I am, generally speaking, fairly conscious about what I eat. I eat whole foods. I like locally-sourced food whenever possible and, whenever feasible in terms of time, place, and manner, I aspire to eat organic, responsibly-farmed, and sustainable meat, fish, and produce. I do this from a position of social responsibility, sure, but I do it primarily because such products just taste a lot better than their factory-ejaculated counterparts.
But despite all of my whole food, home-made posturing, there are a few products where no hand-made organic version can replace the deliciousness of the salty, preservative-laden ubiquitous-on-every-shelf store-bought version.
- Ketchup, specifically Heinz Ketchup. During the artisan ketchup boom of a few years back, every gastropub-type establishment was whipping up their own heirloom ketchups which, despite this labor of love, were never as goddamn-fucking-delicious as the classic red bottle. The density of flavor and concentrated savoriness that comes from cooking ketchup in what must be gigantic umami-laden vats simply can’t be replicated on the stove top. The good news? Heinz launched an organic (and HFC-free) version a few years back and it is as good if not better than the original.
- The same goes for the Thai/Vietnamese chili sauce Sriracha, specifically the “hot cock sauce” from Huy Fong Foods. I’ve had the restaurant-made sodium benzoate-free versions before and, although usually good with a great kick, they all end up having a much stronger capsaicin-burn then the mass-produced versions. The joy of Sriracha, as opposed to New World hot sauces like Tabasco and Tapatio which do little more than burn the tongue, is that Sriracha fills the whole mouth with heat without ever becoming overwhelming or painful.
- Lastly, Pillsbury Biscuits and Pie Crusts. Yes, I know it’s cheaper to make your own pie or biscuit dough. I get that, I do. But whenever I have made these baked goods at home there’s so much white powder covering the counter that my kitchen is left looking like Charlie Sheen’s pre-rehab living room. And my biscuits and pie crusts are never as good as Pillsbury’s ready-to-bake doughs. The pie crust is particularly delicious since, after the crackdown on transfats, they’ve upped the lard content of their dough. Vegetarians take note.
I hope I haven’t disillusioned too many of my foodie fans (I assume I have at least 2 so as to be able to use the plural). But have faith! There are plenty of foods and condiments where I have to have the homemade version. After having some of the best Pho and Ramen around, anything store-packaged falls far short. Although I don’t mind a good, store-bought organic mayonnaise, nothing compares to a freshly-whisked aioli. And I’ve recently discovered the joys of homemade beans which, as long as you have the time, are as easy to make as opening a can.
Do you have any favorite mass-produced comestibles that no artisan version can ever hope to measure up to?
For nostalgia of a different variety, check out Erik’s remembrances of a Cobra Commander-less Christmas.