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March 16, 2010

Top Ten retro foods we wish would stay in the past

Berger cookieOne day you're passe. The next, retro.

Cocktails. Soft drinks made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Even beef -- the kind raised on old-fashioned grass instead of feedlot corn -- qualifies as comeback cuisine.

The mac-n-cheese might have lobster in it. The grilled cheese could be brioche and brie. Even gentrified classics tap into our food nostalgia, satisfying both outer epicure and inner child.

But sometimes what gets eaten in childhood should stay in childhood.

Which brings us to this week's list: Top Ten retro foods we wish would stay in the past.

1. Pop Rocks

The exploding candy has made a comeback in cocktails and even a tuna entree at Jack's Bistro. I know some people like it. But I'm skeptical -- just like when I heard Mikey from the Life cereal commercial died from ingesting Pop Rocks with soda.

2. Home-canned anything

I love the whole locavore logic behind canning and, honestly, I'd like to try it. But Sara Dickerman in Slate nails what's wrong with this homespun hobby's becoming "ridiculously trendy." She calls it "showy industriousness." "These culinary trophies are emblematic of a project-based food relationship that we urban food junkies are prone to indulge these days: athletic all-weekend bouts of cheesemaking or bacon curing or jam and pickle making are so much more bloggable and boastworthy than making a decent brown-bag lunch five days in a row." And then there's the botulism thing.

3. Cupcakes

I like them fine when they're delicate miniature cakes topped with, say, chocolate-mascarpone frosting. But so often they're dry and adorned with Crisco-based icing, even at high-end bake shops devoted to cupcakes.

4. Berger cookies

I know this is heresy in these parts. But do you want frosting on cookies? A blob of frosting as thick as the cookie itself? Then there's the matter of what goes into them. From the company Web site: "Ingredients: sugar, flour (bleached), water, fudge (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) cocas (natural processed with akali) margarine (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) corn syrup, eggs (FDC yellow 5 & 6) corn starch, milk (non-fat), artificial flavor, salt." Does that sound yummy?

5. Red Dye No. 2

Even if that one's gone for good, a whole bunch of other dated, Day-Glo colors tart up our food supply. I tried to buy pickles the other day at Giant. Every single brand on the shelves contained yellow food coloring. Do I really have to haul all the way over to Whole Foods for a bottle of kosher dills?

6. Tomato aspic

Tomato Jell-O still shows up at holiday potlucks. Why?

7. Regular Jell-O

Calling it the "perfect food for a battered economy," Salon declared last summer that "The jiggle is back." Nothing says wobbly dessert fun like rendered animal parts.

8. Tongue

With more chefs buying whole animals directly from farmers, off cuts of meat are showing up on menus. I know this is immature, but I don't want to taste anything that can taste me back.

9. Green bean casserole

I call it green glop casserole. Who keeps inviting it to Thanksgiving?

10. Whatever those striped heirloom tomatoes were that I grew last summer

The guy who sold me the plants at the farmers' market said they'd be great. True enough for the other varieties I bought from him. But the striped ones were clunkers. We wound up letting them rot on the vine. Maybe some kinds of tomatoes should be allowed to die out.

 

Sun file photo

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:11 AM | | Comments (47)
        

Comments

Good morning spam!

And I'm there with you on about half of this. I know it's not good, but a holiday dinner without Green Bean Casserole just seems wrong. It breaks my brain just to ponder that such a possibility could exist.

Good morning spam!

And I'm there with you on about half of this. I know it's not good, but a holiday dinner without Green Bean Casserole just seems wrong. It breaks my brain just to ponder that such a possibility could exist.

johnharrow, your spam link for various for-profit cooking schools just happens to coincide with the recent publication of this New York Times article on how such schools are huge ripoffs. Which school do you work for?

I've always hated green bean casserole. Now that i have my "own" thanksgiving, NO WAY is that stuff allowed. It looks like a sinus issue.
However, I disagree with the indictment of Berger cookies.. The cookie itself is just a polite way to get your icing fix. You know instead of a spoon and a container.Yes, I've gone that route.

The first time I encountered Berger cookies, I greeted them the same way I would a ten year-old's best baking efforts: with polite enthusiasm, admiration for her spatula skills, and appreciative of her generosity with the icing. But it would never occur to ask for the recipe.

Green bean casserole seems like the last vestige of bomb-shelter cuisine, when you only have on hand canned green beans, canned mushrooms, and canned onions.

As for jello, the rendered animal parts are probably the best part of the product.

Ms. V, obviously you haven't been to one of New York's more popular delis, like the Stage or the Carnegie, over the years. Tongue has always been a staple of numerous sandwiches, paired with corned beef, pastrami, salami and/or Swiss cheese, heaped with cole slaw,slathered with Russian dressing. It's hardly making a comeback when it's never been away.

The green bean casserole: What is up with that? The same thing as sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top? Gross. What's wrong with just green beans and sweet potatoes by themselves? They're both great just on their own.

What's wrong with just green beans and sweet potatoes by themselves? They're both great just on their own.

If you're talking about fresh produce, most certainly.

But I can only guess that the casserole versions arose out of a need to cover up or dress up that the produce in question most likely came out of a can.

potpie, but for the green bean casserole, there would be no place for Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (or any other soup, for that matter) at Thanksgiving.

BOO on Berger Cookies - every time I share them outside the state they are a HUGE hit - the first thing my mom used to ask when I got off the plane (they lived in Nevada) was "Did you bring the Berger Cookies? If not, get back on the plane." Getting rid of Berger Cookies is like saying "HEY Who Needs Old Bay?"

Green bean casserole is a staple at our holiday table. Just like the cranberry sauce that comes out of the can looking like the can.

Since I've left my mother's home, I've learned to appreciate, cook and like fresh veggies, but I'll always have a soft spot for those two items.

Agree on the Bergers. Blech. One bite is too much. I'd much rather have a good bakery chocolate top!

Oh LV, I really wish you didn't ruin Berger Cookies for me. When indulging in a treat like that, its best not to know whats in them. I fear I will never look at them the same way again.

There are a ton of good recipes out there for green bean casserole. In fact, many have been "modernized" to omit the cream of mushroom soup and crispy onion toppings. The same goes for sweet potato casserole. Blah to the marshmallow topping. I use light brown sugar and pecans....so yummy!


Joyce...I'll take a good chocolate top over a Berger cookie too. My fav are from Giant!

While the green bean casserole is not usually part of the Thanksgiving table in my family, it is good ol' comfort food.

But the cranberry sauce that comes out of a can is a staple on our Turkey Day table, along with the real thing. Some in the family just like the canned stuff better.

At our last Thanksgiving dinner, a guest brought a wonderful sweet potato casserole that had pecans, coconut, brown suger - was heavenly!

Of course, she also brought the marshmallow topped version - her husband protested the "modern" version!

Re: #5 -- pickles using yellow dye. I avoid that by home canning my own... oh, wait. I guess that's a food trend that just shouldn't be brought back.

OK, I'll take back the canning comment. LV

Yikes! Can't disagree with you more! My green bean casserole is delicious and Berger cookies are a guilty pleasure. (And if you ask me, the ingredients are no worse than pretty much any dessert you buy at the grocery store!)

Down with Green bean casserole. I couldn't agree more.

Berger Cookies, though... As a DC transplant to Baltimore, there are few foods that are truly Baltimore to me: Berger Cookies, Pit Beef, Snowballs are a few that come to mind. I'll take the cookies over them all.

Speaking of chocolate tops, in my opinion, and of my coworkers, the best chocolate tops are from Parisers bakery in Pikesville. They set the standard IMO. http://www.parisersbakery.com/

BaltBabs & M&M I agree with both of your choices for chocolate tops. In addition, Sinai's marketplace sells an awesome one but I have no idea what supplier they come from.

Reading the ingredients for Berger Cookies is like reading the ingredients for scrapple. Don't do it!

Joyce - Shhh! You know what happens once you proclaim your fondess for something!

you gotta be kidding me...

Berger cookies are great bc you only need to eat one!

green zebra striped tomatoe/german striped tomato is like sugar... don't knock em cause you can't grow em

la lenqua tacos at tortillaria sinaloa are the best.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the Bergers and la lengua. But I'm willing to be converted on the Striped Germans. What's your secret? LV

Trixie! You are right! Darn it! Now there will never be a chocolate top to be had again! Wish I'd remember to stop proclaiming my fondness for things!

hmmm captcha Nostradamus says quatrain 1972.

Berger cookies are topped with a mediocre substitute for good fudge. I'd rather just buy some fudge and dig in.

I like tomato aspic. I mean not alone, that is just wierd, but it really is good with chicken salad.

Re: Pickles

Head out of the condiments aisle, and head to the refrigerated deli section. There you will find Claussen pickles. I just checked our jar, and no dye, just potassium sorbate as a perservative.

Joyce, what's a chocolate top?

I have an idea but since this is a food blog, it is probably wrong. ;)

4. Berger cookies
I know this is heresy in these parts. But do you want frosting on cookies? A blob of frosting as thick as the cookie itself? Then there's the matter of what goes into them. From the company Web site: "Ingredients: sugar, flour (bleached), water, fudge (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) cocas (natural processed with akali) margarine (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) corn syrup, eggs (FDC yellow 5 & 6) corn starch, milk (non-fat), artificial flavor, salt." Does that sound yummy?


YES, YES IT DOES!

probably not what you're thinking, Stacy! LOL! it's a delicous cookie with a blob of chocolate on top. It's sort of like Berger's in that they're both cookies and both topped with chocolate, but it's much less chocolate and much less sweet. Sort of like a star tipped icing bag put the chocolate on top of a pretty plain cookie.

Eddie's on Charles Street has them. Chocolate tops, that is.

Hmmmmm...now I'm wondering if chocolate tops are a Baltimore thing too?

Stacy, here's a link to an assorted cookie picture. I'm sure you can figure out which ones are the chocolate tops. :-)
http://www.parisersbakery.com/category_s/3.htm?searching=Y&sort=13&cat=3&show=10&page=2

What about Zotz? Zots are like Poprocks, but encased in hard candy.

Thanks--I learned something new today. I never knew those cookies were called chocolate tops.

Me too Dahlink! As soon as I read that childhood memories came rushing back. I loved those cookies. Wasn't there a bakery/stall in Lexington market that used to sell them? I can recall them being packaged in those little white boxes.

Trixie, there are no childhood memories of Lexington market for me, but I've seen those cookies at my local Giant bakery from time to time.

Chocolate tops over Berger cookies?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!

We had our first Berger cookies at a wedding a couple weeks back. Turns out... they're delicious!!!

sean, your taste buds must be on strike. berger cookies taste like crap, just the worst artificial garbage. guess what? that's what they are made from:

Ingredients: sugar, flour (bleached), water, fudge (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) cocas (natural processed with akali) margarine (partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil) corn syrup, eggs (FDC yellow 5 & 6) corn starch, milk (non-fat), artificial flavor, salt.

mmm... cottonseed oil margarine, just like my robot mother used to make. garbage garbage garbage

tree elf, thanks for the clarification. Here I thought they were made out of oat bran, kale, and multivitamins. Silly me! And thanks for pointing out that I'm wrong about how I think they taste - I really needed that useful bit of info as well.

I'm sure you can imagine how I must feel.

that's not me

Okay, well, that one was less funny. And regulars who are familiar with my posts know better.

Wait a minute... tree elf, huh? I think I know your opposition to Berger cookies now...

Sean, just change your handle to Da real Sean. That should help :-)

BaltBabs, the preview said "Sean, just change your handle to Da"--I thought you were going to advise him to appropriate my name!

I have to admit, it's a wee bit disorienting having to argue with myself...

How about "Sean fo sho"?

Malkovich Malkovich?

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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