Early in life, I learned my family was different. Of course they were, they were immigrants to this country. I alone was born here, and my parents would point me out to strangers and say, “She is our Native American.” They did not understand the odd looks that scrutinized the curly-blond hair and green eyes on a little fair-skinned toddler.
I missed a lot growing up: fried pies, Hostess Snowballs, Barbie dolls, popsicles, baloney, fluffernutter sandwiches. My parents were frugal. My mom baked bread and planted a garden. We ate from the garden. The sandwiches I took to school were an embarrassment: homemade bread filled with our own lettuce and tomatoes, with sliced chicken from last night’s dinner. I traded them eagerly with schoolmates for mashed bean tortillas. Much better.
As much as I tried, I was always different. I never fit in with the “in” girls. So it was no surprise when I grew up that my kitchen didn’t look like my neighbors: no Cool Whip, no crock pot, no flavored coffees. I did have a container of whipping cream, a pressure cooker and an espresso pot. Not the fancy one, the one that worked on the stove top.
Two more modern conveniences are missing from my kitchen: almost butter that has nothing to do with butter and air-injected soap. We are a foaming nation. We love stuff that is pumped up with air to make it look fluffy and like more. (I will not, no, not, go for the metaphor.)
But I had to try them. Unlike my parents, who banned the strange new fads in favor of the solid known, I tried whipped margarine and pouffy soap. How in the world does anyone cook with this stuff? I was trying to fry eggs this morning. Over easy.
This takes just enough butter to coat the bottom of a pan. Depending on the size of a pan, you can use a teaspoon or so. I kept having to add more of the tub stuff because it kept disappearing. It vanished. It left little grease spots on the bottom of the pan. No wonder. The first ingredient in this fake butter is water.
After about a quarter cup (and it’s more expensive than butter) I had enough to crack the eggs into the pan. They burned solidly to the bottom of the pan. Whipped stuff doesn’t keep anything from sticking, so the pan is still on the stove, soaking the burned eggs off the bottom.
Which brings me to the whipped soap. To get it through the tube to whip it, it has to be a liquid consistency. They add extra water so you can pay more for pouffy soap. In a country obsessed with germs, they are cutting back on how much soap you get to use to wash your hands.
I pumped some of this stuff into the pan. It floats on top of the water, not breaking the surface tension, not emulsifying the oil. Not cleaning. How can pouffy soap not clean pouffy margarine? I check the label of this supposedly healthier margarine. Not only is it’s first ingredient water, the next is . . .”palm fruit oil.” Probably not date palms. Probably coconut palms. Coconut oil and palm oil are both partially hydrogenated and not on the edible list.
At least real butter is a known substance. This stuff doesn’t have a shelf life, it has a half life. In the time it has taken me to write this, the pouffy soap is still floating on top of the water in the pan. I’m going to dump this mess down the sink, get some real soap and baking soda for grit and scrub the pan clean. And cook with butter and wash with soap. And get the whipped air out of my life.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) Quinn McDonald, 2007-9. All rights reserved.