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Mar 18, 2011 12:05 PM

am I a SNOB?

I was talking to a friend the other day about general cooking things, and she showed me her jar of garlic. JAR of garlic? I guess I must have known that garlic came jarred, I must have seen it at the store, but it didn't really register. This idea sort of broke my mind. I have never even considered it, it seems "fake." Same with butter - margarine is NOT butter and I won't cook with it.

So, first, am I a snob?

If so, is the jarred garlic just as good? Is bottled lemon juice just as good? Is margarine just as good? Can I sub milk for cream? Which things can you cut corners on and not sacrifice taste?

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  1. You can dislike jarred garlic and not let on about it. It's all about decorum and not acting like your all superior (which I'm sure your not!).
    I would never use jarred garlic now, but do recall using it years ago. It tastes pretty bad.
    Foodies generally cook with the best ingredients they can and there's nothing wrong with that. As long as you don't shriek "OMG!!, you use that shit?!!"

    3 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      Oh I didn't make any kind of comment at all to her about it, I just looked at it and said it was interesting. ;) I just wondered if it really was OK to use and I'm just not because of some crazy idea I have that using cloves is better when in reality there isn't much difference. You know?

        1. re: justlearning

          I'm sure the look of horror on your face gave you away :))

          My wife thinks I'm a snob. She may be right. Maybe

      1. Being surprised by something or choosing not to do it is not the same as condemning someone for it. You're only a snob if you mock others for doing it!

        And in my opinion, you do sacrifice taste when you make some of these substitutions. But... for some people food is just fuel and the slight difference in taste just isn't a big deal. Or they may just not have the money to buy special ingredients. Or having bottled lemon juice may just be more convenient if they don't shop very frequently.

        There are a million and one reasons why people make the food choices they do. Not all of them are about taste.

        9 Replies
        1. re: greenish

          "There are a million and one reasons why people make the food choices they do. Not all of them are about taste."

          That's very true. My parents use jarred garlic, ginger, pre-cut frozen peppers, and also sorts of inferior ingredients. Though they eat healthfully, their food doesn't taste particularly good because they just don't care. They're retired and have plenty of time to cook and they have access to all sorts of amazing produce here in the Bay Area but they don't bother with it. I know I can't change them, so I don't try.

          1. re: Glencora

            I actually use pre-cut frozen vegetables (especially peppers) for a variety of reasons and see no reason why that is wrong. They are sliced fresh and flash frozen on the farm... Probably biologically fresher than a lot of items at the grocery store.

            1. re: redips

              It really depends where you live. They live two blocks from an amazing produce store where they could get local organic stuff in season. Maybe I AM a snob, or it's just because they're my parents....I want to tell them that if they have time for crossword puzzles, they have time to cut their own vegetables. But as greenish said, it's not always about taste. They're doing what they want to do.

          2. re: greenish

            Why would you assume someone who uses jarred garlic sees food as fuel? That's a pretty extreme assumption. As you yourself pointed out, sometimes convenience is a factor... Especially after a loooong work day. I love good food and fresh ingredients, but somehow I find I don't have the energy to cook from scratch every day of the week. I'm luckyvto do it twice a week! I doubt that people on these boards are cooking from all natural ingredients every day of the week. Does thatvmean that we see food only as fuel? Heaven forbid if I use instant oatmeal! :)

            1. re: NicoleFriedman

              I don't think there was anything remotely extreme about my opinion. I was saying that there are a million and one reasons why people make the food choices they do. I listed people who see food as fuel as just ONE of the many reasons. (hence the use of "or")

              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                I have to agree with Nicole. I use tubes of garlic, chilli and ginger for the stir-fries that I tend to have on weekdays. Sure, they don't taste quite as good as the fresh stuff (although I've shopped around until I've found the best ones) but I use them for two reasons:

                1. I get home from work at 7.45pm at the earliest (after leaving the house at 6.50am). I need a quick dinner, and making my own stir-fry (with fresh veggies and dried egg noodles, plus beef/chicken/tofu) is a whole lot healthier than a ready meal, but I quite frankly cannot be bothered peeling and and finely chopping garlic and ginger and faffing about with chillis. I'm hungry and tired by that point and just want food, ASAP. If I have time on the weekend I make proper food and freeze it in portion sizes, but I don't always have time and also I don't always want what I've pre-frozen. At least I'm making the stir-fry using fresh herbs and spices, rather than just dumping in a packet mix, is how I look at it.

                2. It's cheaper. The tube of chilli is £1.50, and a bag of four chillis is about £1. The former lasts a heck of a lot longer than the latter. I'm on an extremely tight budget and sadly I can't spend the money I'd like to on really good quality ingredients etc 'cause it's just not there. However, just because I can't afford to use the type of ingredients I'd like to doesn't mean I can't appreciate good food, just that I have to make my own as-good-as-I-can-manage versions.

                  1. re: Isobel_A

                    Isobel, I use hot chili paste in a tube all the time. I think the brand I use is called Amore, i think it tastes great, and it's always there on my fridge shelf, waiting for me. :)

                    1. re: Isobel_A

                      re ginger. i store it in a glass jar in the freezer and grate it on a microplane -- no need for peeling and chopping..

                1. Do you want to wear "snob" as a badge of honor? Go for it. There seems to be a trend of people touting themselves as "snobs" when really they mean selective or discerning.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: LaPomme

                    'snob' is a word stupid people use to describe anyone more refined then the lowest common denominator.

                    please don't pretend to be as dimwitted as everyone around you just because they are uncomfortable having their mediocrity challenged. more snobs please.

                    1. re: TheFoodEater

                      You're right, but the corollary to that is that people who are selective but not obnoxious about it don't call themselves snobs. Personally, I never use the word. I have no trouble, however, calling myself an elitist. ;-)

                      1. re: TheFoodEater

                        i disagree. a snob is not one who more "refined" than others, but one who thinks their tastes and choices are the only correct ones, and not sharing those tastes makes one inferior

                        1. re: thew

                          I agree. A snob imputes a certain moral or intellectual superiority to themselves based on their personal choices and preferences (as does the so-called "reverse snob" -- there's no difference between saying "I'm more refined than you are because I only eat seasonal fruit hand-picked by virgins" and saying "I'm more authentic than you are because I won't eat anywhere fancier than Joe's diner").

                          Sadly, being a snob/reverse snob often prevents people from experiencing things they might have enjoyed. I feel sorry for them (oops, does that make me a snobbery snob?).

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Ruth L - exactly! Snobism is a zero sum game, by definition: I am more than and your are less than because of...well whatever it is you use as a diferentiator. Usually it's superficial and meaningless. I don't think the OP is being snobbish at all. They merely want to know if the jarred variety of something will perform equally, adequately or not at all as well as a fresh product. The generaly consensus is that they could perform adequately to not at all as well as fresh. However knowing that the application will matter as well as the time and cost constraints that will affect the acceptability of a substitution should be helpful to the OP.

                            1. re: aggiecat

                              I don't mind feeling a touch superior to someone just because I read serious works of literature as opposed to the sports scores. Well, I read the sports scores also, but I think you get my drift. I don't think all 'choices' are equal, and I am not even of the opinion that they are actually choices. Some people are never going to read what I am reading or eat what I am eating, and it is no longer a matter of choice or 'taste'. It is a question of limitations.

                              So I can use jarred garlic AND fresh garlic, depending on if I have one or the other on hand, what I'm making, how much work I have to do, etc.

                              And if someone tells me they would NEVER use jarred garlic (oh, the horror), then I don't think of them as a snob; I'd probably think of them as a more serious cook than I am.

                              1. re: Steve

                                "it is no longer a matter of choice or 'taste'. It is a question of limitations."

                                Wow. Not that is, imho, snobbish: to assume that people behave differently than you because of "limitations." Basically, you're saying that your taste/choices are so obviously "right" that the only reason anyone would make different ones is that they are incapable of making your choices for some reason.

                                Lot's of people make lots of choices because of taste, not "limitations." I'm guessing I will never read many of the things you do, but that doesn't mean that I -- a professional editor and English major -- have "limitations" on my reading. I can read anything (in English) I choose, and I choose not to read a wide variety of things for a wide variety of reasons (because, for example, after long days of reading technical material at work I prefer "brainless" reading; because I don't enjoy reading things that are gruesome or depressing or scary; because I think a lot of modern "serious" literature is pretentious and self-indulgent, etc.).

                                To get back to jarred garlic: I've tried it. I don't use it. Because to me it doesn't taste like garlic; if it doesn't taste like garlic, there's no point in using it when I want garlic!

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  You say that 'lots of people make lots of choices because of taste', but I see people making mostly the same choice over and over across a wide spectrum.

                                  Tastes have to be developed, and I would prefer a world where not so many people just happen to share exactly the same 'taste' for pop music, chain food, and reading nothing heavier than People magazine. Yes, I would like to see people expand their taste to buying some jazz or classical now and then, reading a novel, or gulping down some chaat, that Indian version of fast food.

                                  Just as nobody is born liking opera, there is a point where somebody either takes time to learn about something or they'll never know if they like it or not.

                                  And BTW, I never said my choices are 'right.' but since I can be mesmerized by the sports scores as well as a treatise, at least I know I've given it my best shot.

                                  As for food, I can enjoy burgers, pizza, and just about any type of food I've come across. Nobody has to like the very same places I go to, but it sure would be nice if more and more people didn't have that 'taste' for Wendy's.

                    2. I just discovered ginger in a jar and couldn't be more delighted. Since I don't cook with ginger often enough to have it on my weekly shopping list, I often have occasions when I have everything for an Asian dish except the ginger--and I hate to make a trip for just one item. I've since found out that many Indian cooks, for one, use jarred ginger and garlic since they use it in such large quantities and find convenient. But comparing an item that has been prepped for convenience with substitutions that are of dubious quality, like butter/margarine, lemon juice from concentrate/fresh, milk/cream is to some extent "apples and oranges."

                      I have time to shop, prep and cook detailed dishes. Lots of people do not....finding shortcuts that don't compromise flavor can be great for them.

                      27 Replies
                      1. re: escondido123

                        Jarred ginger is a life saver! Especially since I hate buying a whole 'nub' when all I need is a teaspoon of ginger.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Just FYI, gingerroot keeps forever in the freezer. Just wrap it in tinfoil and take it out a few minutes before you need it, then grate it with a vegetable peeler.

                          1. re: sciencediet

                            I keep mine wrapped in a paper towel and in a zippy bag in the frezer. Good idea.

                            1. re: sciencediet

                              Depending what I seasoning or preparing I don't even defrost it, Just use a medium micro plane directly over the dish/pot.

                              1. re: Duppie

                                Which one is better, jarred ginger or frozen ginger? Does jarred ginger maintain that "crunch" (not sure how to describe it) - frozen ginger will have a weird watery texture when its defrosted, and can only be used in certain dishes (for example, not julienned in a stir fried dish). I usually keep frozen and never heard of jarred, would love to have the option.

                                1. re: chocomel

                                  There are obvious limitations with freezing ginger but the bottled alternatives I've found in the states imho aren't much better. The best I have ever used was a organic ginger paste from Australia I have not been able to find over here.

                                  1. re: chocomel

                                    I use Swad ginger and garlic pastes. These are jarred products, I get them at Indian grocery stores. For me they work well with a good flavor. They are finely grated, a paste. I keep a jar of each at my Mom's place (in the refrig) as I often cook for both of us.

                                    1. re: Quine

                                      Can I find it at Patel's or Kalustyan's?

                                      1. re: Duppie

                                        While I do not know those places, if they sell Indian Groceries, yes. Swad is a brand name and has many products. I think they re quite good.

                                        They do make a garlic/ginger mix as well, I bought it once, but prefer to buy them separate to make my own portions,

                                        I am a Polish American who only knows about Indian food from my Ex. So YMMV.

                                        1. re: Quine

                                          Patel's is a South Asian grocery mini chain in central Jersey where I generally get some decent frozen samosas,dried spices and really fresh and cheap cilantro.
                                          Kalustyan's is a old spice market in Murry Hill in NYC.
                                          Sorry, for some reason I thought you were located in the city.

                                          1. re: Duppie

                                            I actually live near LBI NJ. I will be up in East Brunswick tomorrow shopping at Hong Kong grocery, I'll check and see if they stock it,
                                            A Place named Patel sounds like they should well have it in stock,
                                            I think Swad might also have cilantro pastes and chutnies, which are good as well.

                                            1. re: Quine

                                              Don't bother, I'm in East Brunswick and shop at HK 3 TO 4 times a week, the nearest you'll get is Malaysian pickled ginger or fresh but there is a Patels on RT 9 in Sayerville.
                                              But please try the sweet and sour pork, they now prepare it Hong Kong style and it's great.

                                              1. re: Duppie

                                                WE love eating at HK and I will definitely take some roast pork and duck home. Will check out the sweet sour as well!.

                                                1. re: Quine

                                                  If you're getting the duck, buy some fresh ginger and scallions. mince equal parts of both and add a dash of soy,a splash of chili sesame oil,salt, white pepper, pinch of sugar. Mix and serve along with the duck and Jasmin rice. Our easy dinner.

                                        2. re: Duppie

                                          @Duppie, yes, Kalustyan's sells the Swad products - i used to buy them there so i just checked their website and they still carry them. they carry Laxmi as well, which is another good brand.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            Thank you,I'm getting low on Chutney and Kuchela so another visit is past due.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Pretty good lunch buffet upstairs also. Ever been?

                                                1. re: Duppie

                                                  years ago - when i lived in the city. have a snack for me ;)

                                  2. re: escondido123

                                    I buy it in a toothpaste kind of tube in the fresh produce section. Awesome when I want to add just a little to a teriyaki/stir fry sauce but wouldn't otherwise go to the trouble of grating some fresh. I'm thinking of picking up some lemongrass in one of those tubes too.

                                    1. re: LaureltQ

                                      I love those little tubes too!

                                      1. re: LaLa

                                        Those are the ones I get - from the Covent Garden Food Company or something?

                                      2. re: LaureltQ

                                        I tried those I think for cilantro, but I noticed that many of them have more ingredients than I want in there.

                                        I have gotten the freeze dried herbs and spices in the jars and find they work pretty well. Right now i'm using the ready to use frozen ginger in a little shaker box thing.

                                      3. re: escondido123

                                        Jarred ginger is way better than jarred garlic, and is therefore perfectly acceptable for a snob to use. Why, I even have a jar in my fridge!

                                        Garlic in a jar should be banned or at least heavily taxed. It is way too easy for bad or iinexperienced cooks to use too much of it, rendering a dish inedibly bitter. If you do use garlic in a jar, you need less, not more, because the citric acid that's used to preserve the garlic really brings out its bitter flavors.

                                        1. re: Isolda

                                          Yes! I couldn't agree more about the jarred garlic. I had never thought it through that it was the citric acid used as a preservative that gave it that awful bitter taste. We used to frequent a pizzeria that made the best pizza with fresh garlic on it. One day we ordered it and noticed that it tasted different. We realized that they had stopped using fresh garlic and were using the jarred stuff instead. We tried it a couple more times to see if it was just a fluke, even asking a couple of times if the garlic was fresh and they always said it was. It obviously wasn't and they didn't know the difference. We find that a lot of places use that jarred stuff. Too bad! No matter how you use it in a recipe you can always taste that's its not fresh.

                                      4. I believe canned/jarred goods has a place in our kitchens.

                                        Jarred garlic, beef broth, chicken broth, commercially made pasta, bottle lemon juice... etc are good substitutes.

                                        Powdered lemonade, instant tea, margarine (except for chocolate chip cookies) are definitely poor substitutions for the original.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: dave_c

                                          Instant tea? How can you get more 'instant' than regular tea? My mind is duly blown.

                                          1. re: tavegyl

                                            Boiling water and/or milk on stovetop & using tea leaves, then straining is a bit more involved than microwave tea in bag. Perhaps that's what dave_c meant?

                                            1. re: ceekskat

                                              no, i'm guessing he meant something like this:

                                              my mother & sister both drink stuff like that (i think Lipton), and i have no idea how.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                He he, never would have occurred to me in a million years : )

                                            2. re: tavegyl

                                              It's powdered stuff you just add water to. But it's not tea! It doesn't taste anything remotely LIKE tea. I hate iced tea and that instant stuff is quite drinkable in a pinch. It has actual sugar in it instead of artificial sweeteners, so it tastes better than Crystal Light to me. (no I never bought it - they use it for cold drinks at church...)

                                            3. re: dave_c

                                              Some of us have to drink Instant lemonade because they make low-cal version and can't afford to spend 23 dollars (half my food budget) on a bag of lemons and agave syrup.

                                              1. re: YAYME

                                                You don't "have" to. Some people (like me), in that situation would just drink water.