Easy, tasty and mostly made-from-scratch adolescent, half-baked mac 'n cheese
alternate blog title: Time for the dead Rombauers to roll over in their graves.
Ed Note: Would upload a picture of Joy personified here, but alas -- legal jumbo mumbo on part of Bellisino Foods, so check out their Web site at www.letjoyin.com for some laughs and then some tears...
I never knew there was Joy behind Joy of Cooking in my decade of owning this now well-dog-earred book (yes, the '97 edition that raised much stink with "original Joy" loyalists); and for a name whose biggest scandal for its last 75+ years of existence was having an edition being ghostwritten by expert chefs (but was still nonetheless very accessible and straightforward), I thought it'd be immune Gustav-style name selling and licensing to mass-market products.
Oh how wrong was I, for now we have another personified, stereotyped, consumer-friendly American image to join the ranks of Betty Crocker, Brawny Man, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth (though I found it hilarious when the last few got parodied on SNL and wound up in car insurance commercials... oh, even corporate images have their A to D-Lists too.) Of course, no big surprise that "Joy" resembled a circa mid-20th-century housewife with perfect hair, flawless makeup and, the biggest shocker, clean apron (with a monogrammed J).
So yes, the bestselling cookbook and brand that encouraged and empowered home cooks everywhere that they can do it all, from everyday meals to elegant entertaining, in their very own kitchens is now telling now tweaking their message for the fast-paced, nostalgic-hungry 21st century demographic: forget about it and take a shortcut with our freezer products. Or, as they coined it, "Let Joy In." (Sidenote: so now that Bellisino Foods, who got the "Joy" license, has a grandmotherly figure in Michelina's and is cornering the 30s-40s market with Joy -- who are they aiming for next? the kids with 5-year-old Chef Julian products?)
If you thought Semi-Homemade or 30-Minute Meals were awful in their way of shortcutting their food, wait till you see the "Make It Your Own!" ideas from these people: you can make "Fresh Tomato Florentine" by using their creamy chicken florentine entree and throwing in an extra half cup of cherry tomatoes or "Easy Chicken Pot Pie" by using their roasted herb chicken entree thickened with a little cornstarch and cover it with a store-bought pie crust. Amazing!
I guess what I find most abhorrent of all is that this flies in the face of everything joyful about cooking. Who really takes pride in preparing a meal straight from a freezer to skillet/oven with just a few fresh touches as an illusion garnish? And who are the marketers fooling by claiming that these foods are wholesome and healthy? (compared to other frozen entrees they're not as bad, but a cup of that florentine will still weigh in a hefty 35% of daily requirement in sodium AND saturated fat... and that's on the lofty presumption that a person will eat only one cup of pasta and nothing else for that meal.)
I understand the brand's stand-point of trying to bridge an unhealthy fast or frozen meal and a wholesome but potentially-time-consuming one, but I don't see the Joy of Cooking frozen line as a good middle ground -- it wreaks of Sandra Lee minus the tablescapes and "cocktails." Heck, I'd even advocate following Rachael Ray's show -- at least she makes more use out of fresh ingredients and you'll be whipping out the meal in about the same amount of time. Or, better yet, read up on a few cookbooks, even the now-tarnished Joy of Cooking, watch a few online videos, surf some sites, experiment in the kitchen and rediscover meals that are truly healthy, easy and, dare I say, joyful.
Ed Note 2: Thanks to Eat Me Daily blog (and LATimes Daily Dish for linking to it) for bringing this to my attention.