Phoode. n. combination of chemical substances processed to resemble something edible that are consumed because you are either a) too tired to cook, b) to starving to cook, c) too rushed to cook, or d) the family is hungry and there is nothing else in the fridge.
Phoode did not grow, or have a mother. It lives in the centre aisles of the grocery store. It makes health claims, and has ingredient lists. It’s wrapped in plastic, and it’s expensive. Phoode does not wilt, die, or rot. It comes in two colours, a bland off-white, or some shade of neon. It has undergone mechanical separation, extrusion, breading, frying or sterilization. If you’ve watched Lost, Phoode would be what the survivors discover in the hatch pantry-covered in white “Dharma Initiative” labels with a shelf life of 30 years.
We often eat Phoode at our house; I’m not ashamed to admit it. I wish I was that mother who made everything from scratch, always had a meal plan, and was never short of energy for shopping, cooking and stocking the freezer. But I’m not. Sometimes we have chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese from a box. And let’s face it. Kids like Phoode. Sometimes all they want to eat is Phoode, even if you don’t have it in the house. “But MOM! Tommy gets to eat pop tarts! That’s not fair!”. My parents apparently had this Food vs Phoode thing figured out. Growing up, we were never allowed convenience snacks like fruit roll ups or sugar-coated cereal. Not even Raisin Bran! My Dad said we could buy Bran Flakes and just add our own raisins.
Luckily, I have learned to recognize Phoode when it is lurking in my shopping cart, pantry, or freezer, just waiting for that moment when I’m too tired, hungry, or rushed to hunt down something real to eat. I’ve started keeping a food diary. Nothing fancy, just a notebook with a line down the centre of the page. On the left side is “Food”, and the right is “Phoode”. If I’m not sure if what I’m eating is Food or not, I put it in the right hand column since it’s probably actually Phoode in disguise.
I’m also trying to be more diligent with preparing a weekly meal plan. One day per week (when I remember), I sit down with my cookbooks (currently enjoying Sandi Richard, Dinner Survival), make a list of 3-4 meals for the week and a grocery list. This makes the after work “I’m-tired-and-starving-and-don’t-know-what-to-cook!”-times much simpler. My goal in recognizing and reducing the amount of Phoode in my diet is not to undertake some impossible, extremely restrictive fad diet, but to hopefully make what I eat a) healthier, b) less expensive, and c) better for the environment.