By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
I have a friend who has many minor medical problems. She gets very tired very easily, and can’t cook much. So she often makes frozen dinners for lunch or dinner, adding things like cottage cheese or additional vegetables, and eats out at other times.
But it gets more complicated. She needs to watch her weight, so she has to stick to low-fat, low-calorie frozen dinners like Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine.
And much more seriously, she has a medical condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus. This means that much of the lining of her esophagus has been damaged by acid, and she can’t tolerate anything made spicy foods like onions, chile peppers, garlic, as well as citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
While her condition is stabilized, it can lead to cancer. Not too many people have Barrett’s Esophagus, but many people have Gastro-esophageal Reflex Disease (GERD), which can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus and other complications.
When perusing the frozen foods section at the supermarket, my friend notices an increasingly disturbing (to her) trend. New frozen dinners are being introduced all the time. But so many of them seem to be “in garlic sauce” or “with peppers.” She has to stick to those few that she knows are safe, like baked chicken or macaroni and cheese, and while those are fine, eventually she grows tired of them.
The situation is equally disquieting when she goes out to eat. Recently, a friend took her to a new vegan restaurant in her area. Almost all the entrees were Mexican or Thai or spicy Chinese. She ended up getting plain noodles with soy sauce.
My friend surely isn’t alone. There are definitely thousands of people with problems similar to hers, especially among people over 50. Why are their needs and/or desires being ignored?
Maybe there should be a line of prepared foods, frozen or otherwise, sold in every supermarket, that has very few spices, only parsley. There would be no onions, tomatoes or peppers – only carrots, broccoli and the like. A chain of restaurants serving similar food could come next. One could order apple juice to one’s heart’s content, but not orange juice. It would be advertised in every gastroenterologist’s office in the country, and people would come in droves.
There’s only one problem. What would the restaurant, and the accompanying grocery products, be called? The word that comes to mind is “bland,” but in our society, bland has a negative connotation. Maybe “basic” would be better.
Just think of the advertising possibilities: “You used to have all the onions, garlic, oranges and grapefruits you wanted. Now it’s time to get back to basics!”
And on the screen, you’d see a man and woman, one of them eating broiled chicken with green beans, the other eating spaghetti with a cream sauce — no tomato sauce here! — and a side dish of carrots.
Eventually, bland — er, I mean basic — food may become the next trendy cuisine, and bland restaurants may open up on Smith Street and in Williamsburg. It’s no more far-fetched the artisanal mayonnaise shop!
By that point, we’ll able to use the word “bland” again, but in a positive way. Yes, bland doesn’t have to be bad! Bland can sometimes be good!
Raanan Geberer is managing editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.