The only two varieties of Hamburger Helper that have ever been worth a damn are Lasagna and Cheeseburger Macaroni, in that order. Trust me – I used to be an expert. A real “white trash foodie”, if you will.
Anything that first requires you to brown one pound of ground beef is firmly in my culinary wheelhouse. Anything outside of that is dark magic and is not to be messed with. That’s how you end up becoming a whore gypsy – all those “herbs” and “spices”. Next thing you know you’ll find yourself in a bus station in Istanbul trying to trade sexual favors for saffron. I won’t lose another friend to it. I just won’t. It’s easier to just eat the Hamburger Helper.
Besides ground beef as your leading protein, I also know all the boxed starches you can successfully cut hot dogs up into and bake under a layer of crushed Fritos.
If you wrap a Pillsbury crescent roll around anything, you have officially baked something “for company”. If you make the entire can and eat them all by yourself, you have something I used to call “Soft Dinner”.
“Crunchy Dinner” was when I would take an entire cookie sheet of Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns, burn them nearly to a crisp, and then cover them on both sides with Tom’s Barbecue Sauce and eat them over the course of an hour while I watched The Love Boat at 3am in the same t-shirt I’d been wearing for two weeks.
Fruit = canned fruit cocktail, and if you have enough money left over after getting your electricity turned back on, you can buy a jar of maraschino cherries and dispense a dozen or so into the fruit cocktail can and instantly turn it into a party in your mouth instead of settling for the two sad half-cherries the cheap motherfuckers at Del Monte tossed into the can at the factory. I used to refer to this as “Going Off-Road”.
Do you care for spicy food? Something exotic, perhaps? Then allow me to go over to my packet drawer where I can retrieve your choice of either Hot or Fire Taco Bell hot sauce packets to accompany your meal. Have as many as you want – Taco Bell makes it a point to give me 100 packets of both varieties for every single taco I’ve ever ordered, even after I have emphatically specified that I only need “Two Hot, please.” I’ve said it so often I should have a license plate that says “2HOT PLZ”, but then I imagine that would get me more attention in the way of “strange wang in my car window” than I really wanted.
Hashbrown casserole contains two different kinds of canned soup AND a vegetable. That means it’s health food, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t eat it at every meal. If you want to change it up, put it on a piece of buttered Wonder Bread toast for breakfast, sprinkle crushed Funyuns on top of it for lunch and then, using your fingernail as the knife, julienne some bologna slices over it for dinner.
Green beans and all other vegetables are purchased at the peak of their canned freshness, cranked open and dumped out into a pot with a half a stick of butter and then turned up to a boil. If you want to make it for a special occasion, you can add a little pickle juice to the pot and call them “Dill Green Beans”, and dazzle all of your friends who just got out of lock-up on a technicality.
^^ The above scenarios refer only to the times when I felt like cooking. Most of the time I would just eat dry cereal out of my fist and call it a meal. That old school gigantic biscuit version of shredded wheat can easily be eaten like an apple, but without all those gross “fruit vitamins” getting in the way of your enjoyment. The dog will clean up all the millions of wheat-string-leavins that will run from one end of the house to the other. Fiber is good for everybody.
All that aside, you should know that I’m a reformed white trash foodie now, since I was fortunate enough to marry a man who not only doesn’t consider Velveeta a fancy dairy product because it’s “brand name”, but also makes things like basted eggs over curried riced cauliflower, doesn’t tear open a paper packet to make gravy, and makes his own salad dressing.
I don’t mean “makes salad dressing” as in “takes the bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian that has half an inch of dressing left in it and dumps it into the half-empty bottle of Kraft French dressing”. He’s got a spice rack and and fancy vinegars and oils at the ready. He mixes, shakes, tastes, adds things, mixes more, tastes. It’s amazing to watch. His attention to detail, his desire to make something that actually tastes good. It’s like watching someone paint a masterpiece.
Prior to our getting together, I had reached a point of culinary laziness that was so rich and so deep, I had convinced myself that I actually preferred my salads with no dressing at all, because that would mean I wouldn’t have to get up and go get the bottle out of the fridge.
Yes, I am that lazy. Pre-Bobby, any time I would actually get up off the couch and go get a bottle of dressing out of the fridge, I would inevitably discover that it was a new bottle, meaning I would have to break the outer seal, unscrew the cap, and pull off a foil-protector disk to get into it. This discovery would cause me to loudly sigh, drop my shoulders, and proclaim, “WHY ME?” and then put the unopened bottle back in the fridge.
I would gladly pay for a service at the grocery store where they remove all the tamper-safe packaging from everything in my cart before I leave the store. I’m just putting that out there, universe. Work your magic or something.
Now I’m just rambling. I bet Guy goddamned Fieri is going to sue me for using the term “FlavorTown” and then use all of my money to buy more thumb rings. Happy Monday.