Sunday, March 19, 2006

Just add water

There are a few people theorizing as to what could be contributing to the food-related-stupidity observed in this Washington Post article. I'm going to add my voice to the mix, because I think there's more to it than people being stupider now or shallower or less refined. Advertisers of prepared/prepackaged/fast foods have a stake in convincing people that cooking is hard and they can't do it. I am mystified by a lot of products I see that are no easier to use than making the dish from scratch would be. Instead of using a cake mix, where you have to mix together some eggs, some oil and some cake mix, you could make a cake from scratch by measuring out the flour/sugar/baking powder/salt, taking perhaps two extra minutes doing it. You can buy boxed pasta with "flavor packets" for olive oil and garlic - or you could boil your own pasta, mince up some garlic (or buy pre-minced), warm it up a little, and combine. There is even frozen pre-buttered toast that you have to toast in your toaster oven to serve! These things require only slightly less if not the same amount of work than making them from their component ingredients would, but people will gladly pay the mark-up for the "convenience," the cute packaging and what eventually comes to be the familiar and comforting flavor of partially-hydrogenated soybean oil.

The worst part is that it took me a few years of intent cooking to realize this - it's easy to buy the idea that Pasta Roni is easier to use than spaghetti and olive oil. I don't cook everything from scratch, and I like cheetos and McDonald's cheeseburgers. I am not a paragon of food purity and integrity. I do try and think about what exactly it is that I'm buying when I pick something off of the grocery store shelf instead of out of a bulk bin, however, and I think it's made a huge improvement to my cooking.

Cross-posted on my food blog, Orexia.

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