Sep 18, 201209:33 AM
The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy

TV Dinners, Sketti and Honey Boo Boo Child

TLC

I'm sure that the intended effect of Mama June's Wednesday night special of "Sketti", or microwaved Country Crock and ketchup over spaghetti noodles, was supposed to generate a kind of "shock and awe" with the general public. And that's pretty much what TLC got. Everyone has been talking about it.

 

America collectively made this face while tuning into the "Toddlers & Tiara's" spin-off, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," on the exploitation churner channel, also known as "TLC":

 

And it was my reaction at first. But as I started to think about it, maybe it made a little bit of sense. Maybe it was just one of those weird combinations that sounded totally disgusting in theory, but in reality was actually pretty awesome. Like bacon chocolate chip cookies. Or ramen noodles with a scoop of peanut butter. Or ranch dressing on pizza crust. I'm sure everyone has a favorite strange combination of ingredients that might make another person think "ewwww."

The thing about this particular concoction, though, is that ingredients like the margarine/trans fats and the high fructose corn syrup in the ketchup are a little taboo these days. And it does nothing but perpetuate the stereotype of the obese country bumpkin eating an unhealthy diet (and road-kill). 

But it actually reminded me of a recipe that I came across on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, awhile back. I'd always meant to try it, but always kept it on the back-burner. It just seemed a little too simple. It's a recipe that calls for only a few ingredients, like June's sketti, but made with items that are a bit more "whole".

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Here's the similar Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce recipe:

1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 halved yellow onion

cooked pasta, salt to taste

You put the tomatoes, butter and halved onion into a sauce pan and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes with a spoon to break them up. Discard the onion at the end. Sprinkle in just a little salt to taste. Pour sauce over pasta. That's it. And it is AWESOME.

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There's no garlic, no pinch of sugar, no secret ingredient, just good quality ingredients that come together to make a heavenly sauce. It really is quite amazing. Somehow the simmering of the tomatoes with the butter and the onion together makes the most delicate, subtle and flavorful concoction to then be poured over your choice of noodles. Or over something else entirely, like chicken. Hell, when I made the dish last night I started eating the sauce right out of the pan with a spoon like it was the best tomato soup I've ever had. All it needed was a nice grilled cheese sandwich to dip into it.

Come to think of it, I think that's exactly what I'll have for dinner tonight with the leftovers. ;-)

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Isn't my food styling with my iPhone awesome? Well, at least it tastes pretty awesome.

I mean, it's pretty much the "sketti" recipe with a lot less additives on the labels and real ingredients. But it made me wonder ... is it also as cheap?

Part of the appeal of the recipe for the Honey Boo Boo family is how affordable it is. Mama June said on the show that she feeds her family of six on $80 a week. That's pretty damn good. Of course this probably includes extreme couponing and going to auctions for processed and unhealthy food, but that's just part of the problem. Unhealthy food is so cheap.

So how much more expensive was the "toned down" recipe made with real ingredients?

Well, I started by going to Rouses, which let's be honest, is probably on the more expensive end of the grocery stores in New Orleans, but it's also the only store where I could find all of the ingredients. Walmart wasn't going to have San Marzano tomatoes and Whole Foods wasn't going to carry Country Crock.

Here is the breakdown:

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Sketti: tub of Country Crock ($3.49) + Ketchup ($2.99) + Pasta ($1.29) = $7.77

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Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: Butter ($2.85) + San Marzano Tomatoes ($4.85) + Yellow Onion ($1.00) + Pasta ($1.29) = $9.99

So the "sketti" is a little cheaper. You could, however, use different brands for the tomato sauce that would easily make it cost less. You could use regular canned tomatoes, like Hunts or Del Monte that are much cheaper than the San Marzanos along with the cheaper store-brand butter. That would slash the price. Also, the onion didn't really cost me anything because I already had one on hand. I purposefully chose the best and most expensive ingredients at the store to see how much more the cost would really be. So at most, maybe a few dollars?

Here is the ingredient breakdown:

Country Crock: Vegetable Oil Blend (Liquid Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil), Water, Whey (Milk), Salt, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA) Used to Protect Quality, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A (Palmitate), Beta Carotene (for Color).

Land O Lakes Butter: Sweet Cream, Natural Flavoring.

Heinz Ketchup: Tomato Concentrate Made From Red Ripe Tomatoes, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Salt, Spice, Onion Powder, Natural Flavoring.

San Marzano Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes

That pretty much seals the deal for me. I'm not sure what the "natural flavoring" is in the Land O Lakes butter, but it seems better to me than the high fructose corn syrup on top of corn syrup in the ketchup.

It really goes to show that simple quality ingredients can be both healthful and economic and might just save on hospital bills in the future.

As for the Honey Boo Boo family? I can't help it. I love them. I think they are awesome, hilarious and probably the most genuine people to appear on TLC since ... well, since it was actually "The Learning Channel." People like to say that they are "what's wrong with America," but I'd put that label on the Kardashian empire before I'd say that about these folks. On the show, you see them budget for Alana's pageants by extreme couponing and selling lemonade. It's a stark contrast to the "spend spend spend" mentality of the "Real Housewives" and their never-ending quest for the most shiniest and extravagant of possessions. And in one episode we also see them put on a "Christmas in July" show to raise money for the needy and the family also sells "You'd better Redneckodnize" T-shirts for which the proceeds go to an anti-bullying charity.

I don't see how that's so horrible. I'll definitely be tuning in on Wednesday.

Also, make the tomato sauce. Because it is awesome.

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The Lighter Side

Exploring the humor and peculiarities of the Big Easy

about

Annie Drummond is a graphic designer and artist from Columbus, Ohio. She has a degree from the Columbus College of Art & Design. Two years ago she made the move from the Midwest to New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood and fell deeply in love as she discovered the rhythms and traditions of her new city. In addition to The Lighter Side, she writes about food, art and design (and other stuff) at www.AnniedelaDolce.com.

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