Hands off the Hellman’s.

Well, I finally read the Pollan piece in the NYT. Very interesting, lots of detail, mostly true, and yet, once again, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being lectured to. It’s not a good feeling. I think it was this passage that did it:

…Kitchen work itself has changed considerably since 1963, judging from its depiction on today’s how-to shows. Take the concept of cooking from scratch. Many of today’s cooking programs rely unapologetically on ingredients that themselves contain lots of ingredients: canned soups, jarred mayonnaise, frozen vegetables, powdered sauces, vanilla wafers, limeade concentrate, Marshmallow Fluff. This probably shouldn’t surprise us: processed foods have so thoroughly colonized the American kitchen and diet that they have redefined what passes today for cooking, not to mention food. Many of these convenience foods have been sold to women as tools of liberation; the rhetoric of kitchen oppression has been cleverly hijacked by food marketers and the cooking shows they sponsor to sell more stuff. So the shows encourage home cooks to take all manner of shortcuts, each of which involves buying another product, and all of which taken together have succeeded in redefining what is commonly meant by the verb “to cook.”

It’s the lumping of mayonnaise with Marshmallow Fluff that did it. Is this really an equivalency in Pollan’s special little foodie world? I know, I know, mayonnaise is so easy to make, and the from-scratch product so much better, that it’s simply a crime not to do it yourself. I have made mayonnaise many times, and yet, I have a jar of store-brand mayo on the refrigerator door, and what’s more, I use it. Sometimes all I want for lunch is a little canned tuna mixed with a single chopped scallion, a squirt of lemon juice and a fat teaspoon of Hellman’s. Saltine crackers. Yum. I would say “bite me, Michael Pollan,” but I don’t think he’d deign to — he might get canned tuna in the bargain.

I also like vanilla wafers. Too much. As for frozen vegetables, I don’t use them often, but as a resident of the frost zone, I reserve the right to.

Why do these people act like it has to be all or nothing? Why can’t we live in a world where we make soup from scratch and enjoy an occasional order of McDonald’s fries? Of course I’d like to see people cooking more at home, but honestly, I don’t think the fate of the nation rests upon it. And in many ways, I agree with “veteran food-marketing researcher Harry Balzer,” who tells Pollan:

“A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking and gutting a chicken. Do you know anybody who still does that? It would be considered crazy! Well, that’s exactly how cooking will seem to your grandchildren: something people used to do when they had no other choice. Get over it.”

Pollan found his interview with Balzer “somewhat depressing,” and given that Pollan supposedly once stalked and killed a wild pig so that he could call himself responsible for every morsel on his table at a particular meal, I’m not surprised.

There’s a long section on food television, ostensibly the reason for the piece, which boils down to a lot of sneering that it isn’t more uplifting and educational and has too much bacon. There’s the obligatory slam at the evil American corporate machine that crammed instant mashed potatoes and Bac-Os down our throats, literally. And then there’s the conclusion, which trots out the only reason any of us have a right to care what our neighbors eat: Health. Even without national health care, obesity and heart disease and other diet-related illnesses can be said to hurt us all. Granted and stipulated.


We have many problems with food in this country; obesity and disordered eating — if you can call the way Americans eat disordered in general — are complicated issues entwined with science, psychology, tradition, public policy and probably a few other far-flung outposts of human endeavor I’m forgetting. Let’s have a conversation about it, certainly. But can we dispense with this Berkeley-based food fundamentalism? Can Alice Waters hold her tongue once in a while? Because listening to her is like listening to a more modulated but no less strident version of some Iranian ayatollah declaiming on jihad.

There was a quote that was plucked from an essay and trotted around the right-wing blogs a couple months ago. I can’t find it, but it ran something like this: Take two women of the same age, 50 years apart — today’s 30-year-old and her equivalent in 1959. Take two subjects: Food and sex. The ’50s housewife believes what you eat is your own business, but who you have sex with is governed by a strict set of social, religious and moral absolutes. The ’00s woman? Exactly the opposite. You can live in a polyamorous relationship, be homosexual, consider yourself transgendered and discuss your “top surgery” at the dinner table, and all that’s OK, but if that dinner table contains a dish of veal parmesan, something’s morally wrong with you.

Can we meet in the middle? Somewhere I can have my Hellman’s and humanely raised beef? Cook from scratch but occasionally reach for a can of Campbell’s Tomato? It will mean less work for Michael Pollan, but that’ll leave him more time for picking dandelion greens out of sidewalk cracks.

(One final note: I distinctly recall writing about this myself, back when I was being paid to. I sneered at supermarket checkout girls who had to ask me to identify the vegetables I was buying, so they could enter their UPC codes, and I’m not talking fennel or Jerusalem artichokes, I’m talking garlic and onions. I was onto this years ago, too. It never occurred to me there were New York Times Magazine cover stories and book contracts in it. Story of my life.)

So, a wee bit of bloggage? Sure thing:

She went to college, graduated and couldn’t get a job. So she asked the college for her money back.

Of Sarah Palin’s not-divorce, this is probably all that needs to be said.

WashPost writer calls out Gawker for journalistic parasitism. Makes some excellent points in the bargain.

New York magazine identifies the songs of the summer. I haven’t heard a single one. God, am I old.

Posted at 8:26 am in Current events |

54 responses to “Hands off the Hellman’s.”

  1. Jeff Borden said on August 3, 2009 at 8:58 am

    All things in moderation.

    The problem isn’t having a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large fries once in awhile. It’s becoming dependent on the fast-food outlets for most every meal. You can eat at Mickey D’s once in awhile without having your food credentials revoked.

    I share your frustration with snooty foodies. A columnist for the Sun-Times once attempted to recreate a couple of meals from the cookbook written by Oprah’s dietician. (She posed with him on the cover, of course.) The columnist spent something like $70 for the ingredients for just one meal. Eating like Oprah’s expert recommended every day would’ve cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars per week. That’s a pretty cruel joke to play on her followers, particularly those further down the economic food chain.

    We all ought to be allowed some guilty pleasures. Just don’t indulge them every day, right?

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  2. Jen said on August 3, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I like to cook and, especially, bake from scratch, but it’s really more of a hobby than an actual way of life. I work for a living, so I have to use convenience foods. It’s just the way it is. Anyone who is going to piss and moan about people not making their own mayonnaise needs to wake up and live in the real world.

    (I’ve never made my own mayonnaise, but I might need to try it sometime. The fact that it has raw eggs in it makes me slightly nervous, but at the same time, I tend to eat cookie dough with raw eggs in it.)

    I liked the Washington Post article re: Gawker. A lot of interesting things to think about with the way that traditional news organization and blogs interact on the Internet. Since I’m attempting to make my living at a newspaper AND helping do some work on our newspaper’s Web site, it was a good read.

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  3. Christy said on August 3, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Loved this entry. I found the Pollan article similarly annoying, and theoretically I’m mostly on Pollan’s team. I will use curry paste, canned stock, jarred marinara, and the like in order to save time, although I am capable of making all three. And yes, Hellmann’s. Getting snooty about scratch cooking in the same article as you decry the excess of takeout dinners is completely counterproductive, to say nothing of it being the luxury of someone with not a whole lot to do to fill their hours, and no I don’t spend an hour a night watching Top Chef.

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  4. coozledad said on August 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Rana Dasgupta has an interesting article in Granta that has some disturbing portents about the future of agriculture. There are barely licit multinational corporations poised for what amounts to a recolonization of Africa, specifically the fertile region of Ethiopia. The plan is to export farmers from the Punjab into this region and train the native population as sugar refinery workers, or put them to work pressing oilseed. I can see a few economic crises developing for Western agriculture in the short term as commodity pricing nosedives, and longer term regional wars over land distribution, water resources and the impact of Mafia-style management of food production and processing.
    The libertarian dystopias of Delhi and Somalia are looking like the next bloody historical trend.

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  5. KLG said on August 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I love Michael Pollan’s work, but the crack about mayonnaise got to me, too. Mayonnaise in a jar is the same as marshmallow fluff? Stupidity like that is, well, stupid. So I looked at the ingredients on my jar of Duke’s: Soybean oil, eggs, water, vinegar, salt, paprika, natural flavors. EDTA to protect flavor. I’m a biochemist. Nothing at all wrong with a little EDTA, which chelates divalent cations and prevents bacterial growth, among other things. No high-fructose corn syrup or that laundry list of additives, emulsifiers, and other crap you find in virtually all processed food.

    But, it gets worse. From the Marshmallow Fluff website:

    “What is Fluff made from?
    Marshmallow Fluff contains Corn Syrup, Sugar Syrup, Dried Egg Whites and Vanillin…There are no artificial preservatives, stabilizers or emulsifiers in any of our products.”
    NB: The flavored Fluff contains food coloring and artificial flavorings.

    No one recommends that you eat this sugary stuff very much, but it is unclear to me how a peanut butter and fluff sandwich is worse than PBJ. Pollan needs to get a freakin’ grip.

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  6. LAMary said on August 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I cook mostly from scratch, but I use jarred mayonaisse when I’m using the leftover chicken to make a sandwich or whatever. You can get Hellmans made with olive oil now and it tastes a lot like homemade. Trader Joe’s Mayo is really good too. I’ve never developed a taste for vanilla wafers or jarred spaghetti sauce. I think reading spaghetti sauce labels can be a shock. Prego is full of corn syrup and other stuff you probably don’t want to eat on your spaghetti. Some convenience food is fine as long as you read the labels. Know what you’re eating.

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  7. Sue said on August 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I thought summer songs were, you know, summer songs? Like “See You in September”, “Summer in the City”, even that awful Kid Rock swipe-fest that came out last year. But what do I know – I think I’m even older than Nancy.
    The reason I don’t make my own mayo is because I prefer mayo that hangs around for more than a couple of days before you have to throw it out. Same with salad dressings – I’ll make both homemade mayo and homemade salad dressing a few times a year, mostly in summer when there’s something worth putting it on.

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  8. John said on August 3, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Strawberry Fluff…mmmmmmm!

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  9. Sue said on August 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I comfort myself while chowing down on vanilla wafers, pringles and red vines that I’ve never liked Cheez Whiz.

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  10. Linda said on August 3, 2009 at 11:46 am

    So much could be said about the Pollen column. One, the romantization of the good old days. You didn’t get cheeze whiz out of a can, but whole parts of the country had people with goiters and deficiency diseases precisely because they ate only local, fresh food. This meant in the winter they got nada veggies and fruits, and maybe never iodine from fish.

    Also, some old-school food was a pain in the ass. Check out this article in the NYT on the whining about the passing of traditionally prepared cod in Portugal. Housewives love the convenient new product, because it’s not a lengthly, pain in the ass crapshoot to fix, despite the cries of the foodies.

    Also, while Pollen goes to great pains to be a non-sexist, he can’t help but mention that somehow, the women’s movement degraded cooking, and discouraged women from doing it. Here’s the thing: women outsourced some of their traditional, nonpaying work, much as men do all the time. When’s the last time you saw the average guy slaughter his own food, or frame his own house? And when was the last time somebody saw it as a sign of social decay? Somehow, though, our work is too sacred for all that. Yes, people should keep up some survival skills. But chill out, and don’t preach.

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  11. coozledad said on August 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    We don’t use a whole lot of convenience foods, but I really don’t see how someone who had to hold down a day job could afford to devote four or five hours each day anchored to a kitchen. Cooking from scratch means a hell of cleaning.

    There are some simple foods that are so much better from scratch, it’s worth the hassle. The best example is Chinese style noodles (or dumplings) made from flour, salt, water and sesame oil. Once they’re cooked they have a pebbled surface area that mops up pot liquor better than the prepackaged ones. Apparently they’re regarded as “peasant food” in China these days, and are steadily being replaced as the mainstay of the diet.

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  12. LAMary said on August 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    When I say I cook from scratch, I do allow for using dried pasta. I work a lot of hours but we have meals like broiled chicken, potatoes with rosemary and a salad. It takes about forty minutes to throw together. I don’t kill my own chicken or grow my own potatoes, but nothing is a convenience food. Last night we had lentil stew and rice and tonight we’ll likely finish it off with some variation added. It’s not that hard. Chops, fish, chicken, pasta can all be assembled in less than an hour. The big deal stuff you can do on the weekends. I’m not a fanatic about what I use being locally grown or necessarily fresh. I use dried herbs sometimes. I use dried beans.

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  13. beb said on August 3, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Rachel Ray made her fortune by realizing that workng women don’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch anymore. My wife used to make spagetti sauce from scratch and was damn good at it, but it was an all day process. But some of these canned spagetti saunces, perked up with some sauteed sausage and added spices, was just as good and takes half an hour to prepare. Homemade mayo, tho, good luck with keeping that emulsion from breaking.

    Before dumping on Gawker perhaps people should read this counterview.

    or this from boingboing about how the AP will sell you a quote from Thomas Jefferson for $12

    I’ve always said, if tyou don’t want your content ripped off, don’t put it on the web.

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  14. Colleen said on August 3, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I’m listening to Pollan now on Fresh Air. I think he’s snotty. “We act like we don’t have time to cook”. Dude. We DON’T.

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  15. basset said on August 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Don’t like mayonnaise, never have.

    Cooz, how about a recipe for those noodles?

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  16. Julie Robinson said on August 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    What Jeff B. said about moderation. I’ve been in the kitchen all day like beb’s wife and I’ve consumed huge quantities from the freezer case, depending on my time and energy levels. Since I have chronic foot issues, I guarantee that a meal I’ve spent 2 or more hours preparing will be served with a side of surliness. So I strive for maximum kitchen efficency. Most recipes can be doubled or tripled, and prep work for the next night can be fitted in, as can cleaning up as you go.

    It is amazing to see how many recipes call for cream of mushroom soup. Does no one know how easy and quick a white sauce is? Season it up and you’ve got a base for a gazillion different dishes and soups. Five minutes tops.

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  17. Dorothy said on August 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I don’t use jarred spaghetti sauce, but I use Contadina brand Extra Thick and Zesty (2 cans) and 1 can of the Contadina Italian Style sauce, plus one can of Contadina paste. All of this gets added to a lb. of ground meat and/or ground sausage and a chopped onion and some smashed garlic cloves. And not one drop of corn syrup. Does that count as cooking from scratch? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, ANY day (weekends included) to put up all the canned goods that a person needs, not when we work 35-50 hours a week at our paying jobs, anyway. For mental health reasons I’m damn happy to use convenience foods. Like Mary said: Know what you’re eating.

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  18. adrianne said on August 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    God save us from self-righteous prigs like Michael Pollan. Get a grip, man, on how time-stressed most people are before you condemn their use of jarred mayonnaise.

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  19. Dorothy said on August 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Julie I made a white sauce last night for a bean dish I’m taking to a picnic tonight. It’s an au gratin bean dish, and I used fresh green beans from our garden and a can of wax beans (what the recipe called for) as well. I omitted the lima beans since I’m not a fan. (But if you want to make it, par boil a bag of Fordhook Limas and add to the beans.) Stick of butter, 7 tbsp. of flour and 1.5 cups of half and half. Poured it over the beans and added fresh grated Peccorino Romano cheese, dash of Worchestishire and some fresh ground pepper. Stir it all up and bake till bubbly and light brown around the edges at 375. I’ll warm it up in the microwave oven of the hostess when I get to her place at 6 tonight.

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  20. brian stouder said on August 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    As Beb says, let’s give the flippin’ foodie-fundie a break today (pardon the McD’s reference), and turn our sights upon the brazenly unapologetic freeloader-apologist that Beb (bravely!) linked to.

    This passage is as far as I got, before an overwhelming urge to wretch prompted me to give up on it.

    There is a simple point that anyone who knows economics (taboo at the Post) would make. If people opt to read the piece on another website rather than the Post, then there must be some reason. Obviously they prefer something about this alternative venue. Perhaps the layout is better, the mix of articles is better, or maybe the person who wrote the spinoff piece for the website is a better writer. If the protectionist measure advocated in this piece succeeded in shutting down the competition, then there would be a clear loss to readers. This loss would likely dwarf the loss to consumers that the Post routinely whines about so loudly when anyone suggests a tariff on imports or any other barrier to trade.

    I was wondering how far the “If people opt to read the piece on another website rather than the Post, then there must be some reason” defense would get a defendant who uses unauthorized images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in their point-of-sale displays, when Walt Disney sues the bejesus out of them.

    (One supposes such a defendant’s legal bills would indeed “dwarf” what these “oops, sorry” internet pirates ever part with, for their transgressions”)

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  21. coozledad said on August 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    basset: I looked at a couple of recipes, then cobbled this together. I use high-gluten flour, but an unbleached bread flour will probably work. I take about two cups of the flour and a tablespoon or so of salt to start, and put it in a 2 gallon pan to contain the mess. You add some warm water gradually and stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula until you can make a ball with it. It’ll be all lumpy at this point. You drizzle about a teaspoon of sesame oil over the ball of dough, work it around and then let the dough rest half an hour. Get another couple of cups of flour, and after the dough has rested, turn it out onto a floured board, and knead it, periodically adding enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and the board. You can also add small amounts of sesame oil (black sesame is the best, but I’ve tried it with Kadoya hot chili oil and it was pretty good) during this part, and you’ll find it will continue to soak up flour. You want to achieve a consistency somewhere between a dead jellyfish and modelling clay. Reflour your board and place a golf ball sized piece of the dough on it, roll it out fairly flat (at or slightly under 1/4 inch), then cut it into 1/4 inch thick strips. Pile them on a plate. They’ll stick together in a big heap at this point,but you can tease them apart while they’re boiling. The Chinese will sometimes just boil the mass of dough and chop it into dumplings afterwards. Boil them for ten minutes, then pour some of the cooking water off into your fried meat or vegetables, drain the noodles and let them simmer with the other ingredients a couple of minutes.
    I use soy chicken nuggets that have been been fried with onions, ginger, garlic, and either a black bean condiment or vegetarian mushroom oyster-flavored sauce, some soy sauce or Maggi sauce. Serve the lot with a side of radish pickle or a little kimchi. It will look like this:

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  22. Julie Robinson said on August 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Dorothy, sounds good, though I’d cut the butter in half and use condensed skim milk–I’m finally addressing my weight issues. We also grill lots of chicken on the weekend and use it in soups, stir-frys and salads all week. The DH has it down to an art, and it’s so much tastier than just boiling it.
    Now, who has good fresh tomato recipes for taking to a cook-out? Our bumper crop is finally ripening.

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  23. alex said on August 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I just did a fab tomato/zucchini/italian sausage casserole this past weekend. It was to die for. Can’t remember the link to it here at work, but it was as easy as it was good.

    Some who’d used the recipe and rated it highly also added some suggestions, like putting croutons or dried bread in the bottom of the dish to absorb moisture from the veggies to prevent it from being soupy. I tried this and the texture was superb.

    Anyway, you grease a baking dish and put down the croutons and a layer of thinly sliced zucchini. Then put a layer of sliced tomatoes on top of that. Then a layer of onion cut into rings. Then put a layer of browned, crumbled Italian sausage on top of that. Then put a layer of shredded mozzarella on top of that. Then keep repeating layers until you run out of stuff. Top it with freshly grated parmesan. Cook at 350 F x 1/2 hour.

    I added fresh basil to my layers and also to the sausage while I was browning it.

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  24. moe99 said on August 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I’m off to a week long music camp at Whitman College. As Tigger says, ttfn!

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  25. brian stouder said on August 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    That’s the wonderful thing about tiggers!

    Have fun

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  26. LAMary said on August 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    There’s a cookbook, Cucina Fresca, that has a lot of room temperature dishes. I know I’ve made layered things with tomatoes, grilled zucchini, basil leaves and balsamic vinegar. You can use assorted summer squashes, grilled after you brush them with olive oil. I use a glass dish with high, straigh sides and you can see all the layers. It’s great for taking along since it’s served at room temperature.

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  27. LAMary said on August 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Here’s very good from scratch soup recipe my friend Ann recommended to me.


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  28. judybusy said on August 3, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    LAMary—I love that cookbook! The same authors also published pasta Fresca; I have used both regularly through the years. Coozledad—thanks for the eatingasia link–loved reading about her eating memories.

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  29. Sue said on August 3, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I have saved some money this year by not renewing my Gourmet subscription, which just expired. I have my old issues divided by month and bring out a stack of new/old issues at the beginning of each month. I love that magazine, such a wonderful combination of common sense and oblivious snobbery. And I really love the letters to the editor:
    “OMG I will cancel my subscription if you don’t stop pushing politics stop with the articles on tomato slavery I just read it for recipes I don’t want to be enlightened!”
    “I will cancel my subscription if you don’t stop pushing recipes with unobtainable ingredients how am I supposed to obtain cactus paddles in [insert name of northern state]?”
    “Stop writing articles about Italy everyone knows Italian food why can’t you be more adventurous?”
    “Why do you keep writing about weird exotic locales I am not about to eat crustacean bugs with hot peppers I’ve never heard of be more sensible please.”
    And so on. A big, famous magazine and most letters sound like they’re written by the local crank.

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  30. Connie said on August 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Our fave with backyard tomatoes: Slice them up. Layer tomato slices, with a few thin onion slices and green pepper slices. Douse with Kraft zesty italian dressing. Grate some good parmesan over the top. Sprinkle with chives or whatever is growing green in your garden. We eat this all summer, mmm. If I have some nice solid home made bread the remains make a great sandwich.

    I can cook and cook well, but consider it a chore I get no joy from. From which I get no joy. I too used to make homemade spaghetti sauce etc., and all that canning…. it amazes me now.

    I buy and use store products and am currently enamored with Italian tomato puree in the can. MMMM.

    So I am back from my lovely week at Sleeping Bear. Sue, the bridge will still be closed when you get there. For us it makes the trip to Glen Arbor much longer, but I will not complain, because all other traffic past our place was just gone. Very peaceful, no giant gangs of motorcyle riders going by. For the time being the road to town no longer goes by our cottage.

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  31. ROgirl said on August 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Even the French have succumbed to the seductive call of fast food and store bought mayonnaise. That’s still no excuse for the massive amounts and varieties of junk food that are available in this country 24 hours a day on every street corner, but it shows that convenience conquers time-consuming preparation everywhere.

    Having said that, I’m still amazed at the number of greatly overweight people I see at the mall or the grocery store (or anywhere else, for that matter), especially the kids.

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  32. Sue said on August 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks for the info, Connie. I hear the weather is predicted to be cool while we are there. I’m accumulating my pile of books and mapping out the wine tour in case of cool-weather emergencies.

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  33. Dexter said on August 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Way O.T., but Connie did mention motorcycles…the list of events at Sturgis this week: http://www.sturgis.com/calendar/scheduletest.php

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  34. Catherine said on August 3, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    My copy of Pasta Fresca is so well-used that the corner actually got burned. I know, less wine, more cooking. Cucina Fresca is fabulous too.

    My favorite convenience food these days is the pre-sliced this and that at TJ’s. Made coleslaw last night, to go with the BBQ and from-scratch cornbread, but didn’t have to shred all the cabbbage and carrots. Their diced onions are low on flavor, but the microwave-in-bag broccoli has saved me more than once.

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  35. Julie Robinson said on August 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Music camp for grown-ups? What fun! I might bounce like Tigger too.

    Lots of good recipe ideas; I already make some similar dishes. Connie’s sounds like exactly what I had in mind for lots of yummy tomatoes.

    Our favorite tomato sandwich also includes alfafa sprouts, hard boiled egg, a slice of your favorite sharp cheese and a dab of mayo of your choice. Great for picnics after all the flavors have mellowed together for a couple of hours. I just started growing sprouts today in anticipation of our big harvest. Eating this sandwich always brings back fond memories of our student days at IU in Bloomington, where they sold it at the deli in the student union.

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  36. Scout said on August 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Catherine, I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I put some in the food.

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  37. jeff borden said on August 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm


    Your observation is on the money. I’ve never been to another country where the percentage of very overweight people is as large as in the U.S.A., though admittedly, I’ve yet to visit Samoa or some of the other Pacific islands, where large people are the norm.

    Perhaps this will all change in a generation, as more nations embrace fast-food culture. For now, however, I think we are the caloric champions of the Western world.

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  38. paddyo' said on August 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Don’t know ’bout you guys/gals, but this poor pseudo-cook has been feasting all day on the groaning board of good comments here, food-wise. I know it’s already one of Nance’s fave topix, but still … well done!

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  39. Connie said on August 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    It was a fine dinner here tonight, grilled chicken breast strips, sugar snap peas and some wierd rice concoction. (I was not the cook, and chose not to ask.) Note that I did not put a comma behind sugar snap peas, as I know many of you find that, well, wrong. Otherwise I probably would have.

    The Julie Julia thing reminds me of all the effort I put into learning how to de-bone a chicken breast lo these many years ago. I suppose I still could, but why?

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  40. Rana said on August 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Having already ranted about Pollan’s article on Facebook, I’m (perhaps) all ranted out, so I’ll just second the critiques related to gender, over-romanticization of a past when everyone cooked (hah, right, let alone a past where all cooks liked it), and food-policing. If I had to live by Pollan’s suggestions, I’d starve, and I’m a person who favors the whole organic-local thing and approves of homecooking – when done by other people. I’m perfectly capable of cooking big fancy meals or solid wholesome ones; I just don’t like cooking all that much. I’d rather do laundry and clean the toilets, and I’m not kidding.

    Connie – we were up in the Leland area ourselves this last week, too! We saw the road closure; had no idea that someone we’ve “met” on the internet was so near by as we passed it on our way to and from Sleeping Bear.

    Sue – it is indeed slipping toward the chilly end – I wore pants most days and a hat at night (though I’m cold-sensitive). On the plus side, however, tart cherries were just about to hit the stands; they make a splendid pie. A dinner of fresh bread and fish pate with a side of fresh tomatoes and tart cherry pie to follow is an excellent light meal.

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  41. alex said on August 3, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Eating this sandwich always brings back fond memories of our student days at IU in Bloomington, where they sold it at the deli in the student union.

    Julie, I don’t know whether you’ve been back there lately, but the food service in the student union has all been outsourced to Burger King and the like. I was heartbroken when I saw it a few years ago, the building thoroughly desecrated with commercial graphics and fixtures. Evidently you can’t get a decent meal on campus anymore.

    I used to love the corned beef at the deli at the student union. On rye with mayo.

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  42. Connie said on August 3, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Rana, if you went by the south side of the bridge closure you went right past our place on the SE shore of Little Glen.

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  43. MichaelG said on August 3, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Well said, Linda up in No. 10. Also I was married for thirty years to a Portuguese woman. Real, came to this country from Lisbon in her twenties. I’ve soaked enough bacalao for a lifetime. Eaten it over there too. Some of it’s pretty good but I have to admit bacalao is not my favorite.

    I made a great ratatouille Saturday using my ancient, beat up copy of Julia. Boy was it good. Still eating it.

    Simple tomato thing: Thinly slice tomatoes. Put on plate. Slice mozzarella on top. Top with basil whole or chiffanade. Salt, pepper, drizzle with good olive oil. It’s wonderful with back yard tomatoes. Not so much with store bought.

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  44. Deb said on August 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I don’t have the time or inclination to be a food snob. I’m a working wife and mother with three kids. I cook every night–and I try to plan my meals in advance so that, for example, if we have roast chicken one night, we’ll have chicken pasta or chicken tortillas the next night to use up the leftovers. I do use jarred and convenience products where necessary(although I try to avoid the ones that contain massive amounts of additives or corn syrup), but when time permits I enjoy making things from scratch. These are the pivotal words: “when time permits.” Not all of us are blessed with the endless time it takes to make every item from scratch every time we need it in a meal.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the comment above regarding Rachael Ray–love her or hate her (and I enjoy her show), she has shown millions of people that it’s possible to make a home-cooked meal (with a few shortcuts) in less than an hour. As I always tell my kids while they’re helping me in the kitchen, “If you know how to cook, no one can ever charge you ten dollars for a hamburger.”

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  45. mark said on August 3, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    We (Americans) not only consume vast amounts of high calorie food, we have perfected laziness. Pre-Obama, none of this would be any of my damn business, and civility, courtesy and tolerance would dictate that I worry about my own problems instead.

    But in this brave, new, takes-a-village world, it’s granted and stipulated that unhealthy behavior hurts us all, and criticizing your neighbor is patriotic. So first thing we do, we remove all the escalators. Americans can’t be trusted to use them responsibly, so bring back the steps.

    In my travels, it seems we are unique in viewing these devices as a little break from the tiresome chore of burning calories. Foot steps on and all motion stops. Even going down! “yes, I suppose I could move one leg foreward and let gravity take over. Oh but that would be exhausting.”

    I used to fly United from Tokyo to Bangkok quite a bit, and I saw more than one hustling Japanese businessman upended by the broad backside of an abruptly stopping American. It was almost always a competition between me and a pack of Japanese salary men, racing to que up at Customs. They were faster and better at the bump pass, but I was more learned in the habits of the American herd.

    They could not fathom that when the herd hit the first escalator (a down one) a mere hundred or so steps from the seat they had occupied for the last six hours, it would stop and enjoy the ride. I gained valuable ground using the steps, giving me a lead which few of my short-legged competitors could overcome.

    Oh, and 8 pound briefcases that have wheels and a pull along handle are headed for the ash heap of history too.

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  46. brian stouder said on August 3, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    The only foodie thing I have to add is – Pam bought two dozen ears of sweet corn from a farmer up the road, and that made for an excellent, excellent supper. Hell, it upstaged the steak!

    ‘Course, I had to brush my teeth right after supper, but that’s just part of the ritual

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  47. Randy said on August 3, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Music, I am 39, and the difference in music exposure is staggering, when you build in the 10 year gap. I check in with tbogg and a few other sources, and it’s just great, in terms of finding stuff that holds up, regardeless of age or era preference:

    *Ryan Adams
    *Nada Surf (awesome to the ummmm)
    *Neko Case
    *Shout Out Louds
    *PJ Harvey

    These are geniuses who won’t ever get a mainstream audience, thankfully. Most public libraries have them in their CD stacks; that’s how I found them.

    To all of my (wiser) commenters, I sort of missed the era of real music sampling, but now I get to sample in new and weird ways. As I write this, my wife is on her laptop, hearing a band called “Airborne Toxic Incident”. And, we’re having wine, on our deck, in wi-fi. I wish there were wi-fi turntables…

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  48. Allan Connery said on August 3, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Joe Pastry
    has a good commentary on the Pollan piece. His website, by the way, is a real treat for would-be bakers and pastry cooks.

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  49. sisterlicious said on August 3, 2009 at 11:32 pm


    Pleasure or bizness?

    Hard to imagine anyone from Fort Wayne going there for bizness, unless it’s that Libertarian sort of none-o’-yer-bizness bizness, in which case I am shocked, shocked.

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  50. Jean S said on August 4, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I found the Pollan piece utterly predictable and fairly tedious, and I’m a serious cook and gardener, yadda yadda. (growing my own potatoes for the 1st time, and it’s a hoot) I think Joe Pastry is right: A book is in the works.

    moe, I’ve heard about that music camp and know a couple of people who go most years. Have fun!!

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  51. CrazyCatLady said on August 4, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Just got home to Detroit from a month in Indiana. The Indiana fresh farm vegetables are starting to flow!!! Fresh bi-colored corn, musk melons, ripe purple bell peppers, big tomatoes, home grown cucumbers–all bought at roadside stands. Right outside the very place they were grown. Fresh blueberries picked just feet from the stand. Zucchini the size of your arm. A new zucchini hybrid that stays very soft and tender even at huge sizes. It’s never easier than summer to be an occasional vegetarian. Salads, stewed veggies, veggie chili, roasted corn and zucchini. Delicious! Fresh! And often the same price as at the grocery store. But you get to look the farmer in the eye and eat his produce. It was so nice to enjoy fresh goodies. Favorite Zucchini Recipe? Stewed Zucchini. One large zuch and a small yellow soft squash. 1TBS olive oil, 1 large onion, 4 cloves mashed garlic, 2 cans (large ones) diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon italian seasoning. Saute chopped onion, sliced zuchs and squash in the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Saute till the onions and zuch are slightly browned. Add garlic, stir. Open the tomatoes and dump them over the zucchini/onion in pan. Add italian seasoning, salt to taste. Simmer for about an hour till the zucchini is fork tender. Serve warm with freshly grated parmesan cheese on top. So good! You can also serve with a crusty bread. It’s even great cold the next day. Refreshing and healthy.

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  52. Hattie said on August 4, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Great post! Alice Waters takes credit for vegetables! This Berkeley girl can’t stand all that stuff!

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  53. mark said on August 4, 2009 at 8:15 am


    I went for both business and pleasure. Failed at the business, succeeded at the pleasure.

    There might be a causal relationship there somewhere.

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  54. Dorothy said on August 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Don’t know why I didn’t think to post this sooner, since we’re talking fresh cooking and all. Our garden is exploding. This was taken on June 30th, so it’s even bigger and more lush now:


    We have pumpkins in there, and cantaloupe and watermelon, in with the peppers, tomatoes, cukes, sugar snap peas, tomatillos, dill, cilantro, potatoes, beets. We’re planning a separate pumpkin patch next year and will have friends over with their little kids so they can go pick their own pumpkins.

    Y’all are making my mouth water with all the tomato ideas. Ours are just ripening this week and I’m going to make myself sick eating too many tomatoes.

    I thought of another fun thing WRT cooking: my daughter calls me regularly for advice about cooking something. She lives with her boyfriend and works evening shifts at the Pilot, so her cooking is usually limited to her off days (Th & Fr.). Just the other day she needed to know the best way to peel peaches. At the office they often hear me shift into “mom mode” on the phone and dispense with the necessary information to help her with that day’s prep work. She is calling me less and less, which means she’s doing fine on her own most days.

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