Lowbrow Food

According to the Globe and Mail, people are eating more at home and “lowbrow” food is gaining in popularity.

Despite foodies who declared it dead a decade ago, “lowbrow” food is making a comeback.

Preferring to stay in instead of eating out, some Canadians are returning to nutritionally dubious “comfort food” such as mac and cheese and Jell-O, a trend that is being mirrored around the world – and worrying health experts and Food Network stars such as chef Jamie Oliver. Last month, Mr. Oliver warned the British Parliament that the financial crisis would drive families to cheap food and worsen the obesity epidemic.

Wal-Mart Canada saw its sales jump 9.4 per cent between late August and Oct. 31. The numbers were largely driven by higher sales of food at Wal-Mart’s 39 supercentres, which include grocery stores.

At $4.96 for a box of about 15, Wal-Mart’s breaded hors d’oeuvres (think Jalapeno Dippers with Spicy Thai Sauce) have been selling well, as have two-pound bags of cooked shrimp priced at $8.88.

At Kraft Foods, macaroni and cheese, Delissio Pizza, “processed cheese product” Velveeta and nostalgic favourites such as Jell-O and Kool-Aid are enjoying strong sales, spokeswoman Lynne Galia said. Kraft’s net revenues increased by 19.4 per cent between July and late September.

“We certainly are benefiting as consumers eat at home,” Ms. Galia said. “We feel that in this challenging environment we’re well positioned to win.”

Of course, the article drips of elitist pretension. Rather than seeing it as return to lowbrow, I see it as a necessary transition to eating more at home and learning more cooking skills. A year ago, I relied to a much greater extent on “lowbrow” foods, but now that I am learning how to cook, foods such as Mac and Cheese play a smaller role in my diet. As they say, you have to learn to walk before you run, and cooking a Kraft Dinner may be the first step to preparing gourmet meals at home.

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