Convenience Cooking Snob?

Being home all day with the baby, I’ve watched a lot of the Food Network.  A LOT.  There’s two shows in particular that bug the crap out of me and I need to flush this out in a little ‘on-line therapy venting.’  These shows are the Semi-Homemade Show and Quick Fix Meals.

Here’s my beef: these shows peddle items that are highly processed, more expensive and less nutritious in the name of convenience — but in fact, these items are no more convenient than doing it the old fashion (less processed) way.  Here are some of the examples that had me yelling profanities at the TV.

1.  Quick Fix Meals: The theme was how cooking can be quicker than take out (noble point).  How does she highlight this???  She buys a bag of shredded carrots, and a bottle of salad dressing and brags about how putting together this 2-ingredient salad is quicker than ordering take out. UM, HELLO?  She just got takeout from the grocery store rather than the restaurant!  I bet you anything that those carrots had no flavor whatsoever and had to be sprayed with chemicals to keep their color so they wouldn’t get that ashy look.  (For the record, any time you get bagged baby carrots, those aren’t baby carrots — they are stale whole carrots that have been shaved down to remove signs of how old these carrots really are — that’s why they have no flavor.  Likely same goes for shredded carrots).  It’s not that hard to grate carrots or throw them in the food processor for 5 seconds.  Boom. shredded carrots.

The bottled dressing is also obviously processed.    It’s also not that hard to make dressing.   Use an old (clean) glass jar.  Pour in a little vinegar, a little dijon mustard, and little olive oil, salt, pepper and then seal the jar and shake like crazy for 5 seconds.  Boom, you have salad dressing with ingredients you can pronounce!   Now, I’m not saying anyone should never use bottled dressing — but these have no place in a cooking show.

And the host was all holier than thou about this not being take out.  At least in a restaurant they might use fresh ingredients.

2. Minced garlic in a jar.  Are you kidding me?  This stuff loses all its potency after you open the jar the first time — and many years ago when I used this product, it would develop mold after not too much time in the fridge.   Fresh garlic, on the other hand, lasts quite a long time, and takes 10 seconds to chop.  OK, maybe people are intimidated about peeling garlic — but in the same amount of time they use to hawk a product, these “cooks” could show how easily you crush a clove of garlic and remove the peel.

3.  Today I actually saw the Semi Homemade airhead make gazpacho without any fresh veggies whatsoever.  It looked so nastos I couldn’t even handle it.  Yes, it may be easy to cut open a bag of frozen bell peppers — but is it good food?  No time to chop peppers but you have 6 hours to kill to painstakenly decorate your table?  You are no Martha Stewart, lady!

So, I’m trying to talk myself down from this to see if I’m over reacting.  Are these shows serving a purpose by slowly transitioning people who would normally be inclined not to cook to take baby steps into the kitchen?  If that’s true, is that an overall positive point that compensates for the poor ingredients?  I tend to think, not.  People seduced into cooking  by these shows likely find the end product not that impressive and therefore are just as likely to turn away from home cooking since they tried it and it wasn’t worth the effort.  They also likely don’t find it to be any cheaper because of the higher cost of processed foods.

Another argument might be that some of the processed foods are cheaper — i.e. frozen veggies can be cheaper than fresh veggies out of season.  I’m less certain on this point.  I’ve never actually researched identical dishes with frozen vs. fresh components and the resulting cost & flavor.  There are some dishes that will tollerate frozen foods just as well as fresh — spinach for instance.  But others, there’s no question that the fresh version is superior and probably not that much more expensive.

This gives me an idea: I would watch a show where the premise was about cooking meals that are on a food stamps budget.  Maybe then we’ll be able to answer the cost/taste frozen/fresh balance questions.



  1. jerseygirl77 said,

    February 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I think the show you are looking for is Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. Quality food on a budget. Oh, and he’s a pretty handsome lookin’ dish himself. 🙂

  2. almostima said,

    February 20, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Wow! I’d never heard of it. Just looked it up and it’s carried on the High Def Food Network Channel (which I didn’t even know existed). I’ve scheduled it to record and look forward to following it. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Theresa said,

    February 21, 2009 at 7:41 am

    I agree with you on most counts – I never buy that prepackaged stuff, the cost and quality are better when you buy things that look like what nature intended. And I never buy salad dressing anymore, I was never a bottled dressing kind of gal. I make my own – so much better!

    I will say that certain packaged things are indispensible this time of year – canned tomatoes (they are canned when the tomatoes are still fresh), and a few frozen veggies, especially edamame and corn and green beans.

    I also hate that Semi-Homemade show. I’ve never seen the other one mentioned.

  4. almostima said,

    February 21, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Ok, so I have no issues with using canned tomatoes in things like chili, slow roasts, and sauces — but you wouldn’t use a canned tomato on bruscetta, right? or a caprese salad? I put gazpacho in the same category.

    Some things are meant to be made with fresh ingredients and if the seasons change such that they are no longer available, well, so should the menu.

  5. Theresa said,

    February 22, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Definitely not a caprese…but I have made a bruschetta topping.

  6. Gretchen said,

    February 24, 2009 at 4:12 am

    I must admit I haven’t fully gotten away from bottled dressing, but will try! As for gazpacho from non-fresh ingredients, I agree that your menu needs to change with availability and the season. For those people in locales without fresh ingredients for the majority of the year, however, I understand they may need to cut corners. I agree with T about canned tomatoes – I use them religiously – the Muir Glen organic or our local grocery store has an organic brand that is quite good too; and frozen veggies are a god send this time of year, although yes, I choose my dishes accordingly! Oh so glad I haven’t gotten sucked into those shows on the Food Network!

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