Are you one of those who doesn’t pick up ready-made meals or other prepared foods? Yeah…us too! I see shoppers at Wholefoods with their baskets laden with these items and was totally blown away by the fridge “walls” stuffed with ready-made meals at M & S Simply Foods in Chelsea, London. It was amazing to be in that shop around 6:00 PM!
This brings me to ready-mades in Italy. In Rome at the sketchy Todis we noticed all sorts of frozen stuff just waiting to be popped into the nearest microwave! In Italy? Shocking I know! However, we managed to restrain ourselves! Yes, when on vacation, we have been known to purchase bagged salad greens, cheeses, perhaps some caponata or prosciutto and a loaf of bread from fabulous deli’s to throw together a quick, light dinner after trudging around seeing the sights all day…but we are always on the lookout for fresh produce and a proper butcher shop.
The other night hubby and I were having a conversation about how people cook and how much convenience food they buy and the cost of those items. I get sticker shock when I see something like prepared spaghetti and meatballs that only require re-heating. It also surprises me that people are willing to pay that kind of money to eat what can only be referred to as “leftovers.”
I belong to FB groups that include a bunch of terrific cooks who cook from scratch and are proud to support farmers markets in their towns and cities as we do. It’s such a pleasure for a cook to work with top notch seasonal ingredients. Not only that, the food tastes so much better…and I am not saying everything has to be organic, just great quality, fresh and grown with respect.
A little bug-a-boo of mine are jars of ready-made pasta sauces lining the shelves and in shopper’s baskets at grocery stores. The stuff ain’t cheap folks and I can guarantee that if you went to all the trouble of opening a tin of Italian plum tomatoes (obviously San Marzano would be the preference) but not everyone feels like spending $5.00 on a 28 oz. tin of tomatoes…even though they don’t seem to mind coming up with the same or more for a jar of pasta sauce, that in my opinion is so removed, so inferior and just plain mediocre, from a homemade sauce. That jar of ready-made may be enough for a lb. of pasta (depending on how you dress your pasta) whereas a simple tomato, olive oil and garlic sauce that can be embellished with onions, fresh herbs and peperoncino (chili flakes) costs somewhat less, goes further, tastes 100% better and you can actually count on your fingers the ingredients. There is nothing like a simple home-made tomato sauce that takes 20 minutes to cook while your pot of water comes to the boil! Whew…I knew I felt a rant coming on! Click here for the link to my easy-peasy tomato sauce.
And then there is Salmon….where should I begin? Canada has just approved the sale of GMO’d Salmon to the public!!! Not on your Nellie! Wouldn’t touch the stuff with a barge pole! Back in the day Salmon was a seasonal fish not meant to be over-fished or grown in pens so it can be put on dinner plates as many times as desired during the week. It was something that was considered a treat, the same goes for Halibut…when not in season there are other fish in the sea!
So…has the time come in our evolution that if we cook from scratch as much as possible with real ingredients and in-season produce allowing us to put good food on our tables, we are now considered “Food Snobs?” Whenever I hear about food recalls for things like Salmonella or Listeria, it’s very scary but maybe the majority is simply willing to take that chance?
It is sad but true that many folks think actually cooking from scratch is so time consuming and difficult that they do not even want to attempt it. I keep sharing recipes I make for friends that they then try at home, and they are amazed how easy it can be.
Yes, Phyllis, I too am shocked at the number of prepared frozen foods now being sold here in Italy. Back in the 1980’s when we first moved to Italy the frozen food section was one isle. It is now four times that! I think with more women working outside the home now, they think rehesating frozen is easier than opening up a good quality can of tomatoes and making a simple tomato sauce and boiling some pasta. Obviously, someone is buying this stuff!
We like to entertain our friends at home a lot, but then everyone states they are afraid to have us over to their house for a meal. Do they really think so little of me that I’d judge any honest effort they make in the kitchen? Yes, I do make everything from scratch most of the time, including bread and fresh pasta, but that is my choice because I love doing it. There are so many amazing, mouth watering dishes that can be made from scratch in much less time than ordering take-out. They are also much healthier, and taste a heck of a lot better too!
Hi Deborah! Hear, hear to your remarks…I especially identify with the last paragraph and know exactly what you mean! Friends would tell us they were “afraid” to cook for me! What! My response was “what is it that you love to make and really enjoy eating, why don’t you make that?” We would be happy with a good bowl of soup of a great stew/braise…or something quick on the barbecue and a salad! Good, honest food, make with care and attention to ingredients is all we ever want. And…because I enjoy cooking so much is why I tend to make more complicated things (but that’s changing too what with this poor knee problem)…but I certainly don’t do it to intimidate anyone…I do it for me!
I couldn’t agree more, Phyllis. Prepared foods are often a colossal waste of money. And cooking at home doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult—that’s one message I try to emphasize on my blog by featuring mostly quick and easy recipes. And cooking at home certainly doesn’t make you a snob. What a perverse idea, even if it is widely shared these days.
Having said all that, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of frozen foods in Italy, at least the ones I’ve tried. This was some time ago now, but the flavor, if not quite a good as homemade, was pretty decent. I can’t say the same for prepared frozen foods Stateside, most of which I find inedible. (Not talking about frozen vegetables and other single ingredients, which can be decent quality—sometimes superior to fresh.)
In the end, I think the best approach is flexibility. There are foods that make sense to buy pre-made because they’re great time savers for home cooks, things like pasta or bread or pastries (or savories like olive ascolane). Some of these, like pasta or bread, are well within the reach of any home cook and fun to make yourself when you have time. Others, like many pastries, probably require too much skill or time for most people to ever make at home. But then there are others, like tomato sauces for pasta, that make no sense whatsoever to buy pre-made when you can make them so easily at home that it’s scarcely more more work than warming a jar of sauce you’ve bought in a store. That one I will never figure out… !
Good to hear from you Frank! I sometimes wonder if people believe us when we say it’s simple and easy to make these things…I wonder if they think…sure easy for them because they are great cooks! Or…you like to cook/bake so making pasta or bread is so easy for you. I wonder if they understand the satisfaction that comes when you take freshly baked bread out of the oven? Or make your first batch of homemade pasta (BTW, I swear by my KitchenAid pasta attachement)…and so does Joe…he no longer has to crank the old machine! A neighbour loaned us her hand-crank years ago…we made a batch of green tomato pasta with light tomato sauce…SOLD…went out the next day and bought one! And, I will never figure out the tomato sauce thing either…maybe we should take it on the road…a roving demo. for the non-believers! Ha!
Where would we be without frozen peas!
My stock answer for the question, ‘do you make your own (insert food item of choice)? is ‘of course doesn’t everyone? There is the odd item that is not worth my time and effort, such as croissants. Very reasonably priced at Costco, fresh, great tasting. I’ve made them, not interested in doing it again. But I have heard people rave about bought pies. Have you tasted a bought pie? Euwww. Those ones that Sharon bought from Krause Bros. a while back were the most disgusting things I had ever tasted.
Funny you should comment about reheating leftovers, I mentioned recently that it would help greatly at large family meals to prepare some of the things the day before and my husband said that very thing.
I cannot get over how large that premade food section at Whole Foods is!
Glad you agree! But then…you’re a cook! A lot of my cook FB friends made a comment about the spaghetti sauce in a jar!!! That would be negative. Yes…have to agree about the pies…nope, never have bought one…never will! But then I’ve been spoiled and I want to continue the tradition laid down by Nora! Sharon could easily make a pie if she really wanted to and I would be more than happy to teach her the basics.
The thing about leftovers is yes…eat them…but I’m very clever at changing them up to something new and exciting…but I’m certainly not going to pay $$ for them! But…I do a a lot of prep, including making dessert the day before a dinner party…just not cook anything…but try to get as much done as possible. Not getting any younger! Not only is that section at Whole Foods large but $$…have you checked out all the cut-up fruit section…sheesh! Someone even said you can know buy an avocado already cut in half…what, you don’t own a knife?