Our home is a wonderland of pre-packaged foods. With the exception of bananas, eggs from the Farmer's Market and perhaps the odd tomato, mushroom or onion, virtually nothing enters our home in a mostly unprocessed form.
It strikes me that there is a fairly simple explanation for this excess: I don't know how to cook.
For more than a century, Big Food has teamed up to help women cook better, faster, healthier - though, of course, many of those vaunted health benefits were illusions.
Today, when so few of us grew up tutored in the domestic arts, we aren't just looking for Big Food to show us room for improvement - it's the only way we know how to do it at all.
My (foreign-born) mother-in-law, if handed apples, can make applesauce. I suppose I might manage an approximation, given a limitless amount of time and some incentive. But since 1930, Mott's has canned and sold their applesauce in a convenient, ready-to-eat jar - no peeling or coring required.
For the past year, we've been trying to eat healthier - more veggies and fruits, less red meat and far less fat, salt and the other culinary big bads. This is certainly somewhat greener. Cosmos Magazine sites a Japanese study that equates producing one kilogram of beef with driving for three hours and leaving all the lights on at home. (Hmmm ... is that driving a Hummer or a Prius? And are those CFLs in your house?) An American Chemical Society article reports that while buying local does reduce your household's carbon footprint, buying less red meat is even better - they argue that distances food travels are less of a factor than production concerns.
So while our health-inspired trip lower on the food chain has some positive environmental results, I can't dismiss the fact that I've miles to go before I could consider our food footprint petite.
Because deprived of the premade (and whole grain breaded) chicken nugget, frozen bagged veggies and vegetarian chili mix, my family would likely starve.
Or at least complain a lot.