Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Whipped cream bunnies

I've seen many a big dollop of whipped cream on dessert plates in my decades of food consumption, but don't think I've ever seen a presentation where the whipped cream seemed to take center stage, while the dessert itself was backdrop.

Not only did this whipped cream overshadow the chocolate cake, it was decorated with a face and bunny ears!  And there were three of them having a meeting at our table!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nice try, no cigar

Saw an ad in the Sunday magazine from Walmart, suggesting that you can "save over $1,000 per year when you eat at home."  Was intrigued; read on.

The pitch is to buy stuff at Walmart's grocery instead of eating out, thus allowing you to spend $20 to feed your family of four, instead of $42 in a restaurant.

Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?  Until you see what they have in mind for you to buy at the grocery.  It's not like you're going to actually make food.  Instead you buy a package of ready-to-heat stuffed shells ("Delicious oven-baked taste from the microwave.") for $6.48, a loaf of bread for $2.48, a pack of two servings of tiramisu for $2.67, and a gallon of green tea for $2.78.

Various thoughts come to mind when contemplating this menu.

First, I'm not sure exactly how the pictured food items add up to $20 -- on my calculator they add up to $14.41.  I think you're supposed to buy two packs of stuffed shells, since the Bertolli site says one serving/meal is 10 ounces, and the package shown in the ad is 25 ounces.  If so, that adds up to $20.89.  But let's don't quibble.

Second, is this a decent dinner?  No vegetables except the bit of tomato sauce to separate the cheese from the cheese.  Lots of cheese, not much fiber.  Cheese-on-cheese with a side of bread does not constitute a healthy diet.

Third, how do you divvy up two servings of tiramisu among your family of four?  I guess the kids go without dessert, or maybe there's an arithmetic contest to choose the two lucky eaters.

Fourth, why if you're trying to save money would you spend $2.78 for a gallon of green tea?   How about 50 cents for eight teabags, and an investment of five minutes for the water to boil?   Even better, drink water and buy $2.78 worth of carrots.

Fifth, why would you serve pre-made tea to your children, assuming that's who round out your family of four?  Caffeine is bad for kids (although there isn't all that much in this tea) and so are sugary drinks.  The tea shown in the Walmart ad has 70 calories in an eight-ounce serving, compared to 93 calories in Coke Classic.  (Perhaps this could be the arithmetic contest to dole out the dessert.)

Clearly Walmart is marketing to people who can't cook and don't care about nutrition.  Maybe if those folks bought this dinner they'd end up better off, both financially and nutritionally, than by going to a restaurant.  But not by much.

Walmart has been getting publicity for various efforts to improve nutrition, such as encouraging food manufacturers to reduce sodium, sugar and trans-fat in their products.  (Some observers say the company has ulterior motives, but let's take them at face value.)  Too bad they don't promote a really healthy $20 meal, perhaps one with some produce in it.

In fact, the next time I go to the grocery I may poke around and see what I can come up with for $20.  I bet it will be better than this microwave/plastic extravaganza.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The wilderness begins...

... in the Las Vegas airport.  We arrived at 5 pm with a bit more than two hours to kill before getting our shuttle to Utah.  We walked past some food stands near the gates, but didn't want to leave our suitcases endlessly circling on the baggage claim, so we went through security.  Thus stepping into a virtually food-free zone.

Outside of security, there was a sit-down restaurant, closed.  And a sandwich/deli counter, closed, despite the posted hours of operation.

This being a Wednesday, one might have expected at least 45 more minutes of "service."  But you have to wonder about an airport that has such variable schedules.  Does nobody go anywhere on Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday?

My husband, more desperate than I, tracked down a limp pre-wrapped sandwich at Starbuck's.  But I was undaunted.  After all, I began the vacation with three bags of junk food in my carry-on, for exactly these moments of impending starvation.

By the way, all three of my bags had popped open in flight.  Apparently pressurized cabins aren't all that pressurized.  So I didn't even have to use my teeth to open the bag.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Packing for vacation

This afternoon we're heading off into the wilderness.  Well, maybe not the total absence of civilization, but pretty close: we're off on a tour of the national parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona.

Perhaps you note that the national parks are not open at the moment, thanks to the House of Representatives.  That's true, but the tour is still on, and we will be making our way across the wilds of the Kaiparowitz Plateau, whether the parks admit us or not.  In any case, we need sustenance.

And in our case, that means a couple of bags of junk food and a big plastic bottle of scotch.

The first time we took a cargo ship across an ocean we kind of by accident had a bag of junk food, which came in very handy on the days where the menu included tripe soup and blood sausage.  The second time we took a cargo ship across another ocean we made the cabbie stop on our way to the ship to buy three bags of Cheetos.  Those came in handy too, and by careful husbandry lasted us two-thirds of the way to New Zealand.

We're not planning on as extreme isolation as the middle of the Pacific, but who knows what will await us on the plateau.  So we're taking our own booze and our own junk food.  Just in case we're stranded on the airplane (no meals any more) or on the shuttle bus between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah. Or on a trail during an illicit hike in an officially closed national park.

Maybe our efforts will be laughably unnecessary.  Maybe the meals will be gourmet quality and leave us so happily stuffed that we'll need nothing to carry us through till tomorrow.  Maybe every night our motel will be next door to a magnificent grocery and a state liquor store.  But I wouldn't put money on it.  I will put money on Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn.