The Specter of "Semi-homemade" meals
A convenience food craze serves up hot air at high prices
OK, so you pop open a tube of Pillsbury dough, spoon on some Pace Picante salsa, unzip a packet of pre-shredded pizza cheese mix, throw the thing in the oven and congratulations, Dr. Frankenstein! You've created a Mexican pizza monster. Quick quasi-meals such as this are making a rapid exodus from their usual hideouts on canned soup labels and the backs of Triscuit boxes to nationally syndicated magazines, television shows and cookbooks. They're now called "semi-homemade" or "doctored" foods. The concept is simple—mix a bunch of prepackaged products together, add a fresh ingredient or two (maybe) and pass it off as a home-cooked meal.
Are you simply too stressed out to cook? Do you merely glance at a frying pan and suffer from performance anxiety? Do the voices in your head tell you that whatever you attempt will turn out like crap? Relax and take three or four of those deep yoga breaths. Cooking is just like any other creative pursuit—you start with a basic plan, see where that takes you, improvise, add a little here and there, revise, make some final adjustments and you're done. Oh, but you're not creative at all, you say. Then let's switch metaphors to something else. Ice skating? At the beginning of the two-hour session everyone sucks at ice-skating. But you make mistakes and gradually improve and two hours later you're imagining yourself at the Olympics. OK, maybe that makes no sense at all. The point is this: Not every pork chop has to be a masterpiece. It can just be a pork chop, salted and peppered and thrown in a pan. Wait, you used kosher salt, right? Kidding, kidding. If you burn the thing to a crisp you tell your girlfriend it was an experiment and you go out for tacos. Maybe next time you'll only burn one side. Eventually you'll be the pork chop master. In the meantime just take it easy and don't be afraid to fail.
All the News That's Fit to Eat
The Chinese New Year starts next week, either on Jan. 21 or 22, depending on how you calculate (time zones, moon rises—it's too technical for me). In Albuquerque the Chinese Culture Center (427 Adams SE, near Washington and Zuni) will be celebrating with martial arts demonstrations, lion and dragon dances and fireworks on Jan. 24 from 1-3 p.m. There won't be food at the Culture Center, though, so you'll have to go out to eat before or after. Lucky for you a number of local restaurants are offering celebratory feasts.
Trans Fats Explained
It's a hot topic but many of us still don't quite get it
Q: I'm confused about trans fats. I recently read that hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are considered trans fats. What is hydrogenation, and what does "partially" add to the picture?