The other day I saw an ad for mashed potatoes. A tired looking woman was slashing wildly at a potato with a peeler, holding it awkwardly, well away from her body, as if it were really a knife, or a samurai fencing sword. There was a big pile of potato peels in front of her, which was surprising since she had only peeled half a potato.
The voice-over talked about how much easier it is to buy ready-to-eat mashed potatoes. You just buy them and microwave them and they’re ready to eat!
I was horrified. Making mashed potatoes is about as difficult as cooking rice. If you are going to microwave the store bought stuff anyway, why not microwave the potatoes instead?
I am amazed that such products sell. What benefit do they offer? Take these readymade mashed potatoes. The time spent is probably the same, or maybe a couple of minutes saved on the peeling, but the readymade stuff comes with added preservatives and possibly other chemicals. Plus, it’s much less eco-friendly, what with the added energy that goes into transportation, packaging and marketing the product. There are other casualties like taste and the satisfaction (even joy) of creating a dish from scratch.
But people do buy mashed potatoes and hash browns from the supermarket. They also buy frozen waffles and pancakes, even though these things can be made in minutes, about the same time as defrosting and heating a frozen one. The list is long, and includes such wonders as ready-to-eat pasta salad and macaroni and cheese.
I am not suggesting that every dish should be made from scratch. I can see how some processed food can be convenient and save time and effort, and be a great help when you are harried and tired.
But when we start outsourcing our cooking, where do we draw the line? If outsourcing some cooking is good, does it mean that outsourcing all cooking is better?