The article in the magazine said that the whole population needs to be “label intelligent.” Yeah, right! How much intelligence does it require to see green beans on the label and know that the can is filled with green beans? It’s only when I can’t get my bifocals adjusted that I pick up those French cut things that my family doesn’t like but other than that, I do know green beans from corn or turnip greens.
I was feeling right smug until I read further and realized they were talking about the numbers on the side of the can, not the pictures. The place where the ultra smart nutritionists talk about fat and calories, sodium and fiber. Some of those things would cause my granny to leave her cloud of glory and wash my mouth out with soap if I said them out loud.
However, since I am part of the “whole population” and I don’t have a cloud of glory yet, I figured it was time for me to seriously consider becoming label literate. I tore a piece of paper from my trusty spiral back notebook, made several columns with headings and taped it to the refrigerator door.
At the end of the day I would be able to converse intelligently about fat grams, gluton, saturated fate and dietary fiber. If I met Aunt Molly in the grocery store we could talk about our dietary fiber and figure out if we should add a package of dried prunes to our grocery list.
The article went on to say that I should divide my height by my weight, add my grandmother’s age when she had her first child, divide by how many step-mothers I had (I had to take off my shoes for that one because I ran out of fingers), add in the day, month and year when I found my first gray hair and write down that number. Then take my weight, multiply by my brother’s IQ, divide that by my grandfather’s highest wage and add the bottom number of my last vision test. Subtract number one from number two and that’s how many fat grams I could have each day to maintain my weight.
I could do this. I started with breakfast on Monday morning because that’s when all things must begin if they are going to work.
Right in the middle of writing down the calories for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had made for my breakfast, my daughter called. I can talk and transpose numbers onto a sheet at the same time. I thought I put it in the right place but then maybe I did put the calories in the fat gram column. Oh, well, I figured it would all even out by the end of the day and I would be very healthy plus I’d be label intelligent.
Lunch was a disaster. In order to figure up a fried bologna sandwich a person need a degree in analytical geometry with a course in diagnostic algebra on the side. Chips to go with that? Sixteen chips equaled this number but I was telling a story and I think I ate eighteen, so that was the numbers from the first sixteen, plus twelve and a half percent added to it.
After supper I added the columns and found out I had consumed enough fat grams for the rest of the week, so little dietary fiber that I might die before dawn and my calculator didn’t have enough spaces to add all the calories. Who would have known that Snickers bars have very little Vitamin A and ice cream doesn’t add much iron?
The next day I got a big permanent marker and took it to the pantry. I tore off all the labels, trashed them and wrote on the cans…green beans, corn, spinach, pineapple.
Next time I see Aunt Molly and she says, “Aren’t you looking fit since you are label intelligent,” I will smile and say, “Thank you, darlin’. I’ve got the whole business under control.”