A few months ago, when I interviewed my favorite food blogger, Molly Wizenberg, for a profile article, there was this one thing I really wanted to know: Did she have any culinary guilty pleasures? Did she, who always writes so wholesomely, enjoy a bowl of Kraft Dinner or some instant noodles once in a while? Does she have a secret love for processed foods? Because certainly do.
Molly wrote me: "Oooh boy. I love peanut butter. I also love Hershey's chocolate syrup (on vanilla ice cream, preferably), gummy candies, and sour gummy candies. When I was a kid, my dad always made macaroni and cheese with Velveeta, and I loved it. I bet I still would today."
I was a relieved, frankly. I don’t have to justify my likes and dislikes. It’s just that for someone who cares about food so much, I have a disproportionate passion for No Name frozen perogies and fried bologna with cheese.
But I know that good food writers aren’t ashamed of their own secret cupboard affaires (Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten, for instance, swears by Heinz ketchup on French fries).
At any rate, I suspect everyone, no matter how fancy pants they may be, has a special spot for something completely manufactured, packaged and preserved with ingredients
unpronounceable. Say, something you pour water into and then zap in the microwave. Or hot dog wieners. Or goldfish crackers.
I’m not saying that it’s not junk, because it is. As a whole, processed food is terrible for your gut, terrible for the Earth and probably, at some level, terrible for your soul... But only if you eat too much. Because knowing it’s so awful makes it special. Processed food is like glow bowling. It’s kind of stupid, but really fun on occasion, especially if you’re drunk.
Does that make any sense? I starting writing this last night, over a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup. It was salty, uniform, and exactly what I needed. Then I went out for a shawarma on Crescent street (which, for the record, is not junk food).
Given the nature of this posting, I can’t possibly include a recipe of my own. Unless you want my recipe for tuna casserole using Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. But if you want that recipe, I’m pretty sure it’s written on the can’s label.
Instead, and for everyone’s benefit, I’m posting a soup recipe on behalf of my friend Red. He makes great soups, and every time I ask him how he makes a soup, his recipe is quick and simple. Next time, instead of instant noodles, I should take a few extra minutes and make Red’s soup.
Red’s zucchini soup
4 slices of laughing cow cream cheese
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube
Some olive oil
Chop the zucchini into 1 cm discs, keeping the skin. In a large pot, fry them in olive oil, on low heat for 5 minutes, without burning them. Add crushed garlic clove and a cube of bouillon. Pour some water into the pot so it just covers the zucchini slices. Cook on high heat until they’re soft. Add the cheese.
When it dissolves, puree the soup, adding more water if it’s too thick. Serve.