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
, 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
• 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
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?
One of the top brands, prophetically
named Top Ramen, is made by Nissen. Their first instant ramen, “chikin ramen”
to be precise, hit Japanese markets in 1958 at a price six times higher than
the fresh udon noodles most people bought. Then it was considered a luxury
food, which puts things in perspective if you’re deconstructing current
Today, Nissen produces a variety of
instant products, with some 22,000 employees in 29 plants around the world
tuning up sales of more than US$3.2 billion each year.
Not to break up any Kraft/ramen
noodle monocultures, or get too far out of the package, but here are two renegade
— read, unbranded — ideas that can add to your own fast-food
A STACK OF CAKES FOR SUPPER… Pancakes
at the end of a cool day’s play are hot. These favourites ride on the added
glory of oatmeal.
Mix together 3/4 c. of oatmeal and 1
c. of milk in a small bowl. Set aside until all the milk is absorbed. If you
want to hurry it up, nuke it on low for a bit. In a separate bowl mix together
3/4 c. flour, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and a
pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or ?
To the oatmeal/milk concoction add 1
egg and 2 tbsp. oil (canola or something like that). Beat together. Sloop that
into the flour mixture and mix it all together until smooth. Glob spoonfuls
onto a hot, greased frying pan or griddle. I go for medium-low heat. If you
don’t know a hot pan when you see one, flick on a drop of water. If it beads
up, it’s ready for batter. When bubbles break on the surface, flip the pancakes
over until the other side is cooked. This makes enough for two people, or one
very hungry one.
Gussy them up by serving with syrup,
sliced apples, ice cream, fried eggs, bacon, or all of the above. The thing
about making these, or any dish, is to make them yours and make them fun. Make
weird shapes. Try adding raisins, peanut butter or cheese to the batter and see
what happens. I bet most people get turned off of cooking, even the simplest
things, when it feels regimented.
EASY CARE OMELETTES… Pretty much
every young pup makes their own invention of scrambled eggs mixed with whatever
— cheese, bacon, mushrooms — in one pan. It’s a great fast meal,
but here’s to busting one big egg myth: omelettes are just as easy.
First, you don’t need a special
omelette pan, but you do need one with a smallish bottom and sides that curve
up from it in one swell foop. Heat it (try medium high) till it’s hot (see
above). In the meantime, with a fork,
an egg beater, beat 2 eggs with a drizzle of cold water (1 tbsp.) and salt and
pepper, and/or spices or herbs you like.
Add a pat of butter (about a
tablespoon) to the pan and swirl it continuously so it doesn’t burn. Pour in
the eggs, fast. Watch for bubbles — the more bubbles the puffier the
omelette. Once the outer edges set, quickly draw them towards the centre of the
pan, tilting it to swirl the uncooked egg to the outside edges. While the top
is still moist add anything you like — grated cheese, salsa, ham, jam,
broccoli, whatever. It doesn’t take much.
If you’re right-handed turn the
handle of the pan toward you and fill the left side. Flip the right side over
the left, then flip the whole omelette upside down onto your plate. If you
can’t be bothered to remember this last part, who cares.
The main secrets are a hot pan, using
water not milk (water steams and makes it light), and don’t overcook it: if
it’s a bit moist that’s good. Voilà! — a super meal, cooked faster than
you can boil ramen water, that will impress a date or even a visiting mom or
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning
freelance writer who ate a lot of fast-food home-food when she was working on
her new web site: www.glendabartosh.ca.