One of the really fabulous things about summer is that it keeps me out of the supermarket. Buying all my fruit and veg, cheese, eggs, honey and the small amount of meat we cook at home from local farmers is time not spent trolling the aisles being tempted by junk food. In the winter though, when most of the markets close, my weekly excursion to the local grocery store is fraught with peril. I do my best to stick to the perimeter, although needing flour or dried beans or toilet paper always calls for a trip down the aisles, but sometimes those supermarket folks get sneaky and move the processed food over by the real stuff.
Which is how Greg and I happened upon a giant display of boxes of Kraft Dream Whip. We approached the row of boxes with caution. Arranged behind a selection of wizened, tired-looking California strawberries, we understood that it was meant to be an impulse purchase – the temptation of berries and cream (an allusion to, if not an actual taste of, summer) in the midst of a barren winter’s deep freeze.
Greg tentatively plucked at a box, flipping it over to read the instructions. “How do you make real whipped cream?” he asked.
“You uh.. whip some cream. With a bit of sugar and maybe some vanilla.”
“Huh. To make this stuff you need to add milk and vanilla,” he replied.
“Then what’s the point? Why not just buy cream if you have to buy milk anyway?”
Greg read over the ingredients. “Mmmm… hydrogenated vegetable oil,” he said. “This is full of trans fat.”
He put the box back and we wandered through the store, griping about the crap that people will eat to save a few bucks. But if you’ve got to add milk and vanilla anyway, it can’t be that much of a savings over buying cream, so what is the allure of foods like Dream Whip? You still have to whip the stuff – it’s not a time saver in any way. It’s not a convenience food that can be made just by adding water. So what makes it so popular?