Listening to the news yesterday afternoon, I was tickled pink to hear JPR talk about a food dear to my own heart: the tater tot. (Which apparently is known as the “tot” by hip young things?) The tater tot and I have a long and conflicted history, as is often the case with people and trashy food, and it was a pleasure to hear this Idaho native discussed with gravity and seriousness on the radio.
I remember one night, a friend of mine and I were hanging out, and feeling kind of down in the dumps, and we went to go wander around Harvest.
“Let’s get some tater tots,” I said.
She looked askance at me, being a health food kind of girl.
“Come on,” I said. “I haven’t had tater tots in years. It’s nostalgia food. Let’s get the biggest package of tater tots possible, and a big thing of ketchup, and get to it.”
She still looked a bit hesitant, but there in the frozen foods aisle, she started remembering all of her happy moments with the tater tot, and she reached into the case and grabbed a bag. Organic, of course. And we went home and heated them in my oven and piled them on a plate and it was delicious, with ketchup and salt and oily fingers.
I’ve never really eaten much packaged food, because it wasn’t around the house when I was a kid, so I never learned to be into it. I’m not sure where my tater tot fetish comes from. I mean, I do love potatoes, and that I will not deny. But the tater tots associated with school lunch were limp, sad looking things with little resemblance to the potato. Wherever I acquired my deep and abiding love of the tater tot, I doubt it’s going to go away any time soon, and really there are more harmful things to be into.
It’s funny, because I ignore whole aisles in the grocery store, since they are bedecked with packaged foods, and I really don’t eat packaged food. It’s not a holier than thou thing, I just…don’t. But I do have a few guilty pleasures, like tater tots, which I shyly confess to, only to learn that other people love them too.
These weak points include Geneva Cookies from Pepperidge Farm, which I have tried to replicate without success. I like the thin, crispy, almost spicy cookie, the rich chocolate, and the pecans. I dip them in my oolong tea. I just can’t get the cookie right at home, try as I might.
I also really like jalapeno poppers. I can’t explain it. It’s that gush of hot oily cream cheese, the light fluffy outer layer, the barely recognizable pepper. Is it my deep fried food fetish coming out? I’m not sure. Speaking of which, I also adore doughnuts. Which one can make at home, but it’s such a pain. Only I may be forced to make my own doughnuts if I want them, since no one up here makes decent ones. And Tings. Yes! Crunchy corn sticks!
It’s a comfort thing, I think. At some point something linked these foods with happiness in my mind, and when I’m feeling nostalgic, somehow they find their way to my plate, almost by magic. I also, of course, enjoy the upscale interpretations, like sweet potato tater tots I had once, and I really ought to experiment more to create my own versions.
Every now and then, I indulge my trashy fetishes, andI’m curious, gentle readers…what trashy/packaged foods do you secretly adore?