Thursday in the Food Section of the New York Times was an article about the challenges of shopping in the city supermarket. While on the one hand, I found the article a lament for food snobs everywhere, there certainly were strong elements of truth in the article, and its companion for food snobs, The Best Pantry Basics list.
"Somewhere in the vast selection of jarred tomato sauces, Cheddar cheeses, baked beans and dairy-case puddings, I knew there must be food that is reasonably wholesome and possibly delicious," the author, Julia Moskin, wrote. "I limited myself to short ingredient lists and minimal use of artificial preservatives, sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils."
She has a point. I am, after all, something of a food snob myself, not content with the wares of the local supermarkets or even the local farmers' market. No, I must grow it myself, cook it from scratch, grind my own flour -- oh wait, that's Martha. This obsession has paid off in terms of my spinach consumption, I might add.
Seriously, though, have you read the ingredients on the label of a jar of Ragu lately? Or frozen or fresh pasta, salsa, soup, stew.... you name it. High fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, sodium, BHT, you name it, yeesh. And often the second or third on the list (meaning lots of it) is the high fructose corn syrup.
I was surprised to find a number of items on Julia's list that appear regularly in my cart, too. Stoned Wheat Thins (crackers), B&M Baked Beans, Cabot Sharp Cheddar (I prefer the Hunter's Seriously Sharp, myself) and a selection of ethnic ingredients such as coconut milk or chipotle chiles. What really surprised me, though, was the brevity of Julia's lists, and the realization that I agree with her. Most prepared food has become so bad that I just won't buy it anymore. Gone are the days when a jar of pasta sauce could provide a quick nutritious meal after work. On those days, it's Teddy all-natural peanut butter on homemade bread.
I will say, though, that I do still enjoy my B&M Baked Beans, made in Portland just 35 or so miles from my home. I love driving into Portland and smelling the beans baking. I do think they are sweeter now (and wish they were not) then they were in my youth when I ate them regularly, as good old Maine tradition calls for, on Saturday nights with brown bread, coleslaw, and red hotdogs.