Lunchtime poll - "maintenance food"
October 21st, 2010
12:15 PM ET
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I've always felt a fundamental disconnect with people who say if they could, they would just pop a pill in lieu of a meal. It's not a matter of food snobbery or that they're not meeting my level of food fetishism; it's that they're openly disdaining the act of eating.

In its platonic ideal, eating should be an a act of joy, a delight to the senses, a catalyst for community and nourishment for the mind, body and soul. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive, and I am, without a doubt, grateful for every mouthful.

Still – if I could have popped some manner of space-age meal capsule instead of bolting down cotton-crusted, elastic-topped, charm-free cheese pizza while sprinting to catch the red-eye out of Vegas the other night, I would have done so gratefully.

I call it "maintenance food" – the quick, joyless meals you eat on your way somewhere, so you don't pass out at the wheel, the grim turkey sandwich at your desk, just about any food from a hospital or airport vending machine. I curse myself for not having had the forethought to feed myself more interestingly, and due to time, locale or cash restraints must gobble down food that's just...there.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Delmar Zeier

    Protein bars are targeted to people who primarily want a source of protein that doesn't need preparation. There are different kinds of food bars to fill different purposes. Energy bars provide the majority of their food energy (calories) in carbohydrate form. Meal replacement bars are intended to replace the variety of nutrients in a meal. Protein bars are usually lower in carbs than energy bars, lower in vitamins and dietary minerals than meal replacement bars, and significantly higher in protein than either.'",'

    My own blog

    July 1, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  2. Perri

    I have never understood what people mean by the joy of eating, of savoring, lingering over a meal, etc. I eat granola bars when I am hungry. Coffee. Just enough to take away the edge of hunger. I have never had a weight problem the way most foodies have.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  3. Jeff

    It is no wonder we have so many obese people in this country with the fascination and true love some people express at eating. I heard of a book on NPR written purely on great meals the author had engorged him/herself on. Amazing!

    October 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  4. 4U Mister

    If I forgot to eat, I would pass out. Low blood sugar means carrying something with me, usually an Odwalla bar. Can't stand those liquid meal things, I could eat a meal considering how long it takes to get the powder in the liquid, shake, and drink. Plus, bleeehh, they are not at all tasty. Yet, the meal that will after a few hours follow the Odwalla bar tastes almost decadently delicious, even if it is mundane.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
  5. Gina

    Something I've never understood is people that say "I forgot to eat". How do you forget to eat? I know I can't.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
    • Evil Grin

      I think it's a mental thing. For some of us, when we are busy, we get so caught up in what we are doing that we don't really feel if we are hungry or not. It can happen with strong emotions as well.

      Personally if I'm stressed out or just concentrating very hard on something, I just don't feel hungry, so then I don't eat. Later if someone asks me about it and if I realize I actually am hungry, I say I forgot to eat.

      Not everyone does this. It must sound really strange to those who don't.

      October 22, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  6. Caroline

    Be glad you didn't see Soylent Green 1st run, and then had plans to go out to eat after about putting you off even a salad. That said, my usual maintenance meal was a slice of sicilian pizza, which wasn't so bad being in NYC, but know it's usually a piece of fruit...boring but better for me. And JdMc...don't be trashing the Yankees Yogi says "It aint over till it's over"

    October 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Kathleen

      Caroline, it's over! Rangers all the way!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  7. Yuck

    I hope I am long gone and dead before the world results to that kind of horrific behavior.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
    • Sporkatus

      I hope I am served with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

      October 22, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  8. Ok I just read wikipedia...

    I understand now...that's disgusting

    October 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants


      October 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Evil Grin

      To really get that shocked effect, you have to see the movie. But be prepared, it's messed up in a way only the '70s could produce.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  9. Darvis Simms

    I think everyone has a so called maintenance meal every now and then, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. The problems start when you have maintenance type meals everyday. Balance and moderation is the key to eating healthy, and as long as you balance your maintenance meal by eating healthy at the next meal things should be okay.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  10. deathbydonuts

    I would love to sit down and have every meal be relaxing, but the second i start eating at work someone bugs me. At the airport though I always get something good with a nice tall beer and relax until I have to board. I love watching all the hurried and stressed people as I casually drink.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      ^ WORD

      October 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  11. Erin

    When I worked at a grocery store I would only have short 15 min breaks (2 if I worked more than 8 hours) so I became dependent on these soy protein bars. My appetite shrank and I realized they were all I was eating for most meals.

    Usually when I'm on the go and need to grab some quick food I still try and find something tasty. A cafe w/ sandwiches is way better than McDonald's and most airports I'm in have some pretty decent gourmet to go food nowadays.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  12. okay I have to ask...

    What the heck is Soylent Green? I can't google it right now and am very curious.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Truth

      An old 1970s era movie, where a futuristic society faced massive problems feeding itself, so it sold a food source with an unusual ingredient...Hope I did not give too much away. Charleton heston starred.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Gamnit-He should have won and OSCAR. It as his best acting since Ben_Hur!

        October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
      • RichardHead

        My fingers aren't working correctly or I have invented a new language.

        October 21, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants


        October 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Evil Grin

      Oh man. I'm so tempted to say it.

      SOYLENT GREEN IS... can't do that to you... sigh.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
      • Well...

        I will probably never watch the movie so I don't mind knowing

        October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        SOYLENT GREEN IS......IS.....IIIISSSS........

        October 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  13. amayda

    My hubby does this nearly daily. He gets so engrossed in his work that instead of taking his lunch break he just gulps down a protein bar and doesn't eat again 'till he gets home.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  14. RichardHead

    Yea-Do I get a Prize?

    October 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  15. RichardHead

    O.K. I'll be the first one to say it-Soylent Green! Now where are all the veggie heads? Oh.You say they are sick from eating bad celery?

    October 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Was thinking Soylent Green, but I was going to wait to see how long it took. X)

      You win! Unlike the Yanks in G6

      October 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • Truth@Jdizz, Richhead

      Guys, some day this blog feels like a coffee shop and we are the only three to show up...

      October 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Some comment sections are like that. Just us three boneheads rattling off about sports and the like.

        October 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
      • RichardHead

        But that waitress fills out the uniform nicely.

        October 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
      • Kathleen

        Hey, I'm here!

        About maintenance meals - I've been hungry, REALLY hungry, so even crummy maintenance meals have a serious element of joy about them. At least it's food, so I celebrate it. (Althought some have been about as worthy of celebration as a root canal.)

        October 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Odd how even the foods you normally HATE taste like filet-mignon wrapped in bacon when you are truly hungry (I'm talking several days). Been there once when I was out of work a few years ago barely scraping by.

        October 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
      • Truth

        Jdizz –
        Back in the stone age, I went through USMC recruit training. The capstone of the whole thing is a little exercise called "The Crucible" where you hike out several miles, go through several simulated battles and then hike back out with minimal food or sleep. The first meal after this was the best food I have consumed. Ever.

        October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
      • Deb

        I used to eat normally but my digestive issues (spastic colitis is one) – really cause me to run to ladies room and lose everything... up to 10 minutes after eating a normal meal. Eventually, even as stubborn as I am, you give it up and slowly what I ate, how I ate, how much I ate rapidly changed. I also, for the first time ever, drink real water. I used to avoid water and drink colas, sugary drinks, etc.. Now, I cannot touch them.. Odd thing is, if I do try them, they do not taste as good as I used to think they did. I still go out once a month to eat a nice meal but then I have to rush back home fast.

        October 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  16. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I'll be honest. I've had booze problems in the past. Anytime I was on a bender, vitamin pills (since I knew I at least needed those) and water were really the only things I consumed, didn't even feel hungry for 2-3 days, didn't even want to eat. Then, in the after math it would be hard to start eating again, but you knew you had to do it to get back on track. Eventually the correct eating pattern would return/ That has been my only encounter with "maintenance meals" I've had.

    These days, I get pretty cranky if I have to take my lunch late X). GET IN MA BELLY!!

    October 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Truth

      Jdizz – Been there, done that. Best to you on the path...

      I think it would be useful to be able to pop a pill and be done with it, but at times, I really enjoy a good meal. Especially since food in our society takes on a more social role. I have often pondered how much life would be different if we did not have to eat...No restaurants, no grocery stores, dating would be way different, etc.

      October 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Interesting concept. A world without the need for food. I assume we would have a massive animal population. Hmm. Great thought to ponder, Truth.

        October 21, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  17. Evil Grin

    I wouldn't want maintenance meals all the time, but I do eat them. Mine often take the form of liquid, though. Meal shakes or Beer, depending on where I am. On the whole, if I'm going to actually eat something, I'd like it to be good, but if I need to, I'll eat whatever's available.

    Don't we all do that?

    October 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Tyler

    They happen. I don't like when it does, but sometimes I'm just too busy to do anything but the first drive through I see.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Deb

      I eat those very small whole grain bar (one for breakfast, one for lunch) and a cup of hot green tea with both and I drink alot of water throughout the day. When I get home, I usually eat rice and baked chicken and veggie but not enough to get me too full. And I have some green tea. One thing is, I just do not get very hungry during the early morning or at lunch and big meal tend to slow me down. I have digestive issues (moderate to severe) so if I have issues, well work is not where I want to have them. I have a co-worker that won't stay out of the vending machines, she is thin/and trim but hit up the cola or chips about 3 times a day. Brings in breakfast (fast food), goes to lunch and brings back a bagged meal and eats again. And I find that excessive eating – especially what she is eating.. bothersome. When I can find fruit or veggies that do not... cause flair ups – I bring them in and eat slowly throughout the day.

      October 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
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