Has anyone taken notice of the new generation of convenience foods that we are seeing surface like wild fire? If you told the modern woman that store bought bread, dry pasta or dry beans were actually once considered a convenience item, they would think you had fallen off the wagon 1,000 miles ago. While we all have differing standards of where we stand on convenience food products and how we use them in our homes, no one can doubt that we are a lazy generation that has been spoiled with ultra-convenience.
I was in a wholesale grocery warehouse the other day and was struck like never before that the “convenience” food industry and our mindset we have towards convenience food is costing us more than just money! The mass marketing and availability of ultra-convenience has enabled home makers to become unskilled and unproductive in the area of cooking and baking. No wonder why most women haven’t a clue about how to cook. Everything is in a jar, cardboard box or plastic bag. The basic skills of the home maker are being handed over to Kraft and Oscar Meyer but not without a cost. If my great grandmother could stroll the isles of the modern grocery store, she would not believe the insane amounts and types of convenience foods on the shelves.
Let’s take a look at some of these new generation, ultra-convenience foods:
Oscar Meyer Fast Franks. Now this is an interesting new ultra-convenience, marketing scam item that I am still wondering about. Pre-packaged hot dogs already in the buns? I can’t help my sarcasm over this item. Oscar Meyer wants to make you believe that making hotdogs just became drastically easier, as if it was difficult before. In fact, here is what Kraft foods says about their new product,
“It’s mouthwatering to imagine — a tasty, hot and juicy Oscar Mayer hot dog wrapped inside a soft and warm bakery-fresh bun. And now imagine only having to wait thirty-five seconds for that first delicious bite.”
“Preparation is easy, and there’s no cook top mess or boiling water!”
“By leveraging proprietary dough technology, Oscar Mayer Fast Franks have made hot dogs easier to enjoy than ever before.”
(I am left wondering what “leveraging proprietary dough technology” is exactly?)
Instead of walking to the hotdog section of the store and buying a package of hotdogs and then having to walk all the way over to the other side of the store and pick up a package of buns and then going through the tedious process of having to make the hot dog, Oscar Meyer has made life easier by making the hot dog for you! Now you can buy pre-made, several-layers-of-pre-packaging packaged hot dogs in buns. You can even choose from two types of hotdogs: Beef Franks and Meat Franks. Hmmm….
I predict that the Fast Franks of the next generation may contain hotdogs that are pre-filled with ketchup and will instantly heat when you snap them like a glow stick.
Next item on the list is the bag of pre-peeled, pre-boiled eggs. I stopped and starred at the large bag of pre-boiled-peeled eggs for a few seconds in disbelief. Now boiling water is too much of a hassle and heaven forbid you ever have to peel another egg! I was expecting to see a “Food For Dummies” label anywhere on the package, but instead I found directions for how to use this new convenience food as if the consumer would not be able to figure it out. Or maybe the average consumer does need directions for how to use a bag of pre-boiled-peeled eggs?
Evidently because of declining egg consumption and falling egg prices, egg suppliers have been working on innovative ways to boost sales. Thus the idea of the pre-boiled, pre-peeled egg was born. Homemakers aren’t buying normal eggs. I am not surprised actually when I consider that modern homemakers do not cook or bake with eggs any longer because they are buying so many pre-packaged convenience foods that do not require the usage of eggs. The only good thing I can say about this product is that it is a real food, unlike the fast frank which contains the mysterious “proprietary dough technology” that seems to me to be code for “legal poison”.
Next item on the list has baffled me as well. It is the pre-cut apples. The only positive aspect I can see with this convenience food is that at least there was a thought given to a food that was actually healthy, however, I am positive that all the preservatives that are dumped on that pre-cut apple can not be good for you. When I saw the pre-packaged, pre-cut up apples on the shelf, I couldn’t figure out why in the world such an item existed and who, in their right mind, would buy a cut-up apple that was 3 times more expensive than the whole apple displayed 3 feet from it? Then I remembered that in this culture, if a 2nd grader takes a plastic knife to school, it is cause for suspension. So what’s the connection? These pre-cut apples are hot items for school lunches. Dole solved this problem by cutting up apples for over worked moms and has enabled a well loved fruit, the apple, to be easily sent (without a knife) in little Billy’s lunch sack , even if it is laden with chemical preservatives that cause cancer.
We all are familiar with the more common convenience foods. They have been popular for years. Most of us have used these products at some time or another. However, I have to wonder if many of the more common convenience foods used to be as outlandish as the pre-made hot dogs are today? If we are too busy to cut up apples or wash salad, it seems to me that we are too busy and maybe we should reorganize and reevaluate our priorities.
I am not bashing all convenience foods. Some convenience foods really have enabled the homemaker to have more time and for busy homemakers that is a blessing. However, as homemakers, I believe we must be very careful not to relegate our skills to corporate giants who, in turn, dumb us down by enabling us to be cooking and baking illiterate.
Most home makers depend way too much on convenience to run their homes. We need to recapture the lost skills of home making and stop being so dependant on the grocery store to hand us over pre-packaged, prepared, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-made, pre-cut, convenience foods.
Our great grandmothers knew the arts and skills of cooking just about anything. Their kitchens were well used. Their minds were filled with the arts and sciences of cooking and baking. They could make a delicious meal from the basics. They wouldn’t dream of buying pre-packaged scrambled eggs.
Our grandparents’ generation thought the new store-bought bread and already ground flour were huge leaps towards the direction of progress, although they still made cakes and gravies from scratch and knew how to cook a tender roast. Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house invited us with fresh baked pie, turkey and mashed potatoes and of course, sweet tea.
Our parents’ generation did not prepare dry beans or make bread and relied more heavily on convenience foods. Box cake mixes, canned soups, sugar cereals and sports drinks, gravy mix and multi-purpose baking mixes were all the rage. The stores became filled with the latest and greatest convenience package. At least they used eggs and cooked their own bacon, cut up their own apples, roasted their own turkey and made our birthday cakes.
Our generation buys pre-made everything. This is an instant gratification, need it now, convenience based generation. If really in the mood to cook, packages of pre-made dough already cut in the shape of a cookie are available at any store. This is a fast food and out-to-eat generation who spend a considerable amount of time out of the kitchen and away from the family meal table. This generation can recognize advertising slogans and can name off the .99 cent menu at various fast food establishments. They can not follow a recipe in a cookbook unless it lists “cake mix” as an ingredient. This generation is sorely uneducated about cooking, homemaking, health and home management.
The next generation of homemakers are not going to know how to boil water and it is looking as though there will no need for that room we call, the kitchen.
The convenience craze is also picking the pocketbook. In an article entitled, Time Saved Money Wasted, Cathryne Sykes, exposes many convenience foods and their costs. She says,
“A friend of mine, for example, bought pre-marinated, individually vacuum-packed chicken breasts for $1.67 per four-ounce portion. It never occurred to her this is $6.68 a pound! Boneless chicken breasts were selling for $3.29 a pound. If it takes 5-cents worth of seasoning and one minute to season a pound’s worth (do it in the morning and leave it in the fridge to marinate), you pay $3.34 per minute for this “convenience” or $200 per hour!
In another article called “Nutrition researchers gauge the true costs of convenience meals“, I found that unless you buy shredded cheese during a mega sale, you will be paying a great deal more than if you just bought a block of cheese and shredded it yourself.
“The group determined that the consumer was paying the equivalent of $80 per hour for the convenience of buying shredded cheese, $75 per hour for sliced gala apples, and nearly $50 per hour for pre-cut celery.”
I do enjoy many conveniences that we have, however, while convenience is not in and of itself a bad thing, I am reminded to consider the effects of ultra-convenience on my own home making skills. I want to expand my culinary skills and fill my mind with knowledge that once was common place in the field of homemaking. I love the move back to simplicity and enjoy the age old pleasures of the arts and sciences of cooking, baking and making of the home.