Brunt: Don’t settle for convenience foods

I do understand that many people lead incredibly busy lives, and they don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen. It’s a day and age when mom or dad doesn’t get to stay home if they want all the bills to get paid, so many people are dependent on convenience foods that require nothing more than being warmed up.

Believe it or not, it started with Napoleon Bonaparte and the discovery of canning. Prior to that invention, drying or smoking was the only option for keeping food over long periods of time. Refrigeration came to us in the 1830s, although it was not widely available until many years later. But what really got things going was World War II and the demand for rations for troops in the field. It wasn’t always possible to set up a field kitchen, and troops needed cans of food they could carry in their pockets or knapsack.

Being of a certain age, I remember the introduction of ravioli and spaghetti and meatballs in cans. There was also a pizza kit, in which you added water to the packet of flour and yeast, made your own dough, and topped it with a little tomato sauce and a packet of cheese. It was a novelty, and that’s what mom made for us when she and dad were going out for an evening and did not have time for a made-from-scratch meal.

Sadly, things have gone south from there. Sure, there are some convenience foods that are OK, but nothing beats made-from-scratch. Yes, it takes time, but as with all good things, it just takes time to get it right. The bane of modern food is the shortcut: you can buy roux in a jar at the grocery store, mac and cheese in a box, and just about anything you can dream of frozen, but none of it is near as good as taking the time to get it right.

I know a lot of you are shaking your head at these out-of-date ideas, but I am a serious foody and I want to enjoy really good food whenever I can. Just OK just doesn’t cut it in my book. Want to make a really good gumbo? Don’t take ANY shortcuts. Every shortcut you take reduces the quality of what you are making. Period.

Yes, there are times when I have to warm chili out of a can, but I am never satisfied with it. Life is too short to eat bad food every day. People actually get used to subquality and think nothing of it. Pity! There is also a relationship between convenience food and being overweight and unhealthy. I am not asking you to give up your food-ways, but, please, whenever you can take the time to do it right and do so with joy in your heart!

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Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."

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