Top Ten retro foods we wish would stay in the past
One 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.
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 cookiesI 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.
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