So Lent’s over. Miraculously, you survived seven long weeks of self-induced deprivation of your favorite indulgence. Now that the season of abstinence is behind us, it’s time to loosen the reins a little bit. We are human after all, and though convenience foods aren’t necessarily good for us, they are devilishly efficient, and time is money!
Here’s a survey of our convenience food obsessions. Hey, no judging!
Nothing spells heartwarming, soul-touching food like a bowl of homemade soup. But when you’re miserably holed up in the office, and the weather doesn’t lend itself to dining out, what are your microwaveable options? You can buy a can (or equally, a pouch) of sodium-packed potage in flavors as varied as tomato and basil, parsnip and apple, Italian wedding, and chicken vermicelli. Hoard some pretzels, and you’ve got yourself a real meal deal.
Have you made friends yet with Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker? They’re the best pastry chefs around, all thanks to their fabulous baking mixes. Simply add water, eggs, and butter or cooking oil, whisk, pour into a mold, and observe your cake (or cupcakes, muffins, brownies, bars – you name it!) transform into edible form. Nestle Tollhouse boasts ready-to-bake cookie dough with gourmet ingredients like white chocolate and macadamia. No more mediocre English Cake for you!
You think you’re above processed cheese? What? Haven’t you ever noshed on a kaakeh slathered with Picon? How about a doughy bagel smeared with cream cheese? In today’s impossibly fast-paced world, we’re all guilty of gorging on processed cheese, much to the chagrin of the French. Tant pis. Don’t tell them about Kraft Easy Cheese, they might just hurl! Picture liquefied Cheddar cheese spewing out of a small pressurized can and onto your favorite cracker, biscuit, or even bread bun. The stuff is incredible and efficient, and the best part is no refrigeration is required.
Salads in Lebanon are usually dressed in the holy trinity of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. But wouldn’t you just love to be sacrilegious and brandish a bottle of Ranch or Italian Vinaigrette? After all, who’s got the time and patience to peel and mash their own cloves of garlic? There are several varieties of ready-to-pour salad dressings that can be found in almost every grocery store. Some epiceries even carry the spritzer type where you can spray the sauce directly over your salad. Refreshing!
Now here’s one that won’t flog the conscience. How many times have you shrank away from buying fresh veggies because of the potential effort involved in their washing and preparation? With Lebanon’s seemingly scarce water supply, cleaning your own veggies is borderline sinful. Many countries abroad, particularly France, the UK, and the US, sell prewashed, pre-cut, and ready-to-eat carrots, spinach, lettuce and the like. Several brands in Lebanon are catching on, too. Who’s spotted the cupped carrot sticks with lemon juice for dipping?
Danielle was born into a Lebanese household in Southern California. Growing up, she constantly found herself living between two realities: outwardly, she was an American girl who loved swinging on the monkey bars and reading The Baby-Sitters Club. Inwardly, she was Lebanese, speaking Arabic at home and forbidden from attending sleepover parties.
With age comes awareness and self-confidence, and Danielle learned to embrace these differences. She accepted that she'd forever be suspended between two worlds, and that she'd be like a tapestry, one culture woven into the other. As she grew older and worldlier, Danielle promised herself she would one day settle in Lebanon.
And here she is. Three college degrees and a few consulting gigs later, she is now in her parents’ homeland, working in strategy management, fleshing out her blog Beirutista, and contributing to Bitfood. Danielle gets her hair coiffed several times a week, like any proper Lebanese girl, and she loves the traditional mezze. But she still prefers peanut butter to Nutella. And her American accent is unmistakable.