I don’t know about you, but as much as I love to cook, there’s nothing more unappetizing than the notion of creating a warm, wholesome (read: three course, three-hour) supper for the fam after a long day at work. Yes, the idea of filling my home with the celestial scent of braising meats, roasting tomatoes and melting cheese triggers my most visceral nesting instincts, but on an average Wednesday at 7 pm after a day schvitzing over my TPS reports and grinding through a hectic commute, momma ain’t cooking a meatloaf.
Empirical data suggests I’m not alone.
Since the advent of tertiary processed food, Americans have embraced the shortcut lifestyle. After World War II, most large-scale food companies were saddled with an enormous excess of product, and they responded as all quick-witted American capitalists have: by inventing a market into which they could pour their surplus.
Suddenly, store shelves were awash with canned and frozen meals, shelf-stable powdered cakes and gravies, and we lapped up the shortcut lifestyle it afforded – and the vats of fat and sodium that came along with it.
Frowny face. Weh …. weeeeh.
In 1954, the folks at Swanson (most likely cackling with glee while guzzling martinis and stroking fat, black, purring cats), introduced the – wait for it – TV Dinner! Horrors! The first year on the market, it sold 10 million units.
And now, we’re a nation of convenience addicts. A confluence of sociopolitical factors have helped enable our addiction, of course. (More women working, our country’s perennial obsession with whiz-bang space age anything, fewer families that prioritize meal-time together, etc.)
So when I heard that Hostess was filing for bankruptcy, I was shocked – and, I admit it, greatly saddened. I wholeheartedly welcome the green food / slow food / locavore revolution that’s sweeping the country, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Twinkies, arguably Hostess’ most ubiquitous product. I associate them with the pure, unadulterated sweetness of early childhood.
Meanwhile, they’re made with flour bleached with chlorine gas, brimming with white cellulose gum and Polysorbate 60 filling, and coated with corn dextrin. But contrary to many pundits’ initial reactions, Hostess’ demise cannot be blamed on the foodie revolution, and the general public’s demand for whole grains in everything. In reality, it’s rising pension and medical costs for its 19,000 employees and the sky-rocketing prices of commodities like sugar (up 21%) wheat (up 69%) that are grounding the great, transfat-fortified Hostess blimp.
So is the potential destruction of the 82-year old candy snack (rumored to be) the most likely to survive a nuclear attack some sort of existential, metaphysical metaphor for the dangerous, self-destructive path so many of us find ourselves on when we look for cheap shortcuts in life? I don’t know.
But it did inspire me to make my own form of foodie convenience snacks this weekend: meatballs! And as far as I’m concerned, no one makes meatballs like the Italians. I cranked out a version of Turkey-Ricotta Meatballs that I can eat “on the go” – or with candlelight and proper cutlery, leisurely, with my husband, while we calmly talk about our day, find
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before taking our toast and tea.
Any meat will do. Click on for my recipe.