Late last year a somewhat unique cookbook came on the radar titled, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods; a cookbook that was a mouthful, both in title as well as offering. The conceit of the book was to provide a sort of division of labor for the home cook. There is not much of a practical reason to make your own mayonnaise, but canning your own heirloom tomatoes…positively. Much of the book focuses on fairly straightforward items and recipes, and not the arcane desirables of the artisanal food world. Recipes for hot dog buns, bagels, potato chips and guacamole fills the pages: the kind of stuff you would find and routinely buy at a chain grocery store. In addition, there were quite a few recipes for homemade junk food items, albeit made with more wholesome and healthy ingredients.
For anyone who has tried their hand at homemade junk food items (a show of hands please?) you know that the most industrialized of foods is often exceptionally challenging to recreate at home. This goes for things like Oreos, Cheetos, and even ketchup (it can be done, but results vary). There was a book that endeavored to give home cooks a taste of that junky pleasure without all of the artificial ingredients, trans fats, and preservatives (and that obligatory trip to the corner store) called The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook. The idea wasn’t so much replicate the entire Hostess Snack Cake cannon, but make junk food-inspired recipes with healthy ingredients; Kind of like building a fascist dictatorship with cuddly kittens in place of bloodthirsty despots.
Recently, because of the bankruptcy filing of the Hostess Corporation (the company that brought you the Twinkie, the Ho-Ho, and Wonder Bread) people like New York Times writer Jennifer Steinhauer have decided to move beyond the grab-and-go mentality and start producing some junk food favorites at home (or at least in the NYT test kitchen). Steinhauer documents her trials and travails in a recent NYT piece titled, “It’s Not Junk If I Made It.” She started with the iconic Twinkie, which requires something called a “canoe pan” and cream injectors, not to mention several ingredients and the ability to make a 7-minute cream filling. Her results were successful, with a few backfires (the cream, after sitting, began to be absorbed into the cake). Steinhauer then tries her hand at Oreos (middling success) and then Fritos (tasty, but not quite the real thing). The moral of the story – while you can emulate the junkiest of the junk, and do such with more wholesome ingredients, you can’t actually recreate the magic of the industrialized junk food machinery.
Do you hold any interest in making your own junk food? I am not talking about those easily translatable treat food staples like chilidogs and smores, but things like Doritos, Ding-Dongs, and Mountain Dew? Is it worth the effort, or are these foods to be avoided at all costs, no matter where they come from?