Thursday, October 18, 2012

Goodbye Childhood Favorite; Hello Homemade.

When I was younger and able to cook for myself, I would occasionally make a meal from a canned product. Now a popular item sold in the stores was Franco-American Spaghetti-O's. It was one of the most vile tasting things I'd ever eaten and avoided it whenever I saw it sitting on a pantry shelf. Sure it was cheap, probably why my mother bought it, but it was so disgusting that it didn't get eaten by me, that's for sure. However, I loved, just loved, Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee Spaghetti and Meatballs, or the Beef Ravioli; the sauce was so tangy and tasty and I couldn't get enough of those meatballs.
Throughout my growing up and adult years, I'd depend on the Chef for a quick meal now and then. The invention of the microwave made heating and eating quicker and more convenient. Heck, I even fed it to my son as he progressed from childhood into teenage years. Wow, has my opinion changed about the Chef recently though. Out of sheer nostalgia I opened up a can of ravioli, heated it up and started to eat. Same tangy sauce, but not so tasty now; same mystery meat filling, same mushy pasta; why the heck was I eating this garbage!?! So I threw it away, but later on my stomach gave me its opinion of the portion I had was not a happy camper, to say the least.

The label on the can says "No Preservatives", but lets take a look at what the ingredient listing is: Water, Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Folic Acid), Beef, Crackermeal (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Folic Acid), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Carrots, Textured Soy Protein Concentrate (Soy Protein Concentrate and Caramel Coloring), Onions, Flavorings, Caramel Coloring, Potassium Chloride, Oleoresin Paprika, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Enzyme Modified Cheese [Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), and Annatto (Color)] and Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate. CONTAINS: MILK, SOY, WHEAT

I can make out what most of the items are, but what are "Flavorings"? Why does it need "Caramel Coloring"; is that for the beef filling or the sauce or what??? "Potassium Chloride" is a substitute for salt, so why is salt already on the ingredient list? "Oleoresin Paprika" is a food colorant, so is it used to make the tomato sauce, which is red, redder? I'm not going to keep asking questions about all the other chemical compounds listed as I believe you're understanding my point here; or I hope you are.

Instead of purchasing cheap canned meals just for convenience sake, why not purchase fresh, or as fresh as you can find, ingredients and make your own meals?  I've already posted numerous pasta sauce recipes, boiling pasta hardly takes any time, and the convenience of storage containers which go from freezer to microwave to table is abundant. You're worth the time and effort, and so are family members who you're cooking for. Budget conscious? Who isn't these days, but everyone is also becoming more health conscious. Sit down with paper, pen and calculator and do the lists, do the math and see if cooking, portioning out and eating your own convenience made meals doesn't do your budget, you and your family better.

Mary Cokenour

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