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Throwback Thmid-Thmarch: Desperation Dinners

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NOTES: This column originally appeared on April 23, 2004. Let's celebrate my return to semi-regular Forkbastard posting with an early food-based rant. Fun fact - the Desperation Dinners column still exists, and has a blog. The most recent item on that blog mentions that salsa can be used for more than chip-dipping. You can even put it on chicken. And then it gives a salsa recipe that involves putting cilantro, lime juice, a garlic clove, and a can of Mexican stewed tomatoes in a blender. So fuck them.

Memo to Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross: YOU ARE DUMB.

Or you think we are. Or you know we are. Or your editor at United Features Syndicate is. Or some combination of all four. Maybe we could just have everyone involved in any way with the article I'm about to describe congregate in a meeting room of some kind. Or, even better, a small, secluded cabin in the woods. A nice, peaceful retreat. That explodes or collapses or something once everyone's inside.

Apparently, Mills and Ross are the masterminds behind "Desperation Dinners", some kind of regular column. And website. It provides "helpful" "tips" for "time-strapped" "families" who want to "eat" "together" in "healthy" and "flavorful" "ways" on a "budget". And their tips get syndicated, and get sent to newspapers, and get put up on newspapers' web pages, where I read them. And that's when my walls get peppered with brain meats and skull shrapnel.

Because I just read an entire thirteen-paragraph article explaining how families can have the convenience of convenience foods without the price. By making their own convenience foods at home. Which in and of itself is problematic, because if you're spending time and energy and dirtying dishes in order to make convenience foods, that pretty much eliminates the convenience and turns them into FOODS.

But then the article gets weird. I mean, I've been writing stuff, for pay and for free, for a long time. I learned how to pad and bullshit early in my academic career, and it's served me well ever since. Hell, the first three paragraphs of yesterday's YAD were, in some ways, the culmination of over two decades of practice in the fine art of Padding With Bullshit.

But not even in my most jaded moments would I have had the gall to produce something as vapid and space-filling as this convenience food article. In the padding world, I am a concrete floor, and this article is the forty stacked mattresses a princess sleeps on. SANS PEA.

The article provides DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS on how to create home versions of: pre-shredded cheese, baby carrots, pre-cut celery sticks, pre-separated broccoli florets, pre-sliced bell pepper strips, pre-chopped onions, pre-chopped ginger, and pre-sliced mushrooms. You may begin to see where this is going.

For every single one of these items, the instructions are to perform the action that turns them from an inconvenience food into a convenience food, then put the result into a plastic bag, then put that plastic bag into your refrigerator or freezer. ALL EIGHT. The only thing that isn't 100% obvious in the entire article is that baby carrots can be simulated by taking large carrots and cutting them until they are small. That's only 98% obvious.

This is worse than the ranch powder thing. Who is the target audience for these? How many people are out there thinking that elves use shrink-rays and magical slicing powers to take vegetables, separate them into their component parts, and place those parts in plastic bags picked from the magical petroleum tree? If you need to be told by the newspaper that to create bagged celery sticks, you first cut celery into sticks, then place the sticks in the bag, then you CANNOT BE HELPED, because you are probably using the newspaper to shit on.

These people have put out TWO COOKBOOKS. Probably with big fonts and wide margins to up the page count. I know that's what I did in high school when I didn't have jack shit to say. But then, my history class was somewhat different than the Desperation Dinners website. I could not get away, as they have, with an entire article that boils down to "SPICE BLENDS ARE DIFFERENT SPICES BLENDED TOGETHER. WOW!", or "SALAD COMES IN A BAG NOW, WOW, WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE!".

They have to be evil. They have to know. Because in my mind, the kind of person who could write "Grilling out? Check out the myriad of new rubs and other seasonings for steaks and chops. They usually contain black pepper with various other spices thrown in for good measure." with a straight face, yet NOT be a conscience-free, money-grubbing loafer out to scam the entire world, would try to eat the keyboard halfway through the third word.

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