I just about choked on my food when I heard the comment. If they only knew.
The season-opening meeting of our small group included a “breakfast for supper” meal ahead of the discussion. With about twenty members, the group had outgrown “small” status, so everyone would bring something, sharing the meal prep load. We signed up for pancake toppings, which our host said should include syrup, whipped cream, and blueberries.
Whipped cream? To me that sounded more like dessert for dinner, but I went with it. I picked up bottles of sugar free syrup and a can of aerosol whipped cream. Who knew whipped cream had gotten so expensive? Since I’ve had blueberry syrup on pancakes at restaurants before, I scanned the breakfast shelves for some of that. I couldn’t find anything other than maple flavored. Where could I find some kind of blueberry sauce?
Maybe I could find something in the ice cream aisle. If not that, then strawberry, right? Nothing but fudge and caramel. Great toppings, but not for this event.
I know. Blueberry pie filling. I made my way to the baking aisle. There it was. Perfect. I didn’t think many would choose that as a topping, but it was the cheapest one of my items.
When we arrived at the meeting home, the hosts quickly took my bags of toppings and set them out on a serving table not far from a mountain of plate-sized pancakes. A warm pan of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and fruit salad were all lined up and ready to go. I passed over the pancakes that night, opting for all the rest plus a second helping of biscuits. I was astounded at how much food some piled on their plates. I watched as several loaded up a few pancakes with syrup, blueberries, and whipped cream. The food was great and we all got to know each other a little better.
From the end of the table, I smirked at the comment, “These blueberries are delicious! I wonder who made these? I need this recipe.” I put on my best poker face and said nothing. I don’t know what it is, but something in that can full of processed blueberries made them delicious. I’m sure it was the sugar.
In that moment I recalled a soup supper from years ago at our church. Each week in the spring, families took turns bringing in their favorite soup recipes along with bread and butter before we gathered for some Wednesday worship. One week Erwin brought what he labeled his “famous” chili. It was really good chili. But it tasted familiar. Sure enough, as I helped clean up, I noticed numerous Hormel chili cans in the trash can. I chuckled and thought about how unrefined our palates really are. Bring some processed food with lots of salt and additives and everyone will praise your cooking!
We used to call them “cardboard” cookies. They were cheap store-brand cream-filled sandwich cookies, chocolate on one side and vanilla on the other. They really weren’t that good, yet we went through giant packages every week. It’s embarrassing to admit how many times I reached for a few of those over some homemade cookies. In the same vein, a package of Little Debbies snack cakes will disappear in no time, regardless of who you’re feeding.
I’ve tried some copycat recipes over the years. Glazed lemon cake from Starbucks. Chicken Marsala from Olive Garden. New York style pizza crust. Biscuits from scratch. Homemade ice cream. It’s never quite the same. I don’t know if it’s my ingredients, my oven, my lack of culinary skills or a lack of additives, but theirs is always better than mine.
There are a few things we make better than the store bought versions. My wife’s homemade pie crust is so much better than most of what we find at grocery stores or bakeries. Her cheesecakes taste as good as any we’ve ordered at restaurants. We’ve tried ceviche at several restaurants, but prefer mine, since I can include all the ingredients we prefer. It’s nearly impossible to beat homemade chocolate chip cookies. And we also prefer home-brewed coffee to most we find at coffee shops and restaurants. (We like it very strong and dark.)
Someone figured out that if you add enough fat, sugar, and salt to just about anything, people will keep coming back for more. They may even rave about your recipe!