Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day:

Super-super-convenience, for a price.

What's with the trend these days of making super-fast foods even faster? I mean, seriously. It all started with instant oatmeal. INSTANT oatmeal. Have you ever seen this stuff? When you see those sitcoms depicting how bad school cafeteria food is, this is what I'm sure they're showing, a grey, textureless glop. It's also REALLY expensive. I mean, it's not absolutely expensive at $4.85 for 10, or about 50 cents per serving, but it's relatively ridciculous when you consider that oats are about a dollar a pound. That's a dime per serving, a fifth the cost of the instant crap, even if you don't care about all the packaging garbage. And that's ignoring the fact that it's actually got a texture when it's not this weird liquid oat-powder stuff.

And, the main point is, it's oatmeal here, folks. The instructions consist of "add oats to boiling water, stir." It takes about 3 minutes. Are people so inept these days that they cannot use a pot? Seriously.

And this is all over the place now. The "easy mac" revolution. Cup o' noodles. Now Campbells has these little instant-microwavable-soup creations, $2.99. Their soup is already instant, people! 1 can soup, 1 can water, add heat, DONE. A dollar.

Yes, I recognize that the take-away foods for children at school is driving this, a little, but that's just no excuse.

Eat your Twinkies!

For time immemorial the bizarre yellow log has been emblematic of "junk food." It's What Not to Eat. However, recent regulations and revelations about trans fats have made them oddly more appealing, in a comparative sense.

For those not in the know, in brief, trans fatty acids produce byproducts can't be digested whatsoever. They clog your arteries and you die from it. Recently, the USDA required disclosing trans fats along with saturated fats on food packaging. They gave manufacturers some notice of this, and so rather than disclose that they contained a ton of this death sludge, most big companies decided to go ahead and use something else. (Trans-fat-free oil is a good deal more expensive, or, the other way around, if normal oils are the baseline price, artificially hydrogenating oils makes things cheaper). This strange victory for health activists has caused some strange side effects, among them, that Twinkies are now trans-fat free, or nearly so, since they're allowed to claim they have zero grams of something as long as it's less than half a gram.

What still is full of trans fats? Many things that aren't required to disclose it's nutritional content, especially those that are fried. Ready-to-eat foods at fast food places aren't required to disclose on their packaging, but most companies do on their websites, so you can see that Krispy Kreme donuts, for instance, have five to seven grams of trans fats apiece. Many big burger chains have gotten rid of trans fats from their cooking, but McDonald's has not, despite their promise a couple of years back that they'd modify their recipies. The little, local junk food makers. This means all of those little muffins, "danishes," and "banana bread" that you can buy at your local convenience store. I'm sure most doughnut shops are the same. Anything fried in oil by a small ethnic-foods chain.

On the other hand, Oreo Cookies used to contain a bunch of trans fats in the "white stuff." Now they're T-F free, which is why the texture of the creme has changed ever so slightly. Hostess has elminated trans fats from most of their products, not just twinkies. Many big junk food makers, like Frito-Lay (doritos, etc), are in the clear. Starbucks's pastries, muffins, and dougnuts, are 0-g-T-F-ified.

Now, if only we could do the same with High Fructose Corn Syrup. That'll be the day.

(For the record, your humble narrator hadn't eaten a twinkie since childhood before writing this article. I couldn't even remember what one tasted like, except that they were frightening, so a lady-friend and I went on a trans-fat-free junk-food taste test experiment. The Twinkie is still a bizarre, spongy yellow creation that would survive a nuclear holocaust. Only half of one of the two little cakes in the package actually got eaten. I still wouldn't call this "food.")


  • At 10:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    What really pisses me off is when I buy something...and it is ONLY microwaveable. So I'm not in the mood for cereal for breakfast. Why can't I cook my damn breakfast burrito in my oven??? I don't even have a microwave!

  • At 8:06 AM , Blogger stokediam said...

    I am totally with you on the food--and with anonymous on the microwave. But...instant oatmeal has a couple of things going for it. It comes in a paper packet, and you "cook" it in the bowl, so no excess packaging (can't say that for soup in a plastic cup/bottle) and minimal clean up. And I can store it in my desk drawer at work in case I need 150 calories before my after-work hill repeats (can't do that with "real" oatmeal).


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