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Eating Fast

April 22, 2015

There’s some good news on the food additives front. Kraft has finally agreed to ditch the yellow #5 from its “original” formulation starting in January 2016.

Not everyone is convinced that this is good news. The Science Babe is becoming the thing she has fought against. Yvette is casting doubts that Kraft can remove the color without changing the flavor and suggests that those who were complaining about the inclusion of artificial dyes may not buy the reformulated product.

Well, as someone who has complained about yellow #5, I’m thrilled. We had walked away from Kraft macaroni and cheese which was always one of my guilty pleasures. At this point, my only concern is that my children may have developed a stronger brand association with the Trader Joe’s stuff making the transition back to “The Original” trickier than anticipated.

Better fast food is the big theme today, because I’ve got a confession to make.

I appear to have stopped cooking and instead have switched my family over to a diet rich in convenience foods and visits to fast food restaurants. It’s amazing how quickly that can happen, even for those families who truly value made from scratch meals and civilized family time around the dinner table.

Mrs. Fussy has been traveling for work, and I’ve been more involved with Yelp responsibilities in the evenings. So last Thursday when I was at Tavern Time, the kids were eating macaroni and cheese from a box with the babysitter. On Friday when we normally have roast chicken, with Mrs. Fussy away I wanted to give the kids a special treat. So I told them they could have whatever they wanted to make the dinner special.

They wanted happy meals. So happy meals they got. Me? I went with good cheese, bread, and wine.

I have no idea what the kids ate on Saturday night because I was out enjoying a post Hudson Valley Hops night on the town. Sunday was McDonald’s again as we had to eat quickly on the road, returning from a quick day trip to Long Island. Monday was pizza at I Love on Union Street. Tuesday was Taco Bell at the mall.

At least on Sunday we got a great lunch of soup dumplings and scallion pancakes in while passing through Queens.

Look, I could make excuses. But the bottom line is that sometimes people just get busy. There are plenty of folks out in the world who demonize our fast food culture. And I understand the argument. But our food culture is tied into the wider culture of our society. Sure, you can choose to disconnect from all of it. but that’s not terribly realistic.

I think the trick is to try and make the best choices you can within the constraints of daily life.

Sometimes you just aren’t going to be able to even reheat that wholesome meal you’ve got portioned out in the chest freezer. There just isn’t time. And I think occasionally, it’s okay to let it go. This stretch of intense business is a good reminder of the stress most families face.

While I may advocate for eating better food, I’ve said time and time again, that I’m not a monk. I exist within our world. And that means I’m sometimes going to eat at McDonald’s. The trick is that if you are going to go out for a treat, you should find a way to enjoy it. And as unlikely as it may sound for someone who cares about how beef is raised and slaughtered to enjoy a McDonald’s burger, I chronicled an illuminating experience with a Big Mac recently.

Soon, I’ll have a chance to preview one of the newest offerings from the fast food burger maker.

All of this makes me hungry for more place like 9 Miles East that are focused on taking great ingredients and putting them into convenient ready-to-eat forms. But really, more than anything else, I’m hungry for one of my homemade dinners. Maybe tonight I can bang out a Cuban black beans and rice for old time’s sake.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2015 10:03 am

    And all this time, I thought you were invincible!!!

    I am up at 4 am every day. There are many days I am at work from 7am until 10 pm or later. Good intentions of leaving by 6:30. . . never come to be. At 10pm, my food choices are very limited and I am starving. Sure, I could have packed some good stuff to bring with me (who has time for that at 4am). And, leftovers? Although I LOVE to cook, I rarely get to do it at home these days.

    As I hit the road from Saratoga to Albany to mentally unwind . . there is this Wendy’s around the corner that calls out to me. There is also a McDonalds around the corner but I have selected Wendy’s as my ‘fast food go to’ for some odd reason that I have convinced myself it is healthier. It goes way back . . like 15 years ago, I compared the fat and calores of a Jr Cheeseburger Deluxe (with no mayo) to a Quarter Pounder (yes, that’s how I do math). The Jr. Cheeseburger deluxe is mostly lettuce in a bun and somewhere . . .inside is a hidden gem of meat. I just pray, on those random nights, that nobody sees my SUV in the drive-through.

    Sometime, my friends and family scold me. . YOU, of all people!! How can you eat there (beause I constantly scold them about their AppleBee’s, Fridays, and what not). How can I eat there? How can I not? My schedule is beyond vigorous – and I have all I can do to get myself home and collapse. But, even at home, I have to do payroll and order supplies, research new products, homework homework homework. So, yes – I am with you. It happens. It will happen . . and I am ok with it, under the circumstances.

    I have a few random guilty pleasures. Yes, I love Cheez-Its. Especially the burnt ones (I have convinced msyelf they are ok, because they contain real cheese). And those cheese sticks from Scubbers on Wolf Road – I will eat them until my arteries clog.

    But overall, the good outweighs the bad. I have a great appreciation for good food, quailtiy food and non contaminated food. That does not mean that I don’t act out of desperation at times, or that the ‘other food’ does not satisfy a craving.

    Mac and Cheese, out of a box? I just can’t get on board with that one. . .yellow #5 or not :)

  2. April 22, 2015 10:20 am

    Even though my daughter is 20 now, the orange stuff (known as “mac n’ skeeze” in our house) is still a guilty pleasure that gets served every once in a while (especially good mixed with slices of almost overdone toaster-oven cooked kosher hotdogs!). Every once in a while Annie’s white cheddar mac & cheese will make a slightly less neon-colored appearance – I’m glad Kraft is taking out the dye…then I can pretend it’s healthy.

  3. April 22, 2015 10:32 am

    If even you will eat junk every once in a while, that should make the rest of us feel better. (God knows that in the past few months especially, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of McDonald’s, pizza and crappy Chinese takeout.)

  4. April 22, 2015 11:29 am

    The new formula also does away with preservatives in addition to artificial colors.

    Here’s the press release:–cheese-to-remove-synthetic-colors-and-artificial-preservatives-in-the-us-in-2016-300068396.html

    Kraft has already changed the formulation of the “boxed shapes” as they call them. The shapes use the new formula. I eat it, because my daughter loves the shapes. I can taste the difference. It’s not the same as the classic and it’s not as good, though the pasta shapes may have a lot to do with that. I plan on doing a head to head comparison on my blog soon, using the new cheese packet with the classic elbows… stay tuned.

    But I’m not happy. Kraft classic mac-n-cheese is damn tasty. It’s insanely popular for a reason. And it will be gone soon. Gone forever.

    • April 22, 2015 11:43 am

      Just make sure that when you do the head to head comparison, you weigh all the ingredients out on a digital scale. The kids shapes have less pasta and cheese powder. The amount of elbows you use will need to be reduced (as well as the quantity of butter and milk) to have a true side-by-side comparison.

      We tried the kids shapes and bailed on them because the shapes never cooked right, and didn’t hold the cheese sauce as well. We blame the dip in satisfaction not on the changes to the powder packet, but on the form-factor.

      I’ll be curious to read your results.

  5. April 22, 2015 2:59 pm

    While I’ve always subscribed to “everything in moderation,” I don’t believe I’ve ever knowingly had Mac & Cheese from a box.

  6. Jack C permalink
    April 22, 2015 4:03 pm

    Why the opposition to yellow #5?

    • April 23, 2015 9:40 am


      • Jack C. permalink
        April 23, 2015 11:43 am

        I don’t know… it just doesn’t seem settled to me. I’m all for companies removing products voluntarily, if they believe inclusion is hurting their market share. I just know there are loads and loads of reports documenting that the link between tartrazine and hyperactivity is incredibly weak and potentially present only in those predisposed to hyperactivity in the first place (but there may still be a link). Like I said, I don’t have a problem with Kraft taking it out – I’m just always curious about why very smart people take opposing sides on the same issue.

      • April 23, 2015 11:50 am

        Settled? No, you are right. But if I have the choice to feed it to my kids or not, I’m going to choose the products without it. There’s enough evidence for me to go that far. I’m not signing any petitions to have it banned. I’m just not buying it.

      • Jack C. permalink
        April 23, 2015 11:45 am

        Also, the Brits and the FDA have very different approaches to this:

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