Instant mashed potatoes

Cooking is an art. Two people can follow the exact same recipe, with ingredients and equipment of equal quality, and yet you can tell the two dishes apart. Tonight, I’m turning squid into calamari. I’ve never cooked squid before, but they looked so interesting I had to try them. Lieve is still a little put off by the appearance of raw octopus, so this is a first step.

In the protein aisle of the grocery store, I noticed they had mashed potatoes. Not instant mashed potatoes (well, maybe they were) but ready to serve mashed potatoes. I only assume that the culinarily adventurous will warm them in a microwave rather than consume them cold.

I was trying to imagine the target consumer. Walking down an aisle filled with things that require cooking, this product seems out of place, in fact an anathema to the other items. You can pick a channel on television at random, and you will either have a sports program, a cooking program, or a “making bigger fools of themselves” program. Who exactly is buying pre-mashed potatoes?

I know that I enjoy food too much. That is not a comment on my increasing mass, it is a reference to actually identifying and describing the aspects of food that I enjoy. I had thought the woman I used to live with who could only describe a wine as “good” or “not good” was an aberration, then I met my step children, who can only describe their desires as “something good” or “something healthy, like Monster and Slim Jims”.

I like to make Creme Brulee, and not just because I get to play with a torch. I make different flavors, and the Chai is infused with the proper whole spices, the vanilla has actual vanilla bean, the espresso has real espresso, made with Kimbo coffee. When I would make chili, the spicing of the oil in which the meat was cooked was as important as the chilies and meat itself. Beers are to be enjoyed on the same level as wines, and bread is best when made at home.

Packaged, pre-made food, has lost its freshness. It can only be stale or filled with preservatives, which add nothing to flavor.

A few years back on the television program Top Chef, Carla Hall made it clear that her most important ingredient was “love”. There is no love in pre-mashed potatoes. “Love” was the ingredient that took Carla to the finals, when she chose to make for Chef Jacques Pepin a plate of peas. Nothing more complex than peas, and love.

It’s easy to remove yourself from life. We take pills so we can eat things that we can’t digest, or cause heartburn. We buy prepackaged food so we don’t have to make a real meal. It’s so convenient that we don’t need to eat together. I have seen kitchens that were designed for nothing more than heating frozen foods and making coffee. The kitchen, and by extension the dining room, were supposed to be family gathering places. Parents taught children how to cook, lives were discussed over a meal.

The “crumbling” of family values doesn’t happen all at once. It happens one brick at a time. If you saw the World Trade Centers collapse, you saw the upper floors go, then the increased tension caused the floors beneath them to fall. The process was steady, the floors crushing each other from the top down. We’ve taken enough bricks out, and now we’re crumbling.

It’s bad enough that kids don’t know where meat comes from. They should at least know what a potato looks like.


One comment on “Instant mashed potatoes

  1. Mari Collier says:

    I can’t imagine eating mashed potatoes from a grocery store. I don’t even use the box mixes. I still peel a potato, etc. I cannot afford expensive wines. I’ll stick with my affordable, but drinkable.


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