Saturday, December 23, 2023
Birthday party dinner: success.
Carrot cake: marginally less success.
The second one came out better than the first but I swear they are not making ingredients like they used to. Take flour. Sometime in the past couple of months flour went from the white powdery stuff it used to be to some weird dense clumpy mass of a soft clay-like substance.
I swear I am not crazy.
It’s no secret that the price of everything has gone through the roof. But what is less noticeable, because it happens so gradually and so insidiously, is that the quality of what you get for those prices keeps going down.
Trust me when I tell you that flour does not equal flour anymore.
Also nuts. Let’s talk about nuts for a second.
It’s been a long time since I bought nuts anywhere but nuts.com. They are not the cheapest nut on the tree but they are fantastic quality. I am not opposed to paying a premium for good stuff.
What I am opposed to is paying a premium for the garbage that passes for food lately. I wanted to grab a bag of mixed nuts at the store yesterday, since I had to go shopping against my will anyway. I decided they would make a good snack while we had pre-dinner cocktails. I did not think far ahead enough to order them.
There was a one-pound bag of something that said mixed nuts on the label and it was just under $20. TWENTY! That is a two and a zero, with no decimal point.
Still, I wanted nuts and probably would have bought them anyway, except what someone’s marketing department calls “mixed nuts” I call “the leftover broken scraps that fall off the conveyor belt when you’re bagging the real nuts.”
It was a pound of mostly broken pieces of peanuts with some bits of pecans and ends of cashews and maybe like, one whole Brazil nut. I’m not sure you could serve them without apologizing for doing it.
I may have complained about this to a few people.
My mother, not to be outdone, sent me a whole article about “skimpflation.” In order to keep prices down (HAHAHAH!) companies are using lower quality ingredients.
They are also shrinking the sizes of things, so your 15-ounce can of tomatoes is now 11. Which makes it really hard to follow old school recipes that call for a can of sweetened condensed milk or a package of cream cheese. A can of pumpkin in my grandmother’s recipe is not a can of pumpkin in mine.
Still, you can work around that. What you can’t work around is a 15 ounce can of pumpkin that is now 9 ounces of pumpkin plus 3 ounces of water to make up the difference. Do they really add water to canned pumpkin nowadays? No idea. But I don’t doubt it.
And seriously, what HAVE they done to flour?
And butter. I have a strict no-buy policy for Kroger store brand butter. I thought butter came out of cows, but whatever they make their butter out of is more like wax. It literally will not melt. I can’t wrap my head around it.
The article about skimpflation mentioned Ritz crackers. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks ingredients are no longer ingredients. There have been a rash of complaints about how they have become a crumbly mess. Coincidentally, I ate Ritz crackers with cheese for lunch yesterday. I haven’t had them in quite a long time but they were there and the cheese was there and I had an entire pound of carrots to grate for my second cake so I wanted something quick and easy.
Most of the crackers ended up on my napkin. It only scratched the surface of my brain at the time but I did wonder if maybe they were stale because they basically crumbled to powder with every bite.
It seems that is the New Ritz.
The article also mentioned Breyers ice cream. They are also guilty of messing with ingredients. A few months ago I bought Breyers because I didn’t feel like spending $8 a pint for the good stuff (or as we used to call it, “ice cream”) so I opted for what I always thought was a quality brand.
It was flavorless and borderline inedible, which is saying a lot. At the time I just assumed I was getting snooty about my ice cream, since we have some really great – if pricey – local homemade options around here.
I suppose there is some satisfaction in knowing that it’s not me.
On the plus side, the cilantro was only two bucks a bunch. Too bad it was covered in measles. I was going to use it in a recipe, but opted to change my meal plan instead.
Growing-things are not exempt. Bananas are the color of limes, and instead of ripening after a few days they just turn to chalky mush. Avocados go from granite to brown pulp in a matter of days.
Grapes, in spite of being half-brown and mushy are still $8 a pound.
I remember back in Holmdel in the local market there, they had a shelf in the back for stuff that was borderline inedible, like crinkly bell peppers or overripe bananas or squishy potatoes. But if you were cooking or baking and didn’t care too much, you could pick them up for pennies.
These days that’s the entire produce section.
I used to go the the Farmers Market and think hm, do I really want to spend $10 on a bag of spinach? Now I go to the Farmers Market and I think how do they even sell this stuff so cheap?
At least it’s fresh. And nobody would have the cojones to put anything on their table that isn’t spotless.
Farmers with mushy, bruised strawberries make jam. Grocery stores sell them for $6 a pint.
I was going to say it makes me speechless, but that isn’t true, because I spend every shopping trip talking to myself like a lunatic. The number of times I pick up a package of mozzarella, look at the price, and say, Are you kidding me?! would make my father proud.
It’s a bit early for New Year’s resolutions but I think I am going to make one anyway. I am going to work on eating locally and seasonally. That’s going to put a crimp in my guacamole game, but I’d rather eat food that I know is fresh, that I know is grown sustainably, that I know is benefitting some local family, and pay accordingly for that, than pay the outrageous prices for whatever passes for food at the supermarket these days.
It won’t be a perfect effort. I need limes for my cocktails, and as far as I know nobody in Tennessee is growing any. But at a buck per dried out husk of a golf ball, those aren’t doing me any favors, either.
It’ll be a challenge and I’ll have to opt out of some recipes. But strawberry season will come again, and watermelons will be back. The corn truck will show up and the guy with the ginger as tall as me will be there next spring. In the meantime there are still lots of greens and root vegetables, canned tomatoes and fresh nut butters. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The next time you’re at the supermarket and you see some crazy woman muttering to herself about the price of grapes, hopefully that will not be me.
Bonus: please enjoy this video that Ralph found today.
Photo: now that is what produce should look like.