Is faster food really better?

Are we pumping ourselves full of junk as we buy every more heartily into the nation of fast food? Gayle investigates her lazy side...

Have we all heard that Heinz are marketing ready-made beans on toast? For anyone who is so inept that reheating a tin of beans and buttering a slice of toast presents a culinary challenge, this lowest common denominator of convenience food is now available as a pre-formed frozen sandwich, which can be heated up in a toaster.

Not since Pop Tarts offered a convenient possibility of delivering scalding jam directly onto your tongue has there been such a giant leap forward in toaster food!

Personally, I don't like baked beans much, and Heinz beans least of all because of the gloopy sauce, but I know that many people find them delicious.

The Guardian newspaper even managed to find a head chef, Paul Kitching, prepared to say a good word for the new product (“Sounds cool - I'd love to try it . . . . The whole package sounds knockout.”)


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To me, it seems absolutely perverse that anyone with a professional commitment to serving interesting and well-cooked food should be prepared to endorse a dish that was probably devised in a lab rather than a kitchen.

A bit of scientific wizardry must be required to keep the toast crisp when it is enclosing a dollop of moist bean sauce, for example.

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There is a whole branch of food technology devoted to solving conundrums like this: how to maintain the appearance and texture of fresh cooked food in ready meals that may have stood on the supermarket shelf for a couple of days?

How to keep cut salad leaves from browning in the bag? How keep bran flakes crispy in the same box as raisins?

Baked beans aside, aren't we all being seduced by pre-cooked food?

I have to admit that I regularly buy meals off the chill shelf.

For a single person, these meals offer the chance to eat something containing a range of vegetables or other ingredients that you would have to buy in wasteful amounts to prepare one portion.

And there are some things, like curries, that I'm just not very good at cooking.

Consumption of cook-chill and frozen foods has rocketed in the past few years.

Supermarkets defy the threat of global warming with serried ranks of chill cabinets and freezers open to the air, presumably because we are too lazy to open the cabinet door to take to food out.

Store staff should hand out thermal jackets to customers as they enter the building, shivering all year round in the Arctic aisles.

With the promise of absolute perfection, there is no slaking our appetite for these glossily packaged savouries and desserts in ever tinier packets, at ever higher prices.

Indeed, we seem to be perfectly happy to buy and consume products that are barely edible, so long as they are quick to prepare.

There is a sharp contrast between the aspirations of a nation that, in theory, supports Jamie Oliver's push to improve children's nutrition but, in practice, feeds on instant noodles.

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