Wish List

By Beacon Staff

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. The only one I ever kept was the one about stopping smoking and I figured I couldn’t top that one anyway, so what would be the point?

So instead of resolutions, I’ve compiled a wish list for 2009. Maybe you’ll join me in wishing for some of the same things.

The supermarket where I shop recently did a complete store makeover. It was long overdue, but that’s not the point. I noticed a significant increase in the amount of convenience food – products and pre-cooked meals that just require a quick zap in your microwave. The store manager told me that this particular segment of their business is up 60 percent over the year before. So I don’t blame them for responding to the needs of their market. But here’s my first wish: That people get back to cooking real food to be served at a family dinner table where conversation happens. Buy fresh vegetables and meat and dairy products. Who cares if you’re not a great chef? Just be a good cook. Use a cookbook. Borrow a recipe. Your family will notice.

I am invariably drawn to the gadget wall at stores that sell cooking equipment and related products. I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer of these items are made in the U.S.A. I’m old enough to remember when “Made in Japan” was a joke. But back then, it was a quality issue. Now, “Made in China” can actually make you sick or kill you. Believe me, I’m no xenophobe. My knives are from Germany and Japan. But my pots and pans are American-made clad metal. Having been an advocate for American manufacturing in a previous career, my wish is for domestic manufacturers to find some way – any way – to start up their lines again and produce some quality products for our kitchens.

My “electronic leash,” also known as my cell phone, has become a fairly important part of my life. I recently decided to add texting capability, so now I’m into “thumbing,” too (didn’t that used to mean hitchhiking?). In any case, too many of us have lost the sense of propriety and just plain good manners when it comes to cell phone use. This is a food column, so I’ll confine my comments to using them (or rather not using them) in restaurants. I am stunned by what people will allow me and the rest of humanity to hear about the details of their personal lives. All of the restaurants I know of have telephones. If there’s an emergency and you really need to be reached, I have no doubt the restaurant will let you take a call on their phone. My wish is for an electronic umbrella that interrupts cell phone reception in restaurants (and a few other places, too).

Do we really need any more fast food or chain restaurants in any of our cities and towns? Seriously, have we looked at our bellies lately (and I include myself in that question) and given any thought to what we’re doing to ourselves with these fat- and calorie-laden combo meals piled so high on large plates or stuffed in to-go sacks? I’m a free-enterpriser/capitalist, so you can build and open as many of those places as you want, but my wish (and this applies to independent restaurants, too) is for more reasonably sized portions with healthier choices. And if you need a “doggy bag,” instead of taking it home, why not have the restaurant package it up for a nightly donation to the local homeless shelter or food bank?

Finally, we all know that 2009 will be a year of thrills and spills not unlike the scariest rides at amusement parks. Our economy needs fixing. Our image around the world is in shambles. And even in a world of plenty, people are still hungry. So here’s my wish for those of you who are making the most popular of resolutions: If you resolve to go on a diet to lose weight, then how about donating what you would have eaten (or the amount you would have spent on the extra calories) to a food bank?

My final wish is for all of us: May the year ahead be one of peace, health and prosperity.

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