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Annie Dear: When just a little is just plenty

The Examiner

I would like a word in your shell-like ears about seasonings and sugar.

I remember going to a "fine dining’"(huh, she huffed, spare me) restaurant in Las Vegas many years ago where the service was so over the top and patronizing, I wanted to jab a fork into a waiter. The food, not so much. 

Annie Dear

Bland didn’t even begin to describe our meal. I think there might have been a coup in the kitchen and salt and pepper had been barred therefrom – and naturally, nowhere were they to be found on our table either.

I feel I’m quite a rational cook, and a modicum of seasoning is required to bring out the flavors of a meal, but I am definitely not heavy handed with the salt.

Our local grocery store has quite a good variety of ready-made meals for those nights when you don’t want to cook, and I say bravo and amen to that. It however has got to the point where I won’t buy them anymore, so loaded are they with salt – to the point that the rack of ribs we had the other day was totally inedible, and had to reside in the trash.

Salt has been used as a preservative even before Adam wore shorts. The Egyptians were early to glom onto this and figured packing the odd dead pharaoh with the stuff was pretty good insurance that he’d reach whatever higher plane he was aiming for. Wars were fought in the Shangxi province of China over its stranglehold on their salt flats as far back as 6000 B.C. It’s been around a very long time.

But do we need so much salt in packaged lunch meat that it will indeed survive us all? Surely a week or so in the fridge is enough, isn’t it? I doubt kids today would know what sliced ham or turkey actually tastes like if the salt was removed.

And then there’s sugar. It’s been a particular bugbear of mine ever since I landed on these fair shores. As an Aussie I eat Vegemite. It’s almost required for citizenship, I believe. All migrants must sing the Vegemite song to be considered for admission. “We’re happy little Vegemites, as bright as bright can be. We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea ..." You get my drift. How many songs about peanut butter can you sing?

Vegemite is salty – not over the top, live forever type salty, but salty nonetheless. But fanging into a Vegemite and cheese sandwich – the Aussie kids’ lunch equivalent to peanut butter and jelly – when the bread is loaded with sugar is just all wrong. It’s an anathema, I tell you.

I did a bit of research, as you knew I would. I looked into the unhealthiest bread you can get in both countries – Tip Top Sliced White in Oz, and Wonder bread here.  Did you know Wonder bread has six times more sugar than its Aussie brother? One and a half teaspoons per slice in the U.S. – 6 grams versus 2 grams Down Under. Fine if you’re loading more sugar on top of that, but if you want a good munch on Vegemite, or sardines, or tuna on a slice of bread, sugar ready shouldn’t get a turn at bat.

Please here my plea, American food manufacturers – ease up on the condiments.  We’re quite intelligent, and we can add our own at will.

Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at