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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Offensive Helpers

Yesterday we were at the great scratch-and-dent, broken candy-cane, and crushed-box discount paradise known as Big Lots. The first thing we saw was a couple with a push cart full of nothing but dozens and dozens of slightly imperfect boxes of Tuna Helper. I’m glad I didn’t go there looking to buy some Tuna Helper, because this couple had obviously cleared the shelves of all that was available. So for them, the next six months’ worth of “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” questions has been answered.

Tuna Helper hasn’t been around that long. After all, it all started with Hamburger Helper, which reached the supermarket when I was a kid. Betty Crocker, wherever she resides, has been a big Helper for decades.

So naturally I felt compelled to go to Ms. Crocker’s website this morning and was in awe to discover that she helps more than hamburger, more than tuna, but also whole grains, chicken, and Asians.

Yes, they actually have something called Asian Helper. The first question that came to mind is: are there tutors or launderers in the box? If I were a cow, or a tuna, or a chicken, or a whole grain, I’d be pretty insulted knowing that this Crocker chick thinks I needed her help. But I’d be really pissed off if I were Asian and came across Asian Helper. We no need you help, Betty Cwocker. We alweady gwaduate at top of cwass.

Yes, there I’ve done it: thrown in some racist, Asian-stereotyped sentences and ruined my reputation as an inclusive liberal, all at the expense of getting a laugh. I sincerewy apowogize.

My mother was a lazy and bad cook. Most of the time it was my sister and I who made dinner. I knew how to throw a meatloaf together and time it for my mother’s arrival home from work when I was seven. She never made anything fresh. Vegetables were always frozen and boiled to death or heated up from a can or a jar. I don’t think I had a real salad until my aunt made me one when I was 12.

We lived on convenience foods. So when Hunt’s Skillet Lasagna showed up on the shelf, it became a staple in our house. Hunt’s Skillet Lasagna was the precursor to Hamburger Helper, and it was good. All you did was add water, hamburger, and the crap that came in the box, and you had a meal that tasted nothing like lasagna, but was tolerable and salty, which is all one expects from convenience foods.

All these scores of varieties of Helper meals are clearly made for the tired, lazy, or unimaginative who can’t put forth the effort to chop up an onion and some fresh mushrooms, and dollop in a little sour cream or canned cream of mushroom soup or shake in some salt, pepper, or some other spice. If you did that, you’ have to wash a knife, a spoon and a cutting board. How taxing.

Here’s a quote from Betty herself from her web page.

Who couldn't use a little help in the kitchen? One of life's simple pleasures is to relax after a busy day and enjoy a good meal with ones you love. Hamburger Helper dinner mixes bring families to the dinner table for a hearty, wholesome meal.

I got news for you, Ms. Crocker. You get a lot more pleasure out of preparing or eating a meal made for or by a loved one who actually puts some care and effort into it instead of lighting a fire under a pan and dropping in shit from a box. And if you want to bring families to a dinner table together, there is only one way to accomplish this: dine out at a really nice restaurant. Hamburger Helper again, Mom? I’ll be in my room, fasting. Text me only if you have to.

Betty Crocker makes five Mexican flavors of Hamburger Helper, but she doesn’t call them “Mexican Helpers,” because Republicans would think that there was a landscaping crew inside the box. Yet there are no qualms about calling something “Asian Helper.” The four Asian Helper varieties call for chicken or ground beef, so they could have just as easily been included in the Chicken Helper or Hamburger Helper lineups. As long as you’re going to be racist, Bett, let’s do this thing right. Here are ideas for more international Helper meals.

Irish Helper:  Dehydrated potatoes and alcohol. Don’t add water. We don’t want to dilute it.
Canadian Helper: Priced significantly cheaper than all other Helpers, eh?
Indian Helper: A curry dish that comes without cooking instructions. You have to call a toll-free technical support number for that information.
Great Britain Helper: This is a real timesaver. It’s simply a bottle of ipecac syrup. Skip the torture of kidney pie and go right to the vomiting.
Eskimo Helper: A can of Sterno and a packet of Adolph’s moose tenderizer.  
Vietnamese Helper:  Instructions: fold in your least favorite pet.
Miami Helper: A live, ready-to-eat homeless man.
American Helper: Include the meat in the box; we can’t afford it in this economy.

Okay, I have offended enough people for one story. My sincerest apologies to all of you. Now let’s move on.

What we really need is something called Convenience Foods Helper, some high-tech process that will magically reverse the flavor removal that’s caused by over processing of food.  Something that makes microwaved meals taste more like something your mom made (not my mom).  Or barring that, maybe someone could come up with written directions on what to buy and how to prepare a dish. Oh, wait, that already exists. They are called “recipes.” And a collection of recipes is called a “cook book.”

Do they sell those at grocery stores, or somewhere else?

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