What, pray tell, is "semi-homemade"? Home sick one day I came across Sandra Lee's show on the Food Network and was instantly disgusted. "Semi-homemade." Not homemade, not store-bought, but a bastard hybrid of the two. Why is this a thing? The premise is devoid of all logic. I mean, if you're going to make something from scratch, make it from scratch. If you're going to pussy out and buy something, just buy the whole dish since that'll probably save you a lot of time and agony.
The fly in the ointment here is that "semi-homemade" will *not* save you time and agony. It's so labor intensive that you end up spending more time than you would making something from scratch and more money than if you had just picked up something on the way home. Yet this genius has a goddamned show on Food Network and is dating Andrew Cuomo because she makes a coq au vin with Lipton Cup-A-Soup. Wonderful.
Not only is this entire enterprise completely counterintuitive, the recipes sound like something inmates with hotplates would've dreamt up in prison. Take for example this beauty, which one of my outside vendors told me about yesterday. She had me laughing so hard they had to stop the meeting until I could pull myself together. Behold "smothered meatloaf".
1. One raw meatloaf (don't forget to add raw eggs!)
2. One slow-cooker
3. Ore-ida potatoes (not even real potatoes)
4. Evaporated milk
5. Condensed cream of mushroom soup
--are you gagging yet?--
6. Shake-n-Bake (seriously, I haven't seen this shit since 1976, sitting on a dusty shelf in the local Shop-n-Bag)
7. Beefy Onion Soup Mix (here we go again - but wait! she recommends Lipton, as if that'll put the quality of the recipe over the top)
8. Condensed cheddar soup (just leave the defibrillator right there on the dining room table)
Put in a large bowl and mix. Now throw it in the slow cooker for 5-6 hours. HOURS. And raw! Remember - you haven't browned the meat or precooked it or anything, you're just throwing a bunch of raw slop in a pot and kissing it up to God that you don't die of salmonella 6 hours later.
Semi-homemade. Please. You'd be better off dining nightly at Old Country Buffet. You're less likely to get sick from licking the sneeze guard at your local Ruby Tuesday. You're less likely to puke from scraping out and eating the innards of a durian fruit.
Well, how can we trust anyone whose name is curiously reminiscent of a blonde 60's icon married to Bobby Darin? This half-assed gourmet, with her Del Monte canned vegetables and evaporated milk, how does she have a food program and I don't? Me, someone who always cooks from scratch and uses recipes that have been in the family since practically the time the Scots-Irish faction landed on US soil? She's named one of People's 50 Most Beautiful? Well I was a child model for dance clothing and still have the catalog to prove it, woman. Touche.
Her success being what it is, the proverbial proof is in the pudding. Although she claims to have a "devoted following", the critics have been less complimentary. Amanda Hesser in The New York Times wrote that Lee "seems more intent on encouraging people to create excuses for not cooking than on encouraging them to cook wholesome simple foods," concluding that "she has produced two books in which she encourages a dislike for cooking, and gives people an excuse for feeding themselves and their families mediocre food filled with preservatives."
Ms. Lee, I invite you to go mano-a-mano with my Mediterranean salad or chicken rondele. It's so on.