Your most shameful culinary practices

Whether it’s a shortcut or a weird indulgence, what are some things you do in your kitchen or put in your mouth you’d never share in an oat quisine Facebook group?

First confession: ketchup goes on mac n cheese. But ONLY when it comes from a box; put it on homemade and you are dead to me.

Recent shortcut that inspired this thread: you know those little drink powder packets that turn bottled water into iced tea or lemonade? My dollar store usually has the lame ones like blue Hawaiian Punch. But if I’m lucky, they have the carbonated flavors for adding to seltzer water. Pineapple Crush powder plus a few drops of coconut extract plus a sploosh of rum makes a passable piña fauxlada (did I just make that up?). When they have cranberry ginger ale powder I hoard it like it’s toilet paper. Ditto Watermelon Crush.

I recently scored some A&W cream soda powder. For added context on what I’m about to confess, I can’t afford good coffee. So I have to mask that dusty-shelf flavor the mass market stuff has. My go to’s are date syrup, jaggery (I make my own syrup), maple syrup, things like that. But my diabeetus doc recently read me the riot act, so I came up with the best solution: cream soda flavor powder! Vanilla-adjacent, zero sugar, and less sticky when apportioning.

What are yours?

I make tuna salad from tuna packed in water, not oil. OH THE HORROR!

Wait, is that not bad enough? Okay: I wait until everyone’s left the kitchen, then I drink the broth from the tuna can instead of draining it down the sink.

I use MSG.

My sister-in-law is Korean, and clued me in that you can buy it with the other salts and spices in any Asian grocery. If I buy a fake soy meat that isn’t “working,” this usually is what it needs. When I cook fake bacon, I put a tiny bit, just a drizzle of sesame oil in the pan, and then coat it with spray oil. I lay down the strips of “bacon,” and sprinkle a little MSG, and the tiniest pinch of salt.

It’s always perfect. And I don’t even like actual bacon, which yes, I did try once.

I use seasoning mixes in almost every dish. Creole seasoning mix; Jamaican jerk seasoning mix; Italian seasoning mix; etc. I rarely use individual herbs, and pretty much never use fresh herbs.

It’s been awhile but I’ve loved those dirt cheap 20 cents a package ramen noodles since college. I don’t indulge as often because they are so full of sodium and saturated fat. Sometimes I just use the noodles without the flavor packet and make my own broth to go with it, but I save the flavor packet full of MSG goodness as a ‘secret ingredient’ to add to a stew or soup at some future time.

This shouldn’t be considered any more shameful than using salt. I put MSG in a lot of things. I say go for it!

You didn’t know my mother. She was convinced she was allergic to it, and anyone using MSG might as well have been using strychnine.

I like fine cheeses. 12 year old cheddar, 5 year old swiss, cave aged blues, gjetost, epoisses, and so on. But there is a place for velveeta, especially ground up with spam.

Vegemite makes nearly every savory dish better.

Worcestershire sauce is tasty right out of the bottle. Fish sauce however, is NOT.

I use pre-made curry sauces from jars to make my tikka masalas, rogon joshes, and vindaloos and butter chicken.

I like peanut butter and butter sandwiches.

I eat my cold cereals dry, without milk.

Oh god, fish sauce is the worst! Until it cooks down for 2-3 minutes, at which point it’s the best.

In college and as a Navy bachelor I was much, much worse than I am now. Frozen burritos and cold cereal were everyday staples. I knew how to cook but didn’t know how to season, so my rare home cooked meals (simple things like steak or spaghetti bolognese) were cooked properly but very bland.

It’s been 20 years, but bachelor tuna should still have its day.

Open the tin, drain the tuna juice. Pour in a generous amount of pickle brine. Consume.

I’m meh on Velveeta cheese-like product but I do like my American for grilled cheese (usually paired with another cheese) and cheeseburgers.

Blo-nee 'n thick margarine on white bread sandwich. Yeah, I’m a white person from the midwest.

I love those, too. I wouldn’t serve them at a dinner party or argue that they’re “authentic,” but they have their place- right alongside Totino’s party pizzas.

Mine is… I recently picked up a thing of ranch popcorn “seasoning” and, while its primary use is still popcorn, I’ve also added it to eggs and to potatoes. It’s not fancy, but it tastes pretty good.

Whenever I’m forced to use a bouillon cube instead of proper homemade broth in any recipe, especially for soup.

Your ketchup comes in a box? Doesn’t it soak through?

I’ve managed to stifle the habit, but I’ve eaten more Oscar Mayer wieners straight out of the package than I care to admit. I’ve never been interested in anybody else’s without cooking them.

you’ve cooked and eaten other people’s wieners?

I wouldn’t eat them raw. I don’t know where they’ve been.

Until a few years, ago, dinner some nights was “nachos” with a layer of round nacho chips, followed by a layer of jarred salsa and then some sort of cheese (Mexican four-blend, mozzarella or whatever) and all microwaved for a minute or two. I could also open a tub of prepared French onion dip and a big bag of Fritos and have that for dinner.

For years I believed pre-shredded cheese was an abomination to which I would never stoop. Then, the family in the vacation rental next door had bought way more Costco stuff than they needed for their vacation, so when they went home they offered it all to me, including some Kirkland shredded cheddar and jack cheese. I’m pretty strict about not wasting food so I figured I’d hold my nose and eat pre-shredded cheese just this one time.

Imagine my surprise when I found it perfectly adequate. Sure, it’s not gourmet, but it’ll do just fine for tossing over a bowl of bean stew or tucking into a burrito wrap. Now when I make a Costco run I buy huge quantities of Kirkland shredded cheeses and keep them in the freezer for my quotidian consumption.

(No pre-grated parmesan will ever be allowed in my house, though. I still have SOME standards.)