Friday, May 29, 2009

Free food?

Morningstar brand barbecue ribletsOn occasion, I've been able to accidentally score free (non-fast or processed) good food. Like today, when I went to my friendly local health food store, Brown's Market, to buy Morningstar riblets. (Haven't tried this new product yet.) Now, the riblets were not free, but, because two of the store's freezers need to be repaired, after I paid for the faux ribs, Jay literally pushed (cool, shrink-wrapped, date-stamped) sandwiches into my hands, because they have tomorrow listed as the expiration date. Not being a complete fool, and lazy to boot, I took them. (Which also means no cooking tonight, as these hearty sandwiches will go well with homemade Asian cabbage coleslaw.)

Now, I realize that the reason I got free food was that the sammiches were close to expiring, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time, but also because I'm a semi-regular customer. Whether at small grocers or fine dining establishments, the "regulars" get the occasional freebie and discounts that less frequent customers do not.

I've taken advantage of end-of-day food store discounts, and have, at times, helped others to them. For instance, when I worked at the downtown Firehook location, on Fridays the remaining food that couldn't be taken to another local branch was (and still is) discounted by 50% in the final hour before closing, because that particular store is closed on the weekends. So, as a customer, I've periodically mozied down there to bring home tasty goods for the weekend, like cornbread (which is not painfully sweet like Whole Foods').

Of course, small restaurants like the Vegetable Garden (yum!) and chains alike offer loyalty cards, in which you get a card stamped after each visit, and get the number "x" purchase free. Of course, the best way to save money overall on food is using careful observation of prices and food amounts at all food stores and restaurants in your area.

loaf of Amish friendship breadNot-so-free food...

I got roped into baking loaves of the fabled, admittedly delicious Amish friendship bread (pictured above) after a friend handed me a giant ziploc of the infamous beige goo. One problem with this cakelike quickbread was simply the timing--it's not the right time of year for baking, especially sweet spicy cakes (or chocolate desserts). For some reason I assumed the friendship was a true sourdough. NOT. Thus, why all the fuss?

My real gripe with the fussy treat is not the number of days (10) or steps required, but the sheer number and variety of ingredients used, which boggles the mind. For instance, because the starter contains yeast, why the need to add both baking powder and baking soda? Also, since the recipe calls for eggs and oil just before baking, what's the point of adding instant pudding mix (which is mostly sugar and cornstarch)?

Granted, the final product tastes like cinnamon doughnuts in loaf form, but I've had, and baked from scratch, other delicious cakes that took a lot less effort and fewer ingredients. Hmm, I guess this bread was not so "free" after all.

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