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All that faffing about...

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by modelmaker, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Ok, everyone knows that good food occurs when you do things properly, like making real stock and so on. In practice, it's not always possible, and I dare any of you to lie and say you don't use Oxo cubes or similar.
    Supermarket shelves are stacked high with ready-made sauces and the like, most of which I've personally found disappointing, but they're there and the only reason is because people buy them. The availability of fresh ingredients is gradually dwindling.
    So before it's impossible to buy food that's either frozen, already prepared or comes in a bottle or packet, we foodies should consider firstly, where the production of ready meals goes wrong in our opinions and needs helpful advice rather than scorn, and secondly, what labour-saving concoctions you'd like to find available, hopefully, prepared as you'd cook them.
    The French, of course, are far ahead of us in this with things such as confit etc.
    And by the way, is it only me that ponders whether producing Oxo cubes in an X-shape is a marketing ploy, an easier way to crumble them or a way to boost profits by supplying less product at the same price?
     
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Ok, everyone knows that good food occurs when you do things properly, like making real stock and so on. In practice, it's not always possible, and I dare any of you to lie and say you don't use Oxo cubes or similar.
    Supermarket shelves are stacked high with ready-made sauces and the like, most of which I've personally found disappointing, but they're there and the only reason is because people buy them. The availability of fresh ingredients is gradually dwindling.
    So before it's impossible to buy food that's either frozen, already prepared or comes in a bottle or packet, we foodies should consider firstly, where the production of ready meals goes wrong in our opinions and needs helpful advice rather than scorn, and secondly, what labour-saving concoctions you'd like to find available, hopefully, prepared as you'd cook them.
    The French, of course, are far ahead of us in this with things such as confit etc.
    And by the way, is it only me that ponders whether producing Oxo cubes in an X-shape is a marketing ploy, an easier way to crumble them or a way to boost profits by supplying less product at the same price?
     
  3. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    I don't wish to sound confrontational, but I'm not sure I understand the point you're trying to make, MM. Try to improve packet sauces and ready meals? Why? Wouldn't it be better to encourage people to make their own meals? Improving convenience products would encourage people to never cook, and as such the fresh ingredients would disappear. I don't think the availability of fresh ingredients is dwindling either, on the contrary, there's a wider range of ingredients available in this country than ever.
    I also think the very nature of ready meals is what makes them, in the main, awful. That being that they are mass-produced, over-salted, over-sugared and full of chemicals, being designed to have lengthy shelf-lives. There are a few exceptions, smaller organisations making good quality, fresh meals on smaller scales that are designed to be eaten quickly or frozen. That's the best way to improve them, but the biggies aren't interested in this because they're more interested in profits.
    What else do the French do that is way ahead of us? I'm not sure they do that much in the way of preserved, ready meals that's especially good. Granted, they do good confit etc., but that's a preserved food anyway. They also do semi-decent tinned cassoulet, lentilles au petit salé and other confited foods but what else do they do? Jam and conserves? We do those quite well too. There's plenty that the French do equally as badly as we do.
    On the subject of Oxo specifically - I don't like them myself. Overwhelmingly salty and oddy chemical. Same for Knorr. The best in the way of instant stocks are Marigold bouillon powder and the organic Kallo ones, in my opinion.
    Apologies if I've misunderstood your original post....
     
  4. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    You might have nick. I disagree with your intimation there is more fresh food than ever. More ingredients maybe, but less and less fresh food. I'll give you an example: When I moved to a large town in Kent some 30-odd years ago we had 3 fishmongers in the town and probably 6 butchers and 6 greengrocers. There were also some relatively small supermarkets.
    I watched the loss of all these independent small shops when the big boys moved in. They built a Safeways just down the road from us with everything you needed in the one shopand everyone flocked there. I was particularly impressed with the fish counter that stretched the entire length of the aisle and contained monkfish, seabass and squid. You didn't get this stuff in the high street, so why bother shopping there?
    Once all the high street fish shops had closed, the Safeways fish counter reduced to a handful of packets of cod in breadcrumbs with a piece of lemon on top and the occasional packet of prawns, maybe a bit of dyed, smoked cod.
    Later all the butchers shops closed down. The days when you could ask for your meat to be cut in a particular way, maybe have a pork chop with the kidney attached are gone unless you happen to live in an increasingly rare pocket of our society.
    Sure, we have more choice in the variety of spices and overseas vegetables, but take a good look in your supermarket. Study the amount of space given to fresh food and compare this to the prepared meals. Look at the variety of fish, the various cuts of meat and compare this to a French supermarket.
    Compare this to what you see next year, because I'm comparing it all to what I watched year in, year out since I was stupid enough to forsake the small businesses.
    But of course, you inadvertently managed to get me on my high horse and it's a tangent to the thread.
    We are being taken over by prepared food. Full stop. We all loathe it. What are we going to do about it?
     
  5. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    Fair points MM. I suppose I've been looking at it from the point of view of someone who's always lived in or near a large city, and as such has always been near excellent markets, fishmongers, butchers, bakers etc., and so hasn't noticed the decline in such stores elsewhere. I suppose if I compare this to where my nan lives, in an average sized town in South Wales, then yes, the decline of the greengrocer and butchers etc. in favour of the supermarket is obvious.
    I'm also lucky in that the three supermarkets near us that we often use have decent fish and meat counters (proper counters, rather than just the -pre-packaged stuff) and have sizeable fresh fruit, veg, dairy and bakery sections. It also perhaps depends which supermarkets you have near you. Waitrose, Sainsburys and Tesco all do fairly decent fresh produce, whereas Somerfield, Asda and Morrison's are all less appealing.
    I would say though, that the French embraced the out-of-twn hypermarket experience well before we did. Even now, their flagship hypermarkets dwarf our equivalents. The baker is well and truly alive and kicking on on every other French street, maybe the odd pattiserie as well, but the boucheries, charcuteries and fromageries are no longer a prominent feature in provincial France.
    I still think things have improved since the eighties in this country though, which I think marked our culinary low-point, with the advent of the micro-wave meal and everyone pretending to be too busy to cook. Despite the headline grabbing stories of obesity and sugar-laden diets, more of us are demanding decent food than ever. Jamie Oliver, whatever anyone thinks of him, has unleashed a whole new generation of young men (and women) who are prepared to give it a go.
    You are right though, the ready-meal is still here, and shows no sign of going away. I think the main thing standing in our way is people's perceptions regarding having time to cook. With most families now having little choice but to have two working parents, and with our scandalously high working hours in this country (it's no coincidence that the Americans also work ludicrously long hours and also eat a high propotion of processed food), people use pre-prepared food becuase they don't think they have time to do it. I'm not sure what the solution is with regards to this. I'm not sure there is one.
     
  6. Back in Crudsville, we had 2 Tescos, a Sainsburys. A COOP, A Marks and Spencers An Asda and A Lidls - all pretty much in the town centre. The two independent butcher and baker were closed down, leaving just 2 Greggs shops selling cheap pasties and iced buns.
    Outside the town centre a small butcher kept up his family business - but was reduced to selling assorted meat products in burger and nugget form - the people didn;t want anything else.
    There was a large market that used to have dozens of stalls selling fruit, veg, meat fish...all of which closed down. The market changed, having stalls that people could pay to rent and sell 2nd hand clothes and assorted tat. The 'food hall' was moved to the back of the market. One fruit/veg stall remained, but there were no less than 6 stall selling cheap chocolate, crisps and pop. And 2 stall sold pies and pasties.
    Go into any of the supermarkets and there was a small display of fresh fruit/veg and the aisle upon aisle of ready meals.
    The people who lived there wanted ready meals. They didn't know how to cook and had little interest in learning. Now, I admit, Crudsville is not representative of Britain. It was (and probably still is) one of the most deprived areas in the country. I taught youngsters who didn't know what it was like to have any family member in any sort of a job....brothers and sisters, parents, greandparents had never worked. All these people wanted was the 3 cheese pasties for a pound - it filled up the empty tums and was cheap.


    Now compare that to where I live today....we have one Tesco in the town centre and a Marks and Spencers. I recently discovered there is a Farmfood frozen food shop tucked away. All other supermarkets have been forced out of business by Tesco. But there are two good butchers in the town centre (and others on the outskirts) a choice of fish shops (as you might expect on the coast!) and two markets - one of which sells only fruit/veg. There is a Greggs - but it has a small cafe attahced, and also sells freshly made sandwiches.
    The estate I live on, is mainly social housing - and there is a small selection of shops across the road. Newsagents, chemist, an excellent chippy, a rather good baker and a pretty dire supermarket. The supermarket sells 'essentials' which means cheap neon-coloured cakes and biscuits, cheap crisps, sweets and pop (well, they are opposite a school - I guess it pays to keep the teens well fed!) and three freezers full of frozen ready meals - with unrecognisable brand-names.


     
  7. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    The massive rise in prepared food occurred ironically, at a time cookery programmes were at their peak. It seems we had a massive appetite for programmes showing us how to cook but preferred not to. Quite a number of the sauce mixes have celebrities names on them. It's almost like saying "Well, you'd never be able to do it properly yourself, despite my showing you how to."
    Education, in cookery it seems, isn't enough. Something else is required to slow the trend down.
     
  8. lidlest

    lidlest New commenter

    The X shaped Oxo thing really annoys me, add to the fact the foil is now thinner and i can no longer crush them in their foil tear open the corner and neatly tip the contents in to dishes.

    I know this is sad, and it isn't hard to crumble an oxo but I loved not getting any on my hands.
     
  9. At a time women were getting back into going to work and having careers.
    Readymade food was a blessing - ping, ready.
    Back in those days, you wouldn't find a man in the kitchen. Woman went to work AND did the household stuff.
    You can't really blame her for wanting to save time.
    Of course, nowadays, we want it all (men and women) - a job AND a home.
    The home doesn't come from nowhere - neither does the job.
    I think today we are in a situation where some of us will cook from scratch (but certainly use shortcuts if we must) and the load is divided up. It is not just the woman cooking - look at our posters here - we are not all women (although mostly! Where did jaxx get to?)
    The way I was taught to cook is not doable on an everyday basis - I do not have the time my Grandmother and Mother had (although both worked, always).
    But the blessing is - I was taught to cook and I have managed to implement those skills so that I can still cook but save time - even if it is a stir fry or cooking in bulk.
    I disagree that it is difficult to buy fresh - it isn't. It just takes more time to buy fresh - but I buy fresh on the way home from work. Much easier nowadays as shops are open longer.
    What I will say is - without wishing to be confrontational - is that I am SHOCKED at UK supermarkets and what is on offer.
    I hold my hat up to my step-Dad, who still steadfastedly refuses to buy the junk under the dazzling lights with the big signs above telling you it is "a great offer".
    My Mum hated cooking (although she was a damnded brilliant cook) and for years, Daddy took over in the kitchen.
    Nowadays, he will ring me for recipes and I find that so sweet - and I am reassured he is eating something good, rather than descending into a widowhood of pot noodles and meals on wheels.

     
  10. nick909

    nick909 Lead commenter

    Great post, CQ.
     

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