Sunday, February 1, 2009

If (Poor=Fat) then (Skinny=Broke)

If I'm buying a lot more groceries these days, it's because I'm trying to eat healthy and cut back on expenditures. Ever notice when you go on a diet the first thing you do is a buy a shitload of "healthy" food? Ever notice when you try to cut back on spending money, you stop at the grocery store twice as much?

I'm starting to wonder if I wouldn't save more money by being fat. Fast food is cheap, so is store-bought crappy food. Packages of powdered, sugared, glazed crap seem to be much cheaper than organic, multi-grain, high-fiber, low-fat crap. The grocery store is tempting me with a choice, be skinny and poor or fat and less poor.

I have poor relatives. They are on the "Gummit" program. On this program, they qualify for butter, cheese, eggs and the like because they have really shitty jobs that don't pay them nothing. But they do have Direct Dish and pretty sweet pickup trucks and all the ammo they can carry. Go figure. The government gives it to them for free (the food, not the ammo). I haven't had actual butter in probably a decade. Why? Because I care about my cholesterol and my heart and my colon. Or possibly because I'm an idiot.

I'm writing this because I'm getting old and starting to sound a lot like Andy Rooney. I was actually standing before the chicken at the local H.E.B. yesterday and griping aloud about what a rip off it was. "$8.00 for three chicken breasts?!? Are you fucking kidding me?!?" And that wasn't even the organic stuff. Chicken thighs are about half the price, but they are also full of fat, right?

When the food prices started soaring, I remember hearing news stories about how it was because the price of delivery had soared, because the price of gasoline had soared, because the Sheik in Dubai decided he need four more manufactured islands in the shape of his three new wife's uteruseseses. (Plural female genitaliaseses are a grammatical weakness of mine. Deal with it.) But when the gas prices came down, all of a sudden the same news channels explained (patiently and always with glossy, shiny effervescent smiles) that it was because of the speculative market. It was all about the stock market, you see. Gas prices didn't enter into it. Huh?

This is what I know. We (you and me) got sick of the food industry sneaking crap into our food (fat, sugar, salt, chemicals, etc.) and we asked nicely, "Please stop", and they said, "Fuck you. When you stop buying it; we'll stop making it". But they'd stacked the deck against us, snuck in things like high fructose corn syrup that tricked our brains into overeating, and other assorted little tricks designed to make us eat more, buy more, eat more, buy more. They were turning us into a nation of "Tribbles", always eating, always buying because what we ate never satisfied us.

So the organic industry was born. They promised free-range chickens and eggs, no added chemicals and we said "hurrah!", at least until it started costing us an arm and a leg. It's gotten to where butter might actually be healthier for you than margarine or that other weird butter-like stuff. Same thing with cheese.

A few years ago you couldn't eat spinach. Last year you couldn't eat tomatoes. This year we can't eat peanut butter. Next year I think they've got rice scheduled to be the mysterious "eat it if you WANT TO DIE!!!" food, which appeals to gambling addicts, but not to the rest of us.

So here's where I am. I'm not old to get money from the "Gummint". I'm not poor enough to get free food. I'm right smack dab in the middle class with the rest of you bastards. Eating healthy gets me poor real quick, but getting poor makes me fat. Eating crap saves me money, but gets me fat, which makes me want to diet, but diets cost more money, which makes me want to cut back on money buying cheaper goods, but the cheaper goods make me fat.
Jesus, no wonder we're a nation of yo-yo dieters. (Except for Yo Yo Ma, I believe he's a Slinky dieter.)

It's time like these that I envy anorexics. For the price of 1/2 of a cracker and a sliver of celery I can be both skinny and rich, at least up until the part where I die, but like smokers always say, "Hey, ya gotta die some time? Why not speed the process along?"

Aaron Diaz Hoal
Hungry, poor and pissed in Austin, Tx

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