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Sep 10, 2008 12:05 PM


OK, I'm probably going to be banned for life for asking this, or at least have to deal with an onslaught of comments about my complete lack of taste, but here goes...

Why is cheating (i.e. - using prepackaged mixes, or processed foods, or anything you didn't grow yourself on your own acre of land in Tuscany) so widely disparaged? Perhaps it's a lack of experience on my part...I'm an intermediate cook at best. There are some things I do really well (and from scratch, mind you), but there are some times when you're in a rush getting home from work, or you need to bring something to a party you forgot about, and cheating is the simplest answer. Now, I do try to cook from scratch and use organic ingredients whenever I can, but my husband and I both work full-time. We don't have time to be traipsing about from the farmer's market to the fishmonger to the butcher to put dinner on the table every night. Don't get me wrong, I love Chowhound, and I've learned a lot here, but at the same time, I'm getting sick of logging off and feeling like crap for having condensed soup in my pantry. What gets me is that there are threads on here where people secretly admit to loving spray cheese and spinach dip. Why does something simple automatically have to suck? Aren't we all here for the love of food? Does something have to have an unpronounceable ingredient and be cooked by a celebrity for people to be willing to discuss it? Am I wrong for wanting to stand up about proudly say that the secret ingredient in my creamy tomato soup is spicy V-8? Please, someone tell me I'm not crazy...or at least explain to me why I am.

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  1. I don't think you need to feel guilty; I think most Chowhounds are gonna support you 100%. I'd like to believe Chowhounds at their best only ever object to closed-mindedness, to willful ignorance...and at their worst (and I'm speaking for myself here of course!), at their own most closed-minded, at least remain aware that taste is the ultimate in subjectivity.

    The reason I stay away from, say, soup mixes etc. is I honestly don't like how they taste compared to "the real thing," whatever that means. That said, I'll take processed PB over the organic stuff any day. I'm not even trying to defend that inconsistency, and I assume here most people can relate to it. Also, I drink V8 all the time.

    Finally, I hardly think it's the case that unpronounceable ingredients and celebrity chefs are what most Chowhounds are all about. If anything, to the contrary. I mean, we're excited by discovery, so to that extent, bring on the stuff I've never heard of. But that's the opposite of snobbery.

    1. As far as I'm concerned if, at the end of the day, you produce something delicious, that's not a problem with me. That said, just because I do love to cook, and have the time (which I know many do not), my cheating is pretty much limited to buying stock and maybe some jarred peppers, etc., and bread (haven't gotten there yet).

      I don't think something "sucks" just because you've used a canned ingredient. My chosen dish for my birthday as a child, which I still love, is shrimp curry, and I know my mother used Cambell's cream of chicken as a base.

      I do find that, for example, making pancakes or even basic cakes from scratch is just as easy to do without a mix, as with one, and with better results.

      1. You'll feel redeemed - and laughing - after reading this post by a longtime CH poster.

        OK so I'm a bit behind times, but I've just finished reading a self-congratulatory article in the August 2008 issue of "Bon Appetit" magazine extolling the virtues of country life, farmers' markets and eating seasonally/locally/etc.
        " ......... I happily trek over hilly pastures to get to farmers who coddle tomatoes to perfection or pick basil in its infancy......." " much better treasured recipes taste when the ingredients that go into them come straight from the garden that day....." and a lot more in the same vein. Granted fresh food tastes great and if it's grown around the corner or across that hilly pasture in Connecticut there really is a certain charm to making meals straight from the earth. I am the first to agree and voted with my feet when I had a very large garden and still shope at my FM when feasible.
        NEVERTHELESS, extolling lemon marinade, tuna and Moroccan couscous salad in the same article (where she didn't forget to mention the "carbon footprint" buzzword) seems to speak out of both sides of the author's mouth. Last time I looked, there were no lemon groves in CT, pretty daunting for that tuna to swim past that hilly pasture and it is a long walk to Morocco.

        You can only feel guilty if you agree to feel guilty. Take a stand, theferlyone, and keep doing what you do that makes you happy and well-fed. There have been many posts recently about shopping at Costco, guilty pleasures, as well as stocking pantry shelves with condensed soups! Read those and ignore the holier-than-thou posts.

        1. I like your post! There is nothing wrong in my opinion about "cheating". Everyone is on different levels with cooking and food here. Some people are real foodies, some are food snobs never eating at a chain restaurant, some are professional chefs- you get my point. We all probably come here for different reasons- I come here to get ideas from others, learn about new brands and yes I do learn alot about food.

          I definitely have evolved over time with food and the choices I make, god, I used to eat Ragu at one time and lots of frozen food, I just never tried to cook, jump ahead ten yrs later- now I am hooked on Rao's, won't buy factory farmed (grocery store) meat and try to make more food homemade (which is always trial and error, but that's how you learn). I've read and learned and tried alot over the years and have evolved on food issues. You just try to do the best you can.
          But yes, there are some days though where you just throw the frozen pizza in the oven and call it a night. In the end you're the one eating it and I am sure the chowhounds aren't losing sleep over it! You are not crazy!

          1. My personal guideline in eating and life is: Does it pass the "reasonableness" test? Sure, most of the posters are for good healthful food, a small carbon footprint, motherhood and apple pie. But sometimes you just have to step back and take a breath. Even asking about "cheating" implies that something you are doing is "shameful.' Is this reasonable? Of course not. Eating is necessary; and,for many of us, enjoyable, IF we are fortunate to have enough to eat. But "guilt" because you like canned soup or processed food?

            I certainly understand your feelings and a poster eating only locally and organically, etc,ad nauseum should not undermine your self worth. I do have to step away from the computer sometimes and take a break. A quick look at the latest from Sudan usually puts things into perspective. Each of us should strive for self-improvement but to paraphrase what the Poet says " (ones) reach should exceed (ones) grasp or what's a heaven for?"