Sunday, August 29, 2004

Triscuit fills you, but not with regret!

This is the advertising slogan on a box of crackers I recently bought. The side panel goes on to describe how good Triscuits are for you: high in fiber and “made with whole grain”, low in sugar and fat. I’m a big fan of Triscuits. The combination of rough texture and satisfying crunch, and their hearty shredded wheat taste make them pretty much my cracker of choice.

But I hope the advertising flack who wrote this panel burns in Hell.

Regret ought to be one of the heavy hitters among emotions. Like its out of fashion cousin, Shame, Regret implies not only the knowledge that you’ve done something wrong, but a genuine desire to go back and change time. This should be one of the heavy hitters in the emotional lineup.

Perhaps we don’t have a good enough word for the things that you just kind of wish had gone differently. I wish I’d gone to see the Grateful Dead when I had the chance in 1991. I wish I’d done more of the assigned reading in college. Neither of these issues really keeps me up at night, though. I’ve never blearily looked across the bar and shouted into the mirror, “You damned fool! If only you’d read Don Quixote!”

Regrets, I’ve had a few. Times I acted cruelly or pettily stand out. Times I went back on my word. Things I should have said but didn’t. These are the regrets that come around late at night. You’ll notice the lack of Triscuits, or indeed, any foodstuff.

Why do the good folks at Nabisco think I’m likely to be filled by regret by a cracker? Are they concerned that my snacking habits remind me of the inequitable distribution of food in our world? That the elegant crosshatching of a Triscuit-based crudite reminds me of some tiny kindness denied in my past?

Sadly, no. This is just one more step in the immeasurably harmful mixing of nutrition and morality in American culture. What I should regret is taking some less worthy cracker into my body, actually choosing to admit some microscopic amount of sugar and fat into my blood with every sinful bite.

The Food Nazis appeal to Regret and Shame in the hope that it will lead people to better, healthier, happier lives. They mean well, but I’m here to say that has to stop. Sure, we should all eat a good diet. Many religions and codes of ethics would even argue that it’s the “right” thing to do. A “balanced diet” doesn’t imply, though, that every bite has to be an inoffensive neutral mix, or that the occasional indulgence is “wrong.”

I think back to the young women whom I’ve seen order dessert and say they were “being bad.” They even describe their time on the exercise bike the next day as if it were a necessary penance. Ladies, it’s a piece of cheesecake. It’s not like you knocked over a liquor store.

Let’s keep some perspective, folks. We should eat well because it’s fun. It tastes good and makes us feel better. We should also eat healthily, because it’s fun, tastes good and makes us feel better. We should learn about nutrition, and we should learn about the ways we each individually like to get our balanced, appropriate, healthy diet.

And we shouldn’t let Madison Avenue or Dr. Atkins give us the idea that the brand of cracker we choose might be a shameful secret to take to the grave.

(Quote of the day, courtesy, I think, of Lewis Black: Marlon Brando lived longer than Dr. Atkins. Think about it.

In fairness, Brando did eat him. High protein and all.)


Blogger Hugh said...

Wow, I love that slogan, mostly because it sounds so 19th-century-patent-medicine-like.

10:50 AM, August 30, 2004  
Blogger lemming said...

The slogan sounds rather Japanese to me.

To your "keep perspective" (which is exactly right) I'd add that we should eat because we are hungry. Somewhere along the way, our culture of abundance and entitlement lost track of the notion that we should eat because we are hungry.

11:12 AM, August 30, 2004  
Blogger We Three Spences said...

that was the best blog i have read in awhile. i agree that food should not be a thing that we regret (unless of course you have a medical problem that would cause you to swell, go in to seizures, or die from eating something, then it would be ok to regret eating those nuts that you are allergic to). i refuse to regret what i eat...there are so many other things in this world for people to regret, why throw something in that category that we have to have to live. kristy

11:32 AM, August 30, 2004  
Blogger TeacherRefPoet said...


Entry: regret
Function: verb
Definition: doubt
Synonyms: apologize, be disturbed, bemoan, bewail, cry over, deplore, deprecate, disapprove, feel remorse, feel sorry, feel uneasy, grieve, have compunctions, have qualms, kick oneself, lament, look back, miss, moan, mourn, repent, repine, rue, weep, weep over

You're right. None of these are weak enough to describe the Triscuit situation, except "feel sorry"...but just maybe. I guess we could try to get "repine" back into common use.

"Regret" as noun has the same problem, as shown below:

Entry: regret
Function: noun
Definition: doubt
Synonyms: affliction, anguish, annoyance, apologies, apology, bitterness, care, compunction, concern, conscience, contrition, demur, disappointment, discomfort, dissatisfaction, dole, grief, heartache, heartbreak, lamentation, misgiving, nostalgia, pang, penitence, qualm, regretfulness, remorse, repentance, ruefulness, scruple, self-accusation, self-condemnation, self-disgust, self-reproach, sorrow, uneasiness, woe, worry

Of these, "pang" is probably the closest, and many are way beyond Triscuit level.

By the way, the top ten Google results for "regret" include a film about the Vietnam War ("Regret to Inform") and a story about James McGreevey's affair. Neither are Triscuit-level regrets, I'd say. Also two bands: Hitchcock's Regret and Oceans of Regret. Having heard neither, I'd say the first would be too hard for my taste. The second sounds maudlin--I may have liked them in the early '90s.

9:08 PM, August 30, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Searching for my band name to see how we fare in search engine I come upon your blog . . . We do sound a bit Maudalin and the commenter may have in fact enjoyed us in the 90's see for yourself at

6:05 PM, June 16, 2005  

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