Did you grow up in a home where the scent of yeast or melting butter hung in the air? Maybe some fresh tomatoes mixed with herbs and garlic gurgled happily on the stove? Opening the refrigerator meant a feast of tempting and multi-colored stews, soups or casseroles to greet the eye?
No? Well, me either. As I’ve mentioned in some of my M@M articles, my mom was a box mom. Having had no one to teach her anything about domestic goddessry and holding a job, she was the perfect demographic to capture with “time-saving” foods. “Cooking is drudgery,” said the advertisers of the day (and quite honestly, ads of to-day, as well), “why put yourself through that? Just add water/milk/egg/a microwave and dinner is served!” Voila!
As the developed world has slipped and slid down this slope of “faster is better”, we’ve begun to learn quick doesn’t always (in fact, almost never does) equal healthy and having a plethora of fat and sugar laden foods within arm’s reach doesn’t exactly help our waistlines. It seems we must be nearing rock-bottom when a special energy drink is being advertised as “so much faster and easier than coffee!”. Really?! We are too busy to make our own COFFEE these days? Things have become bleak.
The fact is many individuals and families know by now that they should be cooking for themselves more if they really want optimal health (and in some cases, optimal taste). Still, society has changed and finding the time to crank out a farm-fresh meal isn’t always an option. Sometimes, shortcuts provide more time for homework help, a family bike ride, or even, yes, half an hour of hysterical laughter over Modern Family on television.
Because of this, here at Zomppa, we’re introducing a new series called Scratch vs. Shortcut. Three times a month, I’ll be comparing two versions of the same food in the categories of taste, nutrition, dollars, time, ingredients and viability (i.e., will your picky kids and husband eat it?). Where does it make sense to cut corners? Which things should always be made from scratch due to nutritional concerns? And exactly how “convenient” is convenience? Along the way, we’ll also be exploring some ideas from Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and others about how returning to the kitchen can be easy AND practical.
From pasta sauce to pizza, brownies to bread, soup to salad dressing, I’ll be rolling out side-by-side versions for my captive audience (i.e., gullible neighbors and friends), analyzing cost and nutrition content (as much as possible…this isn’t America’s Test Kitchen) and bringing you the results. Have an item you’d like to see on the schedule? Shout it out in the comments. Feel free to share your own informal results with us as well.
Until next week, happy cooking/microwaving/box opening!