We don’t eat a lot of frozen meals in our house, but lately we’ve been having pot pies on nights when we’re pushed for time or haven’t been to the store or just don’t care. (As we age, we care less about food, too.)
One night, JoAn made a big pot pie from scratch, and it was better than the little round frozen ones but was a lot of work, so we make do with supermarket versions.
Encouraged by these delicious meals, I bought a couple of what we used to call TV dinners for emergency days, and last week was one of those. We had eaten pot pies for supper, so I had no leftovers to bring to work the next day.
I prefer leftovers. Because my wife cooked them in the first place, they’re tasty. They’re cheap. And I don’t like leaving the building to buy lunch.
On that particular day, I brought what the label advertised as “country fried chicken breast tenders.” Smaller type, which I noticed only when I was microwaving it and tearing off clear plastic and putting the plastic back on and microwaving some more fine-tuned that menu: “Breaded tender-shaped white meat chicken patties served with macaroni and cheese topped with breadcrumbs.”
So, it wasn’t chicken tenders – I had to go online to learn that tenders are real; they are taken from beneath the breast – but “tender-shaped patties” instead. A little dishonest, but I suppose that’s not the worst offense in advertising. The picture on the package showed what you would expect from chicken tenders: golden brown crust, with thick white chicken inside.
My plate was a bit different, though. The chicken wasn’t really fried, having been nuked. And the meat was barely thicker than a slice of cheese or ham. At least it was easy to chew.
To be honest, the flavor wasn’t bad. The macaroni and cheese was even better, tasting homemade, although I didn’t see the need of putting breadcrumbs on macaroni. Aren’t breadcrumbs just crunchy pasta, and macaroni just soft breadcrumbs? Seems a bit carbohydrate-heavy to me.
As I ate my meat and macaroni, I read the list of ingredients and learned that I was digesting much more. There were, of course, chemicals that I can’t pronounce and have no idea what they are or do (sodium tripolyphosphate, anyone?).
The word “salt” appeared nine or 10 times in that long list (it’s easy to lose count in such small type). “Flour” is well-represented, probably slightly more so than “enzymes.”
It would have been less scary if the list had included a few vegetables, or even “apple brown betty enzymes,” but I probably shouldn’t read those packages. It’s like watching Congress make sausage, or whatever the old saying is.
CELEBRATE MAY 8: Do you know who needs a good meal? Your mom, if you’re lucky enough to still have her. Cook for her or take her out on Sunday, her day. But please, no TV dinners.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.