Food and drink: In a parallel universe of instant food 

An eternally young guide to Kraft Dinner alternatives

This time of year I think of all the young ’uns, the hipsters, the pirate pranksters, the 20-something-year-old men and women flocking to Whistler to deliver the Thai tapas and the Coopers’ Sparkling to crowded tables, to safely dock nylon-cased bums on lift chairs, to spangle nails, change sheets, build subs, buff whatevers and generally grease the resort wheels the way only young people can. And will.

At the same time, I think of all the Top Ramen noodle packages and K. D. boxes (that’s Kraft Dinner, for the uninitiated) flying off grocery shelves.

Now, you don’t have to be young and single to need some quick and doable dinner ideas. But after years of going to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design… oops, I mean Emily Carr University , and slogging though classes where we do actually talk about food, and art — cultural theory, you know, plus all those still life painters, performance artists and multi-media folks who put food through its iconic cultural paces — I know one thing: 20-somethings constitute the biggest demographic looking for ways to cook at home that satisfy these basic criteria:

• Tastes good.

• Fast to make.

• Fun to make.

• Cheap and easy to buy — as in, you don’t have to visit nine obscure gourmet shops.

• Leaves two dishes for clean-up that your dog could do (well, of course you sloosh it with soapy water after).

• Kind of good for the environment, or at least doesn’t totally wreck it, and supports their political ideology, if it’s convenient.

First off, I guess it would break many a poor little no-logo heart to learn that Kraft is one of the biggest food logos in the world. It sells 59 different brand names at US$37 billion a year, plus it enjoys an almost unheard of market saturation — 99 per cent of U.S. homes contain at least one product made by Kraft.

Canadian homes likely follow suit — they just don’t do that kind of market research here. Or if they do, they don’t report it. Got some A-1 Sauce, Nabisco crackers or Jell-O in your house? Yep, it’s all Kraft.

As for the instant ramen noodle industry, it’s exploded like a… I was going to say like a listeria outbreak in modern times, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? So let’s just say it has exploded like dehydrated noodles in a cup of boiling water with a profusion of brands and varieties — picante beef ramen, anyone?


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