Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A slippery, spice-filled, calorie-laden slope into hell.

Today’s quiz: the following grocery shopping stories represent:

a. Innovative, ‘out of the box” thinking
b. The new low of imagination and creativity we’ve reached as a society in general and specifically, a new low in our culinary endeavors
c. Spectacular time-savers
d. All of the above

Tonight my husband and I wandered through the spice aisle at Wegmans, looking for a large container of dried red pepper. Didn’t find one but I did come across a new kind of product, which has to be almost unheard of in the spice industry right?

I have to imagine the marketing teams at McCormick spent years talking about ways to improve their sprinkle tops, new spice combinations they could sell to novice cooks, and other ways they could somehow infuse new life – spice up if you will – their grocery store SKUs. But I ask you: how many cinnamon combinations, flavors of pepper, or “crusting” blends can you make? I checked them out online and turns out you can make as many as the market will bear but tonight, I found a real innovation.

Whoever conceived this product should be given an enormous bonus, given that fact that we all say we’re so busy, busy, busy all the time. Basically, the new packaging contains an exact selection of assorted spices, in exactly the right amounts, that will help anyone create flavorful main dishes. To talentless cooks like me, this means I will never again have to pull out the measuring spoons, check the spice cabinet for orange zest, chip a nail opening the ‘pour’ section of the plastic top, or over-pour a few extra teaspoons of paprika into the sink.

Nope, that kind of old-fashioned, season-as-you-go cooking is so 2009. We can say goodbye to recipe personality, creative cooking and one-of-a-kind dishes. But isn’t that a small price to pay for tear it open, shake it on and ta-da! Perfect pork chops infused with apple spices (and at least five other spices I can’t remember right now.) We reviewed the entire line of new spices-make-the-meal combinations. Then we put them all back in their slots.

Across the aisle we found the perfect dessert. In a little single-serve cup. Just add water. Then microwave it for about 40 seconds. I wanted the black velvet cake with caramel sauce; my husband wanted the bananas foster, also with caramel sauce. After about fifteen seconds of imaginary sugar-infused joy, I turned the box and read the list of ingredients. God knows. We put the boxes back on the shelf.

So there you have it. Pre-measured spices that turn a pork chop into a meal. A cup of premixed dry ingredients that after half a minute in a microwave emerges as a gooey, hot dessert. Hey, I like convenience as much as the next person but this is almost too much. This sort of thing is the exact opposite of a nutritious, healthy diet program called “mindful eating.” This is “mindless cooking” that results in “mindless eating.” We could take a step back even further and call this kind of grocery store experience “mindless shopping.” By mindless consumers who seemingly stopped thinking a long time ago.


Kelly said...

Whew! For a second I thought this column was about me and my joy over finding those new McCormick salt grinder thingees...I too was recently in that same spice aisle when I discovered the Garlic & Sea Salt grinder. Now all of my weight watcher meals have a zing of "fresh" garlic and salt. Who knew something worth 0 points could taste so good ;-) Kelly

renee said...

Hi Kelly -
Thank you for your comment!

Nope - you're safe. I would never think to comment on anything as prosaic as garlic salt, even garlic sea salt. And I know exactly what it means to be counting points!

It was finding these little spice combination packets that result in some kind of "gourmet" meal that made me nuts.

Just made me feel like the 'smarter' we get as a society, the less competent we get. Does that make sense?

Thanks again for your feedback.