Withering Glance: Growing up non-artisanal

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2012 - 4:55 PM

Photo: Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

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Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: When it came to mustard, my childhood was so non-artisanal. Plochman's was the mass-produced bright-yellow slop we squeezed out of a plastic barrel onto hot dogs. How did we do it, Rick?

RN: Beats me. In the summer we cooled off with those small envelopes of Kool-Aid, which, when mixed with a pitcher of water and, yes, an entire cup of granulated sugar, produced a beverage in a color unknown to Mother Nature. All over these great United States of ours, dentists' income skyrocketed.

CP: My siblings and I kept the dental fraternity in country clubs, for sure. An annual checkup wasn't complete without "more bad news." The upside was we'd get to go to a diner in Evanston afterward for a green river -- sucrose and soda.

RN: Today's equivalent -- except that it's delicious, of course -- would be an all-natural blackberry-pomegranate-ginger soda from Joia. In fact, I want one right now.

CP: I didn't start drinking coffee until I was 9, but it was not shade-grown on family fincas in Guatemala, then small-batch roasted hours before sale. More like a big can of Maxwell House that had sat on a shelf at the A&P for years.

RN: I always likened it to brown sawdust.

CP: Do you think today's young'uns are demonstrably better off, foodwise, with the mania for gluten-free, free-range and guilt-laden?

RN: Yes, and no. For a certain segment of the parenting populace, if it doesn't come from the co-op or out of a CSA box, their precious fawns don't eat it. But I suspect that far more Americans grow up thinking dinner automatically includes a SpongeBob SquarePants toy.

CP: You must try the SquarePants mac-and-cheese. To die for.

RN: I'm fairly certain I consumed a peanut butter-and-Welch's sandwich every day of my six-year tenure at Palmer Lake Elementary School, and did it with a smile on my face. I feel for all the kids afflicted with peanut allergies, because although it tastes like ground peanut shells and sugar to me today, I happily grew up on Skippy Super Chunk.

CP: And nowadays, the shame one feels upon choosing that brand over the jar produced with the tiniest of carbon footprints by a small cooperative in rural Georgia.

RN: Yes, choosy mothers choose organic. I don't know if "admire" is the right word here, but I do feel something for the marketers who have abducted the word "artisanal," pasting it on Starbucks breakfast sandwiches, Freschetta frozen flatbread pizzas and other opposite-of-small-batch foods.

CP: That would be like us trying to pass this thing off as Artisanal Glance.

RN: Works for me. One lovingly hand-crafted column at a time -- and available at a farmers market near you.

Email: witheringglance@startribune.com Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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