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Crummy products that totally fool you


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Last week I was at a party and, in the middle of the buffet table, was a cloth-lined wicker basket teeming with warm rolls. I ate one. It was amazing, somewhere between brioche and a Parker House roll, but with more density and chewiness than either. I must have eaten five before asking the hostess for the recipe.

She pretended not to hear me.

A few minutes later, I passed her in the hall and she said, "Sorry I didn't answer you back there. Come with me."

She led me to the kitchen and showed me the packaging from Stop 'n Shop (a Northeastern US supermarket chain) for a product called "pull-apart challah." In its off-the-shelf state, this product looks like a bumpy crown of pull-apart rolls in a round aluminum-foil tray. The instructions are to bake the cluster in the tray.

So I was fooled. A generic supermarket product tasted better to me than the best from-scratch homemade rolls I've ever had.

This happens occasionally to me. Does it happen to you? Are you sometimes fooled by inferior, commercial, industrial products? Tell all.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Only the inferior ones are inferior. However, experience teaches that something on the order of 99% of commercial, industrial food products contain preservatives, additives and such that in my book make them "inferior." I don't mean to insult the other 1%, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Are you sometimes fooled by inferior, commercial, industrial products?

Are commercial, industrial products always necessarily inferior?

MelissaH

I'm going to stick my neck in the noose and say that a well-made commercial product is preferable to a half-assed attempt at homemade. I know we've all had a time when we were trying to choke down something horrible with a smile on our face while the person who served it proudly proclaimed "I made it myself!". Bonus points for the effort but, in the end, it's the taste that matters.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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True but in the hierarchy of food products there's more than just homemade and supermarket-industrial. With bread, for example, there are also bakeries. In most cases the real bakery's offerings are better than the supermarket bread selection. And so on.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some styles of bakery bread are better, IMO, than even the best home baking because they have steam ovens and other equipment at their disposal. :unsure: But -- who knows what preservatives, 'dough enhancers' or whatever lurk within? As far as I know, bakeries are not required to list ingredients as 'supermarket-industrial' items do.

I need to check on my bread dough...whose ingredients ARE known! :wink:

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Same with ice cream and several other products. Homemade isn't always best. Nor did I say it was. That would be an interesting topic, though, if someone wants to start it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Before I had knife skills I was at our county fair where a guy was demonstrating a chopper that he pressed down on rapidly to chop onions, carrots etc. It was amazing how fast it worked and how the end product turned out . . . I had to have one. I think it cost around $40. and it came with accessories . . . Well my experieince was very different from the demonstration because I didn't have the guy's strength to use it.

Edited by tirgoddess (log)
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yeh i've got to say that alot of people or places say 'homemade' to make it look good. when in fact when they were buying the bread off the baker it was far far better than this crummy bread.

theres only one thing that matters in food and thats taste. yes its nice if your eating the pig you've been feeding but it doesnt take away the fact that it doesnt taste all that.

my grandmother used to always make her marmalades and jams. although i do get the odd jar here and there of the stuff i havent been for a while to her house for tea but when i did recently i commented on how nice her orange marmalade and raspberry jam were.

she then asked me which one id prefer to have a jar of. i said the raspberry jam, she brought out a jar that she brought from a local shop she uses. the marmalade however was made by her. typical isnt it?

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Fair enough. I was kinda blanketing anything purchased that someone else produced as commercial. I can't fault commercial on the basis of stabilizers and things of that nature as I use those types of ingredients in my own kitchen. As for being fooled by standard grocery store industrial products, I probably have but never where it was admitted so I can't name anything specific. I have been pleasantly surprised by some industrial products but I knew what I was dealing with so there was no being fooled involved.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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True but in the hierarchy of food products there's more than just homemade and supermarket-industrial. With bread, for example, there are also bakeries. In most cases the real bakery's offerings are better than the supermarket bread selection. And so on.

Unless you live where I do, in which case the only "bakeries" (and many of the restaurants) all buy their bread mostly-baked and just brown it off themselves. We used to have a terrific baker, but he found an opportunity he couldn't pass up and moved away.

The "fresh-baked" bread from the supermarket here isn't bad, in a pinch.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I know people who have worked at every major supermarket chain.

Be aware that a lot of the 'just-baked' supermarket bread is actually delivered already made, frozen, in a cardboard box to the supermarket where it is simply heated in their oven for a short time. (some supermarkets' cake doughnuts are also delivered frozen) Some places still make french bread and a few rolls, but they use mixes with ingredients like DATEM that help mask inferior flour and inferior manufacturing techniques.

In most supermarkets, you can generally assume that most of the foods in clear clamshells out on tables was delivered frozen.

In Phoenix, there is one local chain, AJ's, a high-end specialty retailer, that does make product from scratch using real butter, bread/cake flours, cream, fresh eggs, etc. But, their sister stores, owned by the same corporation, Basha's & Food City, use mixes, shortening, etc.

Of course, a lot of 'bakery' places now serve flash-frozen fully baked bread, including Panera.

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I think you have worked out why 'taste tests' should be done blind!

I can't help thinking their is a certain amount of food snobbishness here though - of course overuse of additives is bad, but when a chef uses lecithin or sodium citrate to improve a dish, it is molecular gastronomy. When it's done in a factory it polluting our food.

Playing devils advocate a little here, of course I know the motives are very different but as food enthusiasts aren't we always saying that the taste is the most important thing? If a supermarket offering tastes better than an artisan product or your own offering then why not use it?

A lot of supermarket/fast food products are satisfying at first though, normally due to the large amounts of salt and sugar - it doesn't last much beyond the first couple of bites though.

I did have a discussion with a friend of mine over the contents of her fridge once - she is normally a good cook and interested in what she eats, but it was full of lots of chemical filled low fat salad dressings and desserts. When I enquired why she said there is no way you can make stuff like that yourself - it has to be full of chemicals (Probably because they are mostly water and air) and she was on a diet. Personally I'd switch to just eating something else that's naturally low fat, but I guess she had a point.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I have a hard time imagining that I would have the same opinion today, but I vividly remember a particular day when I was a child of maybe 10, staying with my grandparents. My grandfather and I both commented on how my grandmother's mashed potatoes were especially good, but she oddly seemed to get more and more annoyed as we complimented them. She finally explained that she had been in a hurry and had made instant mashed potatoes from a box, Potato Buds, or some such thing.

Again, I can't believe that I'd ever prefer reconstituted industrial potato paste to real potatoes, especially ones lovingly mashed by my grandmother, but that day, they seemed pretty awesome. Maybe she'd put a lot of butter in them or something...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I can't count the times I've bitten into a brownie at work and just loved it, only to learn that it was Betty Crocker Hershey's Triple Chocolate Chunk Brownie Mix, the one they sell at Costco in giant box with 6 brownie pan's worth of fixings.

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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We used to have breakfast every now and then at a little local...I do mean 'local'...diner. All local folks. The breakfasts were great, inexpensive, local eggs, homemade this and that. And the most delicious gigantic, moist, tasty Morning Glory Muffins. I loved them. I adored them. Got a few dozen every summer for the Dog Weekend folks. They were part of the local mythos. Come stay at McAuley's farm and eat these wonderful muffins. Oh, make sure you get those muffins again this year...

Imagine my chagrin to find out they came from a tub of mix from a local distributor.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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A friend who (supposedly) makes the best cakes–everyone loves them, fawns over these cakes at his dinner parties–tricks everyone, but not me: He's using boxed cake mixes, but homemade buttercreams, preserves, fillings, etc.

It's only a matter of time before I dethrone him by drunkenly announcing to the guests, "Of course the cake is moist! There's a cup of vegetable oil in it. THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!"

Edited by fooey (log)

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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Fat Guy, if you liked em enough to eat 5 and ask for the recipe, what makes them a "crummy product"?

:laugh: Very good question!

The (assumed) lack of quality ingredients, for one, that results in a machine-made chemical foodstuff that is bread in name only?

I again note the profound evil that is the Chorleywood Bread Process.

Edited by fooey (log)

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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Since my wife passed on I have become a pretty good cook and I have learned what is good and what is not. I buy so little processed food that I can almost say "never"

My wife did not bake nor did my Mother so I have had little experience in home-baked goodies (until recently thanks to Dorie Greenspan)

A while ago I invited a neighbour over for some stew and she brought with her some biscuits warm right out of the oven. They were fabulous. I asked if she could teach me to make them. With much amusement she told me the recipe was right on the back of the Bisquick box.

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I am currently reading Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee by Bee Wilson and it's fairly interesting to note that while crummy foods in the past could often be fatal to consume, many of the foods were consume today would be consider tainted by 18th & 19th century standards. This is true of the obvious, like breads and sweets, but interestingly enough almost all of our beer would have been considered contaminated as well.

Good read so far, I definitely recommend it.

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Sounds like a good book recommendation - I'll look it up!

I was never fooled by these, but as a child I loved pilsbury dough bread sticks straight out of the oven. Never seen them since, *shakes head* that doughy chef was a genius, a synthetic over-yeasted genuis......

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