An Open Letter to Swanson Steamfresh products “The Age of Sauce Is Upon Us”

Thought: Why do we call them ‘Corn Mazes’? What fool overlooked the hilarious opportunity for it to be a “Maize Maze”?

Dear Swanson Steamfresh,

As I write this I am witnessing my husband’s face contort in a wildly amusing way. I might say I could have told you so to him, but that would only create marital strife, and quite frankly we are only two or three misplaced words away from dueling to the death on the eaves trough of our new house.

His face is contorting partially because, in an effort to rid himself of what is a remarkable and intense, I hesitate to use the word ‘flavour’, he has opted to pour himself a generous portion of scotch whiskey, which I purchased for him after starting my new job as a sort of thank you for being such a loving and supportive husband and refusing my offers to duel on the eaves trough of the house.

He has poured himself this generous portion of whiskey because he just ate a small bite of your “Flavor Full” Barbeque Sweet Corn product and it has not agreed with him.

I understand that we live in the Age of Sauce, Swansons. Much like a Ritolin Riddled Millennial, we ask that all pre-packaged foods come doused in succulent, varied flavours to ensure that we are not bored by the process of eating. Heaven forbid boredom should set in – we might fall asleep, our heads swallowed by our Hungry Man meals, mashed potatoes inhaled into our sinuses and suffocating us before we’d have a chance to reach for the paprika to remedy the sheer, unadulterated boredom that is eating.

But really, does everything need a sauce? Am I so incapable of squeezing a lemon or reaching for that bottle of Artisnal BBQ sauce that I purchased from the local farmer’s market that you must take it upon yourself to slather my frozen vegetables with this shlock? What’s worse is that it isn’t even interesting BBQ sauce. You add it to your product to encourage the eating of vegetables and, I presume, corn. But here’s the thing, Swanson. No one is prepared to admit that corn is the single most god-awful vegetable in the face of the planet. Corn was not made to be consumed in its natural form. Why else have we turned it into syrup and bread? because it’s a fucking disaster of a vegetable! In order to eat it properly the average human requires years of extensive orthodontic and dental intervention, and even then the minute you have one kernel stuck between your teeth it becomes a crisis, with mom piling all the kids into the car at 7:30 at night to make an emergency trip to the dentist just so you can have the damn thing surgically removed.

Corn is not the friend of mankind, and no amount of BBQ sauce will ever make it so. Even  my own special reserve of artisanal sauce made from the blood of wild horses that were slaughtered under the full moon can’t make corn palatable. It’s an impossibility, so please, do us all a favour and stop trying to make sauce-ridden corn happen. It isn’t going to happen. At least when I steam my own corn I can douse it with rye whiskey and set it on fire. that makes it marginally more edible. Try doing that with your saucesational BBQ and Sweet Corn. You can’t, can you? Because whatever is in that BBQ sauce is an affront to nature itself and consumes fire to gain strength. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that my garbage can has melted into the foundation of the house after my husband disposed of the bag.

I guess what I am getting at here, Swanson, is that you don’t have to douse everything in sauce. Potato wedges can just be potato wedges. Non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley can just be a non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley (I’ll save that for another open letter, although my guess is you know what I am going to say, and if you don’t I would suggest you google ‘Asia’ and then ‘regional cuisine’ and tell me how many of those countries actually utilize baby corn in their meals.)

You know what I do like, Swansons? Your Pure & Simple frozen veggies. I don’t feel like in my wild attempts to create a balanced meal I will somehow have to create a meat sensation that somehow compliments the strange, fanciful saucy veg that you have prepackaged for me. If I want to make my Russian Prince Salt Chicken, which is delicious by the way, I will have no concerns about it clashing with your Broccoli Florets because those florets are sauce free. Unlike the Buffalo Cauliflower which, speaking as someone who has never eaten a buffalo before, seems poorly named. I know you worry about us, and you worry that we aren’t eating enough greens, but trust me, we will if you only give us the chance. Like reluctant parents finally giving their 18-year-old the keys to the car, you have to give us some responsibility so we can prove ourselves. Yes, we are capable of seasoning our own vegetables. Yes, we can decide how much salt we want to put on the green beans. Yes, we can. Let us go, Swanson. Let us fly.

And here’s another thing. “Flavour Full”. Really? Really? That’s what you’re going with? Perhaps it is the savvy consumer in me, but I want to know what you’re trying to hide by calling these bags of sauces “Flavour Full” instead of “Flavorful”. Is it because the sauce to vegetable ratio is so lopsided? Is it because what you have included in these products can’t be called ‘flavour’ so much as ‘artificially enhanced spice dollops’?  No one thinks that is witty, Swanson. If anything, the lack of concern for the English language is disturbing. You’re already on thin ice with your Salisbury Steak Hungry Man Meal – don’t push your luck by desicrating a word as simple as ‘flavourful’. You know what would have been a good name for them? Swanson’s Steamfresh Flavour Punched Vegetables. Because then I imagine someone punching an ear of corn and that fills me in a way that frozen vegetables never can.

Bored Baking: Episode 1 – Sour Cherry and Lime Face Punch Loaf

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is baking with my dad. Sunday’s were Loaf Days. We’d pull out mom’s Best of Bridge and find a loaf and bake the hell out of it, because why not?

The tradition didn’t continue into my teenage years, but I like to think it helped enamor me to baking. Now, in my unemployed state, with bits of this and that in my cupboard at home, I went on a baking spree that resulted in a ridiculous amount of loaves. Thank goodness for bulk flour and sugar!

Well, I’m still bored, still unemployed, and recently bought myself of my favorite sour cherries to comfort myself. I realized today that the sour cream I usually use for baking was about to go off, so I needed to use it ASAP. Also, Costco was having a sale on limes ($2.99 for a giant bag of ’em. How can a girl refuse?) Lime and cherry is one of my favorite combos, so why wouldn’t I make it into a delicious loaf? More importantly, why wouldn’t I share my recipe with the world while also being just… uncontrollably vile in my commentary?

Get ready for the Bored Baker’s Sour Cherry and Lime Face Punch Loaf!

1. First thing is first. You’re going to want to preheat your over to 375 degrees. The original recipe called for 400, but a quick scan of the comments on the website I snatched it from said that 400 degrees usually resulted in burning.

It will also result in the summoning of Beelzebub and twenty of his dancing minions

It will also result in the summoning of Beelzebub and twenty of his dancing minions

2. Okay, good job, Einstein. Now, clean your counters because, let’s face it, you live with two cats and they are probably nasty as hell.

Everything about you disgusts me

Everything about you disgusts me

3. Brilliant! Now, time to assemble your ingredients. I want you to get the following:

1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour

3/4 cups white sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 heaping cup of sour cream

3 eggs

Pinch of Baking Soda

Pinch of Baking Powder

Some sweet-ass sour cherries and their juice

Half a mo’fo lime.

Not pictured: Stupid-ass butter

Not pictured: Stupid-ass butter

4. Remove the random garlic clove from the mixer and reevaluate your life choices.


I’m… sorry?

5. Damn skippy. Now cream the hell out of the butter and sugar.

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

6. Oh yeah, if that butter is softened first, it’ll help a lot.

I swear, this has never happened to me before.

I swear, this has never happened to me before

7. Okay, don’t worry about it. Now add those eggs and get your heaping sour cream.

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Cue obligatory fishing out of eggshell

8. What’s that? The sour cream is awfully liquid? I don’t care. Use it.

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

9. Mix the shit out of it. Mix it like you’re Sir Mix-a-Lot and you’ve just been given an order to mix a song that will bring about world peace.

World peace is very liquidy, but that's okay.

World peace is very liquidy, but that’s okay

10. Now you’ve got that sorted, clean up your shit. What are we – animals?

No, we are not.

No, we are not

11. Good. Now you add your flour and start what I presume is a kickass KitchenAid Mixer. If you are a pleb and have to do it by hand, proceed until it is thoroughly mixed.

Oh yeah, just like that.

Oh yeah, just like that

12. Meanwhile, you’re going to take your lime and zest it. If you don’t have a zester, I don’t know why you even bother getting up in the morning. Add that zest to your mixer.

This lime had it coming.

This lime had it coming

13. But wait! What are you going to do with all that delicious lime juice? Let me tell you, you aren’t done ruining that lime’s day yet. Get out a mo’fo saucepan and squeeze the hell out of it.

Oh the humanity!

Oh the humanity!

14. Once you have that lime juice in the pan, you’re going to pop the lid on your sour cherries and add about three tablespoons of sweet, sweet cherry nectar, and three teaspoons of sugar.

And you definitely aren't going to turn it up to medium high, forget about it on the stove, only to remember it when the house starts smelling like burning sugar.

And you definitely aren’t going to turn it up to medium high, forget about it on the stove, only to remember it when the house starts smelling like burning sugar

15. While that shit is cooking up nice and tasty, you’re going to take three heaping tablespoons of those delicious cherries, drain the juice (just add it to the saucepan) and then squash the hell out of them.



16. Add those squashed delicacies to your whole mix.

Might want to scrape the sides of that bowl, Emeril.

Might want to scrape the sides of that bowl, Emeril

17. If the end result of mixing looks like a crime scene, you’ve probably added too many cherries. That’s cool though. Now add your baking soda and powder. The original recipe calls for a pinch of each, but I add 1/4 of a teaspoon because I am not bound by the conventional chains of society.

Tastes like freedom?

Why both? Because I don’t know the difference between the two, and quite frankly I am out of craps to give

18. You’ve mixed it up? Good. Get yourself a pan. I don’t care what size. 9×5? Whatever. Who even cares anymore? Grease that puppy, even if you are using a silicone pan. You aren’t Wonder Woman, after all.

Who indeed?

Who indeed?

19. Back to the syrup on the stove. If you need to, add a bit more sugar and let it dissolve. You want some tiny bubbles to be coming from the middle.

Not pictured: Bubbles

Not pictured: Bubbles

20. Fill up that pan with your batter.

Picture: Batter in pan.

Pictured: Batter in pan

21. Now take that syrup, because you’ve probably run out of patience, and dribble half of it over the whole batter mix. Why only half? Because much like you’re life, there is a significant amount of waste here.

22. Take a knife and swirl the shit out of the batter. It’s like those gross overly-sweet cinnamon swirl loaves from Starbucks.

This time you actually are aiming for a 'violent homicide' look.

This time you actually are aiming for a ‘violent homicide’ look

23. There. It’s done. What do you think? Wait, no. Not yet. Pop it in the over for about 45 minutes or until a knife thrust wildly into the center of it comes out clean.

In all honesty, make sure there aren’t pockets of juice in the corners, because they will get quite brown very quickly. This particular version of the recipe only ended up needing 30 minutes for whatever reason.

And there you have it. Did it work? I don’t know, maybe. The nice thing about this recipe is that if you aren’t a fan of cherries and lime you can replace it with anything. Apples and cinnamon? You bet. Pumpkin and ginger? Why the hell not? Blood and the tears of your lost youth. Always. It’s a very adaptable recipe, unlike you, you are forever trapped in the soul-crushing monotony of your existence.

Om nom nom.