National Chains AND PACKAGED FOODS
You're right in the middle of a major change, and you need another New Boards recommendation or suggestion right now like you need a hole in the head. And yet, I'd like to make one. Please maybe put a post-it on this and keep it for consideration later.
One of the best things you did for my blood pressure was to create the National Chains board. It separates those that think that Chains are chowhoundish and those that don't. It's not so much a volume issue (although these threads used to go on, and on, and on...), but rather a change that keeps acrimony and snarkyness from sneaking into our otherwise rational and informative conversations.
Something of the same kind needs to be done for mass-production, packaged foods. There are those that celebrate Kraft Mac'n Cheese and there are those that think of this kind of mindless pablum as a real deterrent to learning more about deliciousness. As with the chains threads before the current manifestation, these topics sneak up on us, so it isn't always as easy as simply seeing a title and ignoring the thread in order to ignore the pitched battles. We have something to say that we think of as being a contribution, and before you know it, we're locking horns with someone about their wasted childhood, spent eating Campbell's soup out of a can.
I recommend that we change the National Chains category to include National Chains and Packaged Foods. Let those that want to discuss the rankings of national peanut butter brands and the infinite and complex layers of taste inherent in the Colonel's 11 spices, have at it in the privacy and comfort of their own kind, with no snark. Keep temptation away from those of us that feel that you have to become an adult, sometime after you're 35, anyway.
This would make it easier for the more rational types to ignore these nearly religious ravings, just as we do now for the people who worship at Olive Garden. Let them preach to the choir. Let them hallelujah and huzzah to their heart's delight. In fact, there is clearly a synergy between those that think chains are delicious, and those that think that prepared mass-market foods are similarly delicious - I've often found them to be one and the same. Perhaps, extending the board in this way would further enhance their community - allowing for the improved cross-cultural flow of information between those that have a deep understanding of Kraft Mac'nCheese and those that know that you really do deserve a break today, at McDonald's.
I see the logic in this suggestion but it also sounds like it's going to be a tough one to implement and keep those posts off the General Topics board. Right now, it's "General Food Topics"- any question about food in general goes there. Trying to make this distinction is going to feel like splitting hairs to a lot of people, and will likely torque off a fair number of posters. Also, by saying packaged food discussions don't go there, you're sort of saying they aren't foods. Which, I realize, is how you view it, but it's not how most people do.
I have no evidence to back this up, but yes, even on Chowhound, I'd bet the majority of people do consider packaged food (such as cereal, peanut butter, pasta, tomato sauce) to be actual food. I'd suggest you start a poll if you really want to know, but that's just the kind of chatty thing I'd personally hate to read :-)
I think trying to say "General Chowhound Topics is for REAL food" and expecting people to get the difference between apples and applesauce, steaks and cold cuts, tomatoes and salsa etc. without a lot of people getting pissy and seeming like it's all just splitting hairs is a pipe dream. Especially since that board goes back maybe to the founding of the site? There's 11 years of posts on that board discussing all that food, and every time an old post about packaged food comes out of the archives via a Google search, someone new is going to say "hey, why is that post OK and mine isn't?"
I have no idea if most people using this site want to discuss chains... I'd guess not. However, there's an understandable rationale to putting them on a separate board. What's the sense in having one thread discussing Big Macs on the Boston board and another on the Florida board, with people saying pretty much the same things? And being able to pool together everyone's knowledge on what to eat when you have to go to Cheesecake Factory makes sense. People understand the difference between local/mom and pops and franchised chain restaurants pretty easily.
Having two boards devoted to the discussion of food items, and which board you choose depends on whether or not it's processed... well that's just never going to work without an awful lot of moderating, reporting, and overall just pissing people off. I can't see it being worth the trouble.
re: Chris VR
You make good points - especially with regard to the moderation issue. And no, there's no reasonable way to take a poll. But in the long run, splitting General Chowhound Topics may actually be a good thing, both from the perspective of volume and managing content. Anything to improve the signal to noise is a good thing, and I do have the feeling that people posting that "Kraft Mac'NCheese is the best". is noise to most people here. Even if you like it, and it's your comfort food, the constant posts reaffirming that it's ok for chowhounds to eat it just provides no new deliciousness information - no signal, just more and more noise.
I've had this post and thread in the back of my mind for most of the evening and I hope that what I have to say comes across as being thoughtful and measured - my intent is not to offend, but I feel I must speak up.
I am offended by the implications in the OP and some of the follow-up, that somehow people who might find some redeeming features in packaged food are immature ("those of us that feel that you have to become an adult, sometime after you're 35, anyway"). This is absurd and insulting. I'm also dismayed at the vitriol and dismissive attitude that excludes contributions from those who don't eat "real" food or who (heaven forbid!) actually find something pleasing in packaged foods or (gasp!) food from chains.
You're free to eat as you like, think as you like, act as you like, and so forth. I fully respect that. But I ask that you likewise respect my decisions to eat what I desire, think what I think, and act as I feel appropriate. I'm not knocking what you believe - in fact, we likely have quite a bit in common - but I do believe that there is room on these boards for civil give and take.
As someone who chooses not to eat many meats, I don't like reading (for the most part) about some of the more, um, carnivore based meals that are consumed at restaurants - but I don't post about how offended I am - I recognize that we all have a right to be here and participate. I can choose not to read the posts / threads that I find upsetting - or I read them and refrain from commenting - or I read them and comment on one of the sides mentioned or ask about something else raised - but I do my best to remain quiet when the post goes against what I believe, because I recognize that each individual needs to make these choices for themselves. (Trust me, I've ranted about some of the things I've inadvertently read - and there's one post, from over a year ago, that still bugs the heck out of me.)
I understand what you're suggesting in having a separate board for packaged foods, but I think it's completely unnecessary and (more pertinently) likely impossible - what about people talking about the favorite brands of mayonnaise? A recipe discussion that contains suggestions for pre-made pasta?
In the OP, the idea of a discussion about "the rankings of national peanut butter brands" is raised - I think that is a great discussion topic and can see that be reading it (or something like it) I might well come across a GREAT new peanut butter that I didn't know existed - maybe it's one that's somewhat obscure, or only available by mail order - and it might be one that you contributed - if the Chow-folks start segmenting off more and more discussion, there's going to be a loss (I think) of information being contributed - or it'll be scattered and difficult to find.
According to the Chowhound Manifesto, "Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice."
Deliciousness is subjective - please don't dismiss my (and others') contributions because we find things delicious that you find abhorrent. I promise to do the same.
(PS - On another thread, where you [er, applehome, I mean] and I were going back and forth about mac and cheese, you mentioned a home-made recipe with Gruyere - it'd never occurred to me to make mac and cheese with something other than Cheddar [I'm not much of a cheese person] - that actually sounds good and something that I'm going to try - and it's unlikely that I would have gotten that idea had the topic / thread been shunted off to another board where folks into home cooking wouldn't want to go.)
It is tough to express the counter-opinion without a little snarl, but jfood will try like ELsieDee.
Jfood finds the philisophical idea that people who use packaged foods or eat in chains not worthy of the CH boards offensive. Jfood, for one, has his favorite boards and some that are somewhat meaningless to him and he reads the threads in those that are of interest.
And jfood loves a good cheese whopper every now and then when he can sneak one in. And the idea that he is less of a CH because he wants to know what people think of a new brand of peanut butter is, in jfood's opinion, and anti-CH position. "Live to eat" does not say live to eat only if you are able to find it right from the vine or the utter.
And where does it start/stop? Does it mean that jfood can no longer find opinions on Hazan's recipes because she uses canned tomatoes, or make Garten's chicken pot pie in January because he can not find fresh peas in CT.
So in hopes of expressing a different opinion, jfood likes the idea that people may first come to the boards to seek advice on chains, and then learn to love the home cooking boards to expand their knowledge of self-prepared foods. Imagine the thrill everyone enjoyed when they first made and tasted Hazan's bolognese after growing up with Ragu and ground meat. Jfood likes both in its place but the enjoyment of the former still brings a smile to his face. likewise jfood appreciates learning about different packaged foods that may make an aspect of his chow-view more diverse.
so the boards are here to both exchange information and mentor. we should embrace all aspects of food.
All of you weighing in on the topic have my sincere appreciation. Whether you realize it or not your responses best illustrate the wonderfully diverse nature of CH's and why it is such an appealing communitiy. Room for all.
Thank you to all of you for conveying the points of deliciousness so universally.