Pomme de plastic

In this post from about six weeks ago, in which I lamented the absurd plastic packaging that plagues me every time I visit the French supermarket, I gave the award for the most ridiculously, absurdly, infuriatingly, stupidly, selfishly wasteful package to…

these individually packaged slices of ham. Whoever buys these must be the laziest people in France, if not the world.

Yesterday, however, among the refrigerated produce, I noticed for the first time a package that one-ups even the individually boxed slices of ham. And so, I now re-award the the most ridiculously, absurdly, infuriatingly, stupidly, selfishly wasteful package to…

pre-steamed potatoes in a plastic box.

To me, the potatoes are an even worse offense, because unlike ham, it is possible to consume potatoes sustainably. Eating animals—especially mammals—is terrible for the planet, period. Meat production is outrageously wasteful and has a gigantic carbon footprint. (I say this without the slightest bit of self-righteousness because I do eat animals, albeit in great moderation, partly because it’s so expensive in France.)

Potatoes can be grown without much help from chemical fertilizers and pesticides just about anywhere in the world. They can be transported and stored at room temperature, no packaging necessary, which is a vast carbon savings over the giant, ugly footprint of the refrigerated trucks necessary to transport individually-boxed slices of ham.

As I stared at it, jaw agape, I picked it up, not really believing that French manufacturers would cater to such extreme laziness. And then I nearly blew up from anger.

Apparently, one layer of plastic isn't enough to preserve a food that does just fine uncovered at room temperature.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find this package in the U.S. of A. Lay’s, Pringles, and McDonald’s hash browns are even worse abuses of the potato. But I expected more of France. Something I’ve always loved about the French language is that potatoes are called pommes de terre, literally “apples of the earth.” Why would a culture that seemingly has such great respect for the apple of the earth suck the life out of it and vacuum-pack it?


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