Italian food from Trader Joe's Disappoints Italians, as you'd expect

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/11/italian-food-from-trader-joe.html

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I’m still mad about Nick Wiger shooting down Mike Mitchell’s suggestion of this for a special Doughboys episode years ago. Although maybe they eventually did it as a Doughboys Double, I’m too cheap to find out…

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First, no one should ever expect “fine” or “proper” examples of ethnic cuisines at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or any other super market with prepared foods. These food choices are about convenience, not authenticity.

Second, when you choose to get people to do these videos, try not getting someone who comes across as a smarmy, pretentious asshole.

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Worst tomato paste in the world, but the varied types of ingredients you can purchase there can make many a good culinary delight, you got’a work at it though.

@quori Second, when you choose to get people to do these videos, try not getting someone who comes across as a smarmy, pretentious asshole.

That’s why I left the food industry, rather cook for my Dear Wife than the public anyday, and for free.

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To be fair, Italian food from Italy often disappoints Italians.

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what do you expect from a German company making Italian food.

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Juxtapose this with an Italian-American friend of mine making homemade pasta with marinara for his friends in the UK, and they didn’t like how flavorful it was.

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The only way Americans are going to start eating like Italians is for Americans to respect food like Italians
and you can not respect food until you respect the people who are making the food and eating the food.
I promise you, here in the US, the people who are making and eating the food are considered a inconvenient but necessary part of the conveyance of workers wages into the hands of corporate shareholders.

tldr:
the problem is capitalism.

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I am often asked why I am not a professional chef and just do what I do at home…exactly that reason.

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It’s owned by Germans but not a German company.

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I’ve always joked that Trader Joe’s is a store which operates under the principle of what a supermarket would be like if communism actually worked. Reasonable prices, decent quality stuff (with some exceptions). Their fresh meats leave something to be desired, but their precut/marinated stuff is pretty good. *

But to expect decent Italian food from a supermarket is quixotic. The good stuff is from small shops or from scratch by someone with an eye on quality ingredients.

*Whole Foods deliberately overprices things outside their store brand to appeal to elitism, but their butcher department in my nabe has the best NY Strip steaks in the area, so its tolerable

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tastes the same

They don’t make it.

Of course not - markets sub-contract out their packaged food. Are you suggesting they don’t taste it before they decide to offer it?

But let me accommodate you:
what do you expect from a German company tasting Italian food before they decide to sell said Italian food.

what do you expect from a German company tasting Italian food before they decide to sell said Italian food.

I expect that they analyze the profit per square foot of the new product and if it exceeds the profitability of an existing product, it gets the shelf space.

How do you expect them to choose what to sell?

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that sounds right my point exactly

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Italian food from Trader Joe’s anyone who isn’t their nonna disappoints Italians

FTFY. I watched a video comment stream explode with disgruntled Italians and/or Italian-Americans after someone made an undoubtedly delicious carbonara with (gasp!) bacon instead of guanciale. They’ll complain about anything.

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The ubiquity of Italian food in America has been a function of economic aspects of working class/middle class living:

  1. One can create a nutritious, filling meal, with relatively cheap and readily available ingredients.
  2. Cooking techniques for most Italian food are relatively simple and easy to learn(risotto notwithstanding)
  3. Two income families can produce meals in a short time.
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The off the boat Italians I’ve known, many of them professional cooks, frequently substitute American bacon or a prosciutto heel.

Guanciale can be hard to get and tends to be expensive in the US, so if they want Carbonara that often means substitution. The obvious option, pancetta, is apparently not preferred because its equal parts too salty and not funky enough.

American bacon renders plenty of fat, isn’t as salty, and the smoke compensates for the lack of funk. Prosciutto heel is plenty funky, but doesn’t render enough fat so you render it in olive oil which will carry the flavor.

Italians who’ve never lived outside of Italy seem to be incapable of understanding these sorts of adaptations and variations. Unless they’re familiar with them, in which case they some how become definitive.

I’ve watched Italians come to blows over whether there are peas in Carbonara. Near as I can tell, there’s not supposed to be any peas up in there. But it seems like a lot of Italian moms put them in there to trick their kids into eating vegetables. Suggesting that as an explanation for peas in Carbonara gets a really weird reaction.

Italian Americans will swear up and down that “gabagool” is the real way Italians pronounce capicola. Even to an Italian that’s telling them otherwise.

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That should be on a t-shirt

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