I have a pantry stocked with food from a recent trip to the grocery store.

And it’s all horrible, horrible food.

I don’t pack a lunch when I go to work, opting to buy a sandwhich and chips at nearby deli for a mid-day meal.

And it’s one of the worst things in the world that I can do.

Come dinner time, after a long day and fatigue has ambushed me as I enter my home, I figure I’ll do the right thing and have a Weight Watcher’s frozen dinner. Or maybe Healthy Choice. The portion is small, I won’t overdo it and maybe in the evening, I’ll for a little walk.

What am I crazy for heating up a frozen dinner? Don’t you know how asinine that is?

You can only be a citizen in a first-world country to have so much anxiety about what to eat for dinner, because there are plenty of people across the globe who don’t have the luxury of frozen meals or the ability to dole out ten dollars for something fast. But you can also only be a citizen in a first-world country to be made to feel as though you’re worse than Hitler for eating the things you do.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the food wars. I am tired of people like Michael Pollan telling me that as a middle-aged man, I’m a piece of corn with two legs who should feel guilty, guilty, guilty! for living in a system that produces cheap food. I’m tired of the endless line of books that pick up on that theme and tell me how poorly I eat, how duped I am for eating just about anything, and what a tool I am for letting Big Agriculture get away with destroying all that is holy and pure by buying cheap food. I’m tired of being to feel that the simple act of eating is a crime.

It’s an attitude that only people living in a first-world country could make and become bestselling authors because of it.

I’m not saying that Mr. Pollan doesn’t have a point. I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “Fast Food Nation” as well as other titles alerting me exactly from where my food comes. In fact, I’ve learned quite a bit about how the price of corn got so cheap, how it’s in everything, how food labels can be misleading, and the jaw-dropping amount of salt in any given meal. I do understand and appreciate the concepts behind buying locally. And while “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” got me on an organic food-buying kick that has since cooled, I really do think Big Agriculture making food cheap isn’t necessarily such a good thing. (What with them, Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, we’re not only doomed, we’re fucking doomed, but that’s perhaps another story.)

But I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with these same advocates essentially ordering me to stop buying what I like, or more to the point, that I have to spend money that I don’t have to purchase a similar product at a niche market like Whole Foods. You know, I like going to Whole Foods, but after a few months, it became obvious that I end up spending double what I do at Safeway for less product. I don’t feel empowered, or superior to all the Big Ag dupes at the supermarket: I feel like I have less money in my pocket.

And for what? To have the benefit of pretending that I am a better person? That I will live longer? The problem with all the good advice about food production and distribution is that we consumers are trapped in the middle: either we buy processed foods that contain corn derivatives, sugar, salt and fat, or we spend too much of our paychecks for the knowledge that my cherry tomatoes were grown “organically,” that my coffee is “free trade” and that my milk is made by happy cows without hormones. (And current studies indicate that there is no appreciable health difference between milk produced by cows that have been treated with hormones, although the price sure accounts for that.) I don’t like the idea of pesticides on my baby spinach more than anyone else does, but you know what? Even organic farms are allowed to use a certain level of them, so what the hell is the point?

I certainly do agree that we have no indigenous food culture in the United States (well, maybe the Native Americans did, but...) and that makes for a completely schizophrenic attitude towards eating. You can see those effects when you go to the bookstore, with dozens of titles about eating right, eating really right, or figuring out how to choose which book is best at telling you to eat right. And to a certain degree, we are dupes for thinking that a salad at McDonald’s makes it a healthy place to eat. (Every time I hear the tagline on a Wendy’s commercial “It’s waaay better than fast food!” I want to punch that cartoon in the face because it’s sooo the same as fast food.) If I think I’m eating healthier, I realize it’s a lie because frozen dinners are loaded with salt. If I think it’s a cool, hip thing to buy organic, multi-grain bread, I have to be careful because that label alone doesn’t really tell me what’s in it. A lot of this has to do with consumer awareness, which means that you have to take the time to figure out what you’re buying and eating. But people being people, we just want to eat what we know and love, and the food industry has accomodated this by insisting their products are wholesome, nutritious and now with less fat. Good, except if you don’t pay attention to the salt content and the ingredients, the package might as well read: “It’s still the same mass-produced stuff you enjoyed as a child!”

Sometimes I’ve wondered if all this “eat food, not a lot and mostly plants” mantra isn’t some aim to make sure we’re all thin. Our society is convulsed with the need to be thin, because thin means healthy and if you stick to organic this and that, you’ll see results with reduced risk to any number of diseases plus you’ll look better. And how do you look better? Why, by being thin.

This is why I appreciate such Food Network luminaries like Paula Deen and Tyler Florence. Both look like healthy adults to me. Even Paula Deen’s older son looks like a robust, big boy who ate heartily without pigging out too much. But given all the shrill warnings from Mr. Pollan et. al, about how shitty we eat, I think I’d rather be satiated and happy with a meal cooked by Ms. Deen than limiting myself to eating plants. Must we be thin to be healthy, and must we eat only overpriced organic lettuce in our Alice Waters-inspired salad masterpiece (grown by a local farmer and only with seasonal vegetables) to be better people? I believe in eating healthy, being an informed consumer and using that knowledge to cook more at home, user fresher ingredients and spare myself a weekly trip to Taco Bell or whatever. But I’ve also grown tired of of the smug, holier-than-thou attitude of the Pollan crowd who want me to fork over lots of money for the sole benefit of saying I shop at Whole Foods, or worse, spend an entire day shuttling between one farmer’s market to the next just so I can flip off Big Ag that I won’t be a cog in their machine. (But Big Oil loves the amount of gas I spent doing so.)

Yes, we are being lied to, we are being duped, we eat things loaded with corn, salt, fat and oil. We do need a true national food culture. But I also just want to come home and eat dinner. Is that so wrong?