Monday, April 12, 2010

about the kitchen

Not long ago I was having a bad day at work. I stood up from my desk and declared, "That's it! I need some Pop-Tarts!" and marched down to the third floor vending machines to buy them. My day got a lot better after that. Well, maybe not better, but tolerable.

A few days later, a colleague made a similar declaration.

Not long after that I heard a story on the radio about bake sales. It seems that in New York, schools are no longer allowed to have bake sales to raise money for sport teams or special event if those bake sales include homemade baked goods. The reason being that there is no way to tell the nutritional information on a baked good made lovingly by a parent. Prepackaged foods, the radio went on to state, such as Pop-Tarts, are acceptable.

I was baffled. A cookie or a brownie, made from scratch with real ingredients and no preservatives, is worse than a chemically produced, overly processed flavorless piece of nothing with more preservatives than real food? Just because it has the fat and calories listed on the label?

We discussed this at work later, and my colleague and I both agreed that there are virtually no circumstances in which we would choose a pre-packaged Pop-Tart over something made from scratch. Unless the Pop-Tart was made from scratch. Uh-oh.

And so it began. The idea that every vending machine option has a made-from-scratch equivalent that is no doubt better. But does it? Sure, homemade potato chips are better, but can anyone recreate the bar-b-que coating? Is a homemade Snickers bar really better than the one in the vending machine for 75 cents? And how the hell do you make Cheetos???

Well, maybe the idea isn't that you can make it better yourself. Or that it's easier. Or better for you. Maybe there is a statement here about knowing your food and how it's made and where it comes from. Maybe the idea is that we've allowed ourselves to believe that snack companies are the only people who can make things like French Onion Sun Chips. Snack companies aren't the only ones who can make snacks. And I'm not one to back down from a challenge.

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