ours. And she was constantly remarking how shocking it was to her that Americans ate so badly, that real food was so expensive, and locally-grown food was so difficult to find. “I can’t believe America is such a rich country and its people accept such bland, expensive garbage,” she would say.

    So is it us, then? We seem to be so docile, so accepting of this. I mean, if poor people in Third World countries manage to find and eat real veggies and fruit and grains, why aren’t poor people here able to get those things? Fuck, why is it hard for everyone to get their hands on real food, as opposed to genetically-modified, overly-salted, fat-laden, flavorless garbage?

    Are we that easily hoodwinked by Big Ag and the processed food industry, who must be raking in billions, considering the shelf-life of the shite they pour into our markets and pantries and bodies.

    Look to the immigrants. Look to your grandparents, who smuggled in seeds and planted their own herbs and tomatoes and eggplants in window boxes because American grocery stores didn’t have the things they needed to make their native dishes, the stews and soups and pilafs and pastas that fed a family on a tiny budget.

    GREAT post, Tart.

  22. puellasolis

    Look to the immigrants. Look to your grandparents, who smuggled in seeds and planted their own herbs and tomatoes and eggplants in window boxes because American grocery stores didn’t have the things they needed to make their native dishes, the stews and soups and pilafs and pastas that fed a family on a tiny budget.

    I remember reading an article by Michael Pollan recently in which he told people, “don’t eat anything your great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food.” Sound advice, in my opinion.

  23. Tart

    That was a great article! I saved it. In the NY Times Magazine.

  24. PortlyDyke

    I agree, littbrit — my grandmother never went without her “kitchen garden”, no matter how little space she had. In the land of wheat/corn-fields and grocery stores crammed with canned goods, she simply couldn’t get the kind of fresh produce that she wanted.

    Even if you live in an apartment building, check out the roof of your building and your windows. If you’re the “gardeny” type and you don’t have space, talk to your neighbor whose yard is sitting there untended. If you aren’t the “gardeny” type, but you have a yard, talk to your neighbor who loves to garden. Split the cost of seed and the yummy produce.

    Join an urban garden —

  25. Angelos

    Yes, it is us, litbrit. Lazy and susceptible to marketing.

    But it’s also a generational shift that just happened here earlier than in other nations.

    The same conditions you described in Hondurs exists in the thousands of remote villages and town in Greece. But they certainly don’t starve, and in fact eat much better than we do. They have chickens, goats, rabbits, sheep, lemon and olive and orange trees, vegetable gardens, etc.

    My favorite story from the last time I visited Greece was a visit to CarreFour, a huge grocery/department store chain.

    1/2 of the food floor was all fresh fish, meat, and vegetables; an amazing “by the kilo” section with dozens and dozens of varieties of beans, legumes, nuts, etc.; the best store I’ve ever been to. Wander away though, and you have the boxed and frozen crap starting to infiltrate the market.

    I stepped back, to where I could see the whole store. If you drew a line down the middle, you could have said “Everyone over 40 on this side, everyone under 40 on this side.”

    You shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out which side was which.

    As the traditional patriarchal model faded away in the cities (it hasn’t in the country), and more women hit the workforce (and marry later), they have a) more money and b) less time. Hence, “convenience” in a box.

    The women just don’t learn their wifely duties from their mothers like they used to…

    (oh, come on, I had to throw that in there, it was just too obvious)

  26. amish451

    …because I quit smoking, which completely fucked with my ….

    metabolism, psche, all habits there involved with simply living life ….etc.

    Some would say , “Oh, it is because now everything tastes better.” true but not the total truth …we adapt and substitute for the evil habit/addiction we do not want to resume…..hang in there Sis ….

    As for Cambell’s and salt, I really believe the 1780mg sodium is an estimate, and a low estimate at that, there is a presevation factor involved in that canned crap too. It is all about marketing ..recall the chubby-cheeked Cambell’s kids all rosy-cheeked, fat, and happy? That image was a throwback to an era when ‘thin’ equated deprived and un-healthy …
    ..and the chickens, don’t even ask about the chickens, I know where they’ve been …

  27. [I accidentally posted this in the blogwhore thread, but meant it to go here!]

    Someone posted this before, but it’s worth posting again:

    Local Harvest.

    Far from comprehensive, but still a great resource for finding locally-grown, affordable, and oftentimes organic produce near you–you enter your ZIP code and receive a list of participants in your area (and my Mum tells me there are even more in her far-flung rural neck of the woods, growers who just haven’t got themselves listed yet.) The more we buy from our own, American small farms and growers, and the less we buy from the poison merchants, the more available and affordable fresh food becomes for everyone. Small farms need our support, otherwise factory farms and conglomerate-produced sprocessed crap will be all there is.

    And if you have a favorite supermarket that you frequent, keep asking the manager to stock local produce. Even if he can’t immediately control what the chain purchases, he can pass on your requests. Stores aren’t stupid: they want to sell what people want to buy. The more interest in locally-produced food, the more they’ll stock.

  28. amish451


    That would be psyche and typing psychills…

  29. oddjob

    Are we that easily hoodwinked by Big Ag and the processed food industry, who must be raking in billions, considering the shelf-life of the shite they pour into our markets and pantries and bodies.

    I believe in many, many parts of this country what happens is a result of a couple of different trends simultaneously.

    While many Americans like to garden in minor ways, very few are intersted in raising their own food in a serious manner. It’s a lot of work (mostly in terms of the time it requires). It isn’t a lot of work to raise some of what you want, but to raise a lot of what you need takes effort and know-how. The number of Americans who are utterly, utterly clueless about what makes a healthy soil is so vast I don’t even know where to begin to describe it. Without healthy soil, you can’t expect healthy plants.

    Americans are mostly to the point where they want to do other things with their time than devote it to a food producing garden.

    Furthermore, if you live in the Northeast (as 1/4 of the country still does), you contend with winter. Even if you can grow your own food in summer, there is still the other nine months of the year to face. To make yourself ready for that requires raising food during the warm months and then putting it up. That multiplies the time involved several fold.

    Americans on the whole don’t want to live that way.

    OK, so now the knowledge isn’t desired by many, and what happens to those with little means? They live in cities, where the means to garden is even more difficult to find. It’s not impossible, but it requires policies that are almost always afterthoughts. Yes, there are inner-city groups that take abandoned lots and turn them into gardens, but who owns the lots? Sooner or later someone comes along who wants to put a building there again. What happens to the garden?

    We don’t make it easy to garden unless you own land.

    Those that own land – mostly – aren’t interested in spending the time required to grow their own food on that activity.

    So then what?

    We rely on farmers to do it for us.

    What if the local farmer can only sell tomatoes during July & August (my situation)?

    They come from somewhere else…………

    What happens when more & more people want land?

    The local farmers sell out as they age and their children don’t want to take over.

    Etc., etc., etc., etc……..

    Ultimately, the only ones who grow food are the ones who want to.

    Everyone else goes to McDonald’s (exaggerating for emphasis).

  30. oddjob

    litbrit, your Costa Rican help would probably have been more understanding if she lived in one of the northern cities. Up here she couldn’t grow almost any of what she was used to and would regard as good to eat.

    No guavas, no avocados, no mangoes, no yuca, no jicama, no cassava, no plantains, etc., etc., etc.

    Beans? Yes, she could grow beans, but probably not the ones she was used to.

    Garbanzos? I don’t believe so.

    Peanuts? Yes if you live near Philadelphia, but not near Boston.

    It goes on & on like this.

    Can you imagine how disorienting it is for the Laotian Hmong tribesmen who left after the Vietnam War and ended up in Minnesota??

  31. PortlyDyke

    Even if you are “lazy” — there are alternatives to growing your own produce that allow you to support small farmers (even my friend on Manhattan Island has a “share” in a CSA).

    Last winter, our $17/week (yes, you read that right — $17/week) farm share provided our three-adult household to eat copious amounts of fresh organic vegetables from November through March, while directly supporting a small organic farmer.

    I’m pretty useless as a gardener. My thumbs are brown, but my heart is willing.

  32. oddjob

    Angelos has described it perfectly.

  33. oddjob

    PortlyDyke, where are you located (what urban area, or what state)?

  34. oddjob

    The reason I ask is because I fear that if I did that here in the Boston area I’d end up with an endless winter supply of cabbage, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes with little else (oh, kale and maybe kohlrabi). The climate here is one well suited to Northern European cuisine, with its emphasis upon heavy, meat-laden food with starchy root vegetables and not a green leaf in sight if it isn’t from a cabbage.

  35. oddjob


  36. PortlyDyke

    Northern Washington State — and yes, we do have winter here. The only week our farm missed was when the snow was too deep for them to drive in for the drop. We got a double share the next week.

    That said, no, we don’t have tomatoes in February. Instead, lots of yummy roots and green-house hardy greens. But that’s natural to animals — to eat seasonally.

  37. PortlyDyke

    Oh — and oddjob — we only had cabbage one week.

  38. Goss

    I was just diagnosed with HBP last week. I am just now beginning to realize to what extent sodium invades our lives. It seems that everything has an effect on blood pressure. What seems to be the hardest is trying to make healthy meals that I can take to work. I did not realize how much processed food there is and how hard it is not to incorporate it into my diet. With 1 in 4 Americans having some type of HBP I would think there would be more low sodium foods available. The choices are getting better but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

  39. Angelos

    The key is cooking from scratch, in bulk.

    I frequently work 70-hour weeks, and my wife works hard too. But we still need to eat.

    Two or three times a week (weeknights) I’ll cook that night’s meal. Grab two pieces of some sort of meat from the freezer, some fresh or frozen veggies (depending on whether she made the farmer’s market), and some rice or beans. Whole process, cooking-eating-cleaning takes 90 minutes, and that’s our together time before I have to hit the computer again.

    Two other times a week, I’ll cook a LOT of food. Why thaw, and run the grill for, 2 chicken breasts, when I can do 12 for the same effort? A ginormous pot of stew or soup only takes a little extra time for 10 times the volume.

    Our fridge is always stocked with storage containers full of options. We know exactly what we’re eating, and I use very little salt because there are so many real spice options.

  40. I don’t think anyone would accuse somebody who just quit smoking of laziness or idiocy…at least I wouldn’t, and I apologize if I came off as rude in that way.

    My point was, unless I tell someone, or it’s someone who knows me, other people have no possible way of knowing I just quit smoking and am fatter as a result. (And it’s not because I substituted food for cigarettes.) That’s why I think it’s shitty to draw conclusions about people’s eating/exercise habits based on nothing but they way they look, where they live, etc. when you know absolutely nothing about their personal circumstances.

  41. Anonymous

    Oh — and oddjob — we only had cabbage one week.


    There are only two adults in my home. A head of cabbage will last for a week and a half. (BLECCCCHHHHH!!!!!)

    Kale I can handle, but the housemate only tolerates it.

  42. oddjob

    (That was me……… )

  43. oddjob, I used to hate cabbage – and all other vegetables, for that matter. I used to get the dry heaves at the thought – the mere thought – of eating squash or FSM-forbid cabbage.

    But I have to say that learning how to cook was a key component to learning how to love vegetables. I don’t love them all – you will never find broccoli or cauliflower in my refrigerator, and tomatoes give me the heeby-jeebies – but asparagus, cabbage, brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, leeks, onions, spinach, corn, carrots, squash, etc. – I’ve learned to love all of them.

    I will admit that I don’t necessarily eat these all in their healthiest form – I like cabbage sauteed in bacon fat, and squash with butter and brown sugar – but I am now eating veggies that I would not have eaten, and I’m enjoying them. And I’ve learned how much I love raw veggies.

    Maybe you are one of those people who can only taste the bitterness in veggies?

    Anyway, it is hard in New England, over the winter, to get really lovely veggies, I know our vegetable consumption goes down during the winter, although I do try to throw whatever I can into a stew from time to time. And I don’t like canned vegetables, but frozen will do if the fresh option is not available.

    My food issue is in the area of non-meat or dairy proteins. IOW, I don’t like beans. It may be mostly a mental issue, they creep me out because I visualize cooked beans as bugs – they’re so uniform in size and shape and immediately make me think of insects. It’s hard for me to get over that.

  44. re: tomatoes – again, this is an appearance thing rather than a taste thing – I like the taste of tomatoes and have made my own sauce thanks to Shaker Gourmet, but I could never eat a slice of tomato on a sandwich or a wedge of tomato in a salad because the insides of a tomato are gross looking to me.

  45. oddjob

    I’m glad you’ve learned to like them! My list of likes & dislikes is different than yours, but it isn’t usually about bitterness for me (unless we’re talking endive, radicchio, or dandelion greens, or something). What puts me off is sulfurous stuff. When I eat cabbage I taste a mixture of sulfurous flavors with sweet ones and I find the combination disgusting. Brussels sprouts are worse and that’s another one I’d expect to receive from a New England CSA during the winter.

    I’d eat more squash if my housemate didn’t have an aversion to mixing savory flavors with sweet ones. I love butternut squash simply roasted and served with just a pat of butter (or mashed with nothing added – maybe just a little butter or olive oil, or maybe not). Acorn squash I can do without, but butternut I love!

  46. magikmama

    Crockpots are the answer my friends.

    My family eats only locally grown food – and we are lacto-ovo vegetarians – and living in northern illinois, that means a hell of alot of beans and legumes.

    Crockpots are fabulous workhorses of efficiency. Have two bags of legumes, some root vegetables and spices? Wash the root vegetables (peeling only if absolutely necessary), throw up in the food processor, throw the chunks in a crockpot with legumes and spices, add water until the mess is covered, and put on low. Even accounting for cleaning up the mess, you’ve prepared a healthy stew/soup in about 20 minutes. The only problem is that you have to cook the night before. But on the otherhand, you don’t have to have a lot of dishes or a well-appointed kitchen either.

  47. oddjob

    throw up in the food processor


  48. mamajane

    Hey PortlyDyke! I’m a northern Washingtonian too! I can attest to the availability of good stuff year round. Here on Whidbey we have several local farms that pool resources and create fresh, local produce packages that you can “subscribe” to, even in the winter. We’re working on our own kitchen garden now, hopefully the cover crop will be ready to till in before it’s time to plant the cool season veggies. We have several fruit trees planted, hopefully to bear apples, pears, and plums next year. Our biggest obstacle is dealing with the deer!

  49. oddjob

    Our biggest obstacle is dealing with the deer!

    Good luck with that one! Fortunately (& not so) I live in a very urban area and so there are no deer.

  50. Angelos

    Deer? Obstacle? Get a hunting license and a 30.06. Problem solved.

    MMMMMM, venison….

  51. oddjob

    Deer? Obstacle? Get a hunting license and a 30.06. Problem solved.

    Depends on the proximity of the neighbors sometimes….

  52. magikmama

    oddjob – sometimes my brain gets a little ahead of my typing

    What I meant to type was “throw the veg up in the food processor”

    What I actually typed – gross

  53. oddjob


    Indeed! Since I’m easily the sloppiest typist here, I completely understand!

  54. PortlyDyke

    Oddjob, I once shared an inculcated distaste for cabbage and brussels (although I’ve learned to eat them, with relish, even). I grew up in the midwest, and the mennonite lunch ladies (whose unshaven legs fascinated me) served canned cabbage and brussels on an obscenely regular basis.

    Mamajane — we found a great (and cheap) deer fencing alternative — fishing line strung at 6 inch vertical intervals between standing poles. It’s inexpensive, and doesn’t intrude visually on enjoying the garden.

  55. oddjob

    I have yet to find a manner in which cabbage may be served that I enjoy. Stuffed (golomki – GROSS!), sauteed, served as slaw, let alone boiled (shudder…….)

    Doesn’t matter…..

    Oh, I’ve tried roasted brussels sprouts, too.
    They taste like roasted brussels sprouts……

    (You won’t be surprised to learn I find boiled turnips & rutabagas equally vile, will you? )

  56. Susan

    After reading all the posts, it’s time to ask for help on the issue. I’m single, and cooking for one isn’t easy. The CSA’s are tempting, but the amount is too much and not cost-effective for one person. I grow my own herbs and use them for soups and stews made int he crockpot (circa 1979 wedding present), and then small containers. I’m an absolute failure at container vegetable growing (i.e., despite my tender loving care, my one yellow squash plant stayed true to its name–over the course of the summer, it grew one yellow squash).

    The alleged farmers’ markets in middle Tennessee consist of people who’ve traveled to Kroger in Alabama to bring back produce to sell.

    In the meantime, I live on cooked frozen vegetables, wine, brown rice, eggs, Red Rose Tea, packets of salmon or tuna, chicken, and assorted fresh fruit.

  57. PortlyDyke

    Susan — consider splitting a farm share with a couple of other singletons that you know. I did this with two other friends when I was single, and it was great — we rotated the weekly pick-up, and it was wonderful because I could give some of my veggie “dis-likes” to others in trade for stuff they weren’t fond of.

    Visit littbrit’s Local Harvest link above, and check out mid-TN for a CSA.

    Also, if you have a nearby organic food store or coop, you can organize a few friends and make a “buyer’s club”, which will give you a discount on oft-used items. I did this with a couple of friends when I was cooking for one as well.


  58. Salt is good food.

    Like cheese.

  59. Dr. Dave

    Tart: I’m intrigued that you see an ad for chicken noodle soup and a thought “worms” into your mind.

    So how’s that novel coming along?

  60. Susan

    Thanks, PortlyDyke. I do have several single friends who would probably love it. Great idea!

  61. burnt toast

    okay… for those of you who have never grown food of their own, this might seem very foreign… but for those like myself who know how easy and satisfying it is, here’s a little reinforcement… I have had a garden or grown in containers most of my life, so it is second nature to me. But if you don’t know how to get started, try to find like-minded groups in your area who can help… or go online.

    We started programs in Seattle many years ago that have developed into models. Your city or county most likely owns land that is dormant/surplus and can be committed to community projects like the Pea Parch garden program:

    Additionally, there may be gardener programs in your area that are devoted to helping individuals grow:

    you can also start and encourage use of public property to stage weekend farmer’s markets:

    for those of you who have a little piece of property but live in an area with a short growing season or who don’t want to dig up their lawn, here’s an abbreviated method that I developed… tires absorb heat… stack two old tires on top of each other… line with sheet plastic… punch a few holes in the plastic for drainage… fill with soil. You won’t believe how fast corn and tomatoes grow this way…


  62. Farah

    Lots of comments about the cheapness of rice and beans etc. but I haven’t seen anyone mention that the American and British poor frequently lack proper cooking facilities. I’ve seen many modern “starter homes” with kitchens in which you can barely move, and there is no cooking space. Our own house came with all mod-cons but no kitchen choppng surface and most “fitted kitchens” (which are the norm *especially* in small houses) have no proper kitchen table.

  63. tiger

    Delicious red cabbage recipe:

    Saute chopped red cabbage in a pan with olive oil and black pepper. Halfway through cooking time(deciding on how crunchy you like your cabbage) , toss in some chopped dried apples, and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Cover. From time to time, toss in a teaspoon of water, and recover to allow to steam and become tender.

  64. oddjob

    So it’ll be sulfurous, peppery, and sweet/sour like sauerkraut (SHUDDER……)?

    I think I’ll pass, thanks. (Thank you for the thought, though!)

  65. tiger

    Not at all–it’s tender, sweetish from the balsamic reduction, with a nice tang from the dried apples. You can also leave the pepper out.Mmmmmmm! Goes great with roast chicken….

  66. edenz

    For those of you who insist that you don’t like veggies, I recommend you keep trying them. Frequently, we have to taste things over and over again before we get over the strangeness and like them. You can observe this with kids – having them say they dislike something the first 50 times they try, and then suddenly it’s their favorite.

    It also helps to try different taste combinations – like beets. We tried grilled, steamed, harvard, and beet bread last summer (it was a good year for beets) and none of them were apetizing. Then we tried them with goat cheese – yum.

    As to the growing trend of ‘convenience’ food – both packaged and pre-cooked – I think that part of the problem is that people have no idea how to cook and plan meals. I don’t know anyother person my age (mid-twenties) that actually cooks dinner more days than not. Cooking isn’t hard nor necessarily time-consuming or expensive. However all the marketing for ‘convenience’ foods claims that it is and people believe that.

  67. aaah, i loooved reading these comments! My husband and I have been on a crusade to eat local as much as possible, I planted our little container garden a few weeks ago, and we cook like mad…I agree with edenz – cooking isn’t difficult, and gets faster and easier the more you do it. We have our 10-15 favorite recipes that we know by heart and cook all the time, but also work on new combinations of things we haven’t tried yet. It’s also a really nice hobby to have – calms me down and I get to eat the results!
    and on the subjects of veggies that suck, I hate arugula – can’t stand it, no matter how it’s served. just tastes like rotten to me, not peppery like how it’s supposed to. I blame my weird mouth chemicals, hee hee.

  68. oddjob

    I don’t object to vegetables (my Latino housemate – the carnivore – is the better cook and so is quite aware of what I eat, and on Sat. he teased me about how many vegetables I could eat at one meal – “You’re like a bug!”), but I really do have a problem with the sulfur compounds cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, & rutabagas.

    They’re very closely related plants (actually cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, & kale are just different subspecies of the same plant) and I like kale quite a bit & have no real problem with broccoli (as long as it isn’t boiled). Clearly then it’s not an issue of being a vegetable, but rather its particular flavor components.

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