Lazy Food

image via BBC News

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Fast food for slow cooks.

Have you looked around the supermarket lately? The garlic has been peeled, the pineapples have their cores removed, and the onions are already chopped. There are pre-cooked slices of bacon and shrink-wrapped potatoes— washed and poked and ready to bake.

The ease and convenience are undeniable, as is the waste: a minimally-packaged, shelf-stable food is transformed into a product that is now encased in plastic and requires refrigeration. It has lost nutrients and gained preservatives, and its price has risen exponentially.

The siren song of lazy food can’t always be resisted.

There are times when you are cash-rich but time-poor. And times when you can feel your life ebbing away as you peel a potato. We’ve all bought our share of pre-washed salad greens and pre-trimmed baby carrots.

But some culinary shortcuts boggle the mind with their compromised taste and quality, egregious environmental offenses, and just plain pointlessness.

McCormick recently debuted its pre-measured spices. For the price of a full-sized jar of spices or a shopping spree in the bulk foods aisle, you get a set of single-use herbs and spices. The roast chicken set (pictured) with a retail price of $1.99 contains a few teaspoons-ful of paprika, garlic, rosemary, and black pepper.

Food critics predicted that ready-made hard-boiled eggs would flop in the marketplace, calling them an insult to the intelligence of every self-respecting cook. Instead, this popular product replaces the most basic culinary process; the eggs are priced at a crazy multiple of the unprocessed version; and cooking reduces the shelf life of eggs by half. Now are you insulted?

Another product that spares us the hardship of boiling water is pre-cooked oatmeal.

Bagel-fuls came along just in time. I was getting awful tired of spreading cream cheese on my bagels.

Is the recipe challenging? Time-consuming? Are the ingredients not commonly found in a pantry? Or is it Uncrustables, the frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now available in grilled cheese too.

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Are lazy cooks demanding these foods, or does lazy food create lazy cooks?

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9 Responses to Lazy Food

  1. Aside from all the products having one thing in common-convenience, the thing I wonder is how much quality is being sacrificed for this convenience.

    There are products I use frequently that help me “do what I do easier and faster” without sacrificing quality in the process.

    Cooking is an art but it is also something we all need to learn to some extent. I began cooking when I was 9 years old and was always around people who cooked, nourished others and created lasting memories.

    It is a shame that products like most of these not only produce a product that is inferior in quality but also wasteful to the environment, with all the excess packaging. Sustainability is a big buzzword and should be on all our minds if we want to make sure we have enough of everyting to last us for the next 100 years or more.

    Paulette Le Pore Motzko
    http://www.CookingUpAStorminCA.ning.com
    http://www.TotallyInspiredPC.com
    http://www.RestaurantsOrangecounty.webs.com

  2. Jennifer says:

    Once I got done laughing, I think I started to cry, just a little. Good Lord, frozen PBJ’s! And I am absolutely casting my vote for lazy food creates future lazy cooks, I find it hard to imagine that someone who already cooks would be lured in by these products but that people, especially younger people, who don’t cook will soon see these products as the norm.

  3. Wow! I did not even know some of these things were areound… pretty wierd if you ask me.

  4. This post makes good points. It’s also why I buy as basic ingredients as I can. Not only does the quality come out better, but less convenience = more money in my pocket.

  5. Janice says:

    Fooddreamer-

    I don’t judge. And I also use the basil cubes. Can’t beat them for a little taste of summer in the dead of winter.

  6. the pre-packaged spices crack me up, and the uncrustables are just gross. I am, however, a huge fan of these little frozen cubes of crushed garlic, basil and cilantro by Dorot. I get them at Trader Joe’s. I don’t use them all the time, but they are great when I am short on time but large on cooking ambition!

  7. Exceptional post, going to share! I am going for “Lazy food creates lazy cooks”… Again great post!

  8. Janice says:

    Sheer brilliance- I’m not buying the hyperbole, but I’m certainly not stopping you.

  9. Michael says:

    OK, this one is sheer brilliance! (If you need to tell me to stop embaressing you with my gushy comments, I will obey.)

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