The boxed brownie debate

October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."

I'm normally a die-hard from scratch kind of cook, but as much as I love homemade brownies, my husband prefers the boxed version. This got me thinking about pre-fab foods and why we may love them.

Is it convenience? Is it the MSG and other addictive additives, or something else?

I personally like Stove Top stuffing. I actually make a pretty darn good homemade bread stuffing, my grandmother used to make oyster stuffing and my father in law has historically brought great stuffing on Thanksgiving from the now-closed Alpine Village in Mequon but for whatever reason, my preference is chicken-flavored Stove Top (I don't care for the turkey version).

In my case, it probably has something to do with the tasty artificial ingredients that are undoubtedly terrible for me.

With the boxed brownies, I think Scott actually prefers that kind of crunchy dryness you get with boxed brownies versus the moistness of a homemade pan of from-scratch brownies.

You can purchase just about everything one would normally make from scratch in pre-made form these days. I suppose this is in part why Sandra Lee of the Food Network (a Wisconsin native, by the way) has claimed fame through a show called "Semi-Homemade" -- a show where she cheats her way into high quality dinners by using some homemade, some pre-made ingredients.

Is it really cheating anymore these days when so many people don't even bother to cook? Shortly after watching Sandra put out a giant spread with multiple store-bought ingredients, I watched as Guy Fieri made his own pita bread on "Guy's Big Bite" and thought that I would never do that since he could only bake them two at a time. It would take me several hours to make enough to entertain company.

So, maybe it's a combination of taste, convenience, and affordability. After all, a bag of flour, some yeast and oil is a fraction of the cost of a couple Boboli pizza crusts, but there's something attractive about purchasing the crust already made, seasoned and ready to be spread with ingredients instead of having to wait around for 20 minutes while your homemade pizza dough rises.

And the semi-homemade crust never sticks to the pan. Does it taste better? Not to me, but I guess everyone has to draw their own lines when it comes to what they'll do with, or do without when it comes to making things "from scratch."


bobh8892 | Nov. 1, 2010 at 7:16 a.m. (report)

Cook's Illustrated had a nice write up within the past year or so about why boxed ends up tasting so much better. It's worth seeking out (sorry that I do not remember the full citation off the top of my head).

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