Being a Junk Foodie


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If you have lived in Berkeley for more than a month, you know that organic, locally grown food is all the rage. Free-range this, slow-food that, grass-fed this you all know the drill. All of these buzzwords are not as alienating or confusing as they may seem at first-supporting the region's economy by consuming delicious, pesticide-free fruit is a win-win in our book. However, we would like to draw your attention to just one caveat.

We live in an economically diverse area. According to 2007 census information, about 20 percent of the population of Berkeley and Oakland lives below the poverty line. If you have ever stepped off campus, you have probably come to realize that many Berkeley residents do not enjoy the same quality of life as most students. Happy happy man and the hat lady probably don't do their shopping at Safeway, much less at the farmer's market.

Sadly, all of the aforementioned foodie movements are not available to everyone-in fact, we would argue, they aren't available to most people in the United States. Undeniably the next step for these movements is making fresh, chemical-free, sustainable food more affordable. So all you organic kids will have to hold your horses until this gets figured out, especially given our current economic crisis. We don't think many people are jumping at the chance to adopt a more expensive lifestyle at the moment.

But, hey, we might as well enjoy the wait, right? Many foods that people turn to out of economic necessity are universally loved. We decided to dedicate this column to the junk food that we love, offering our thoughts on a few of the not-so-gourmet delicacies that we crave. After all, the situation really isn't "organic or bust!" There is nothing wrong with topping your Frosted Flakes with strawberries bought from a local grower. Berkeley's world of fresh, ethical food should never be underestimated-anybody who's been to Cheeseboard can attest to its ability to change lives. But sometimes you just want to microwave a cardboard tray of mini-bagels topped with cheap marinara sauce and mozzarella.

Craving foods like mini-bagels need not be a source of embarrassment for we are only human after all and even the well-respected chef Julia Child, with a discerning palette, loved McDonalds' fries the most.

Cocoa Pebbles:

This sugary cereal has lots to boast. Not only are the crunchy, crispy pieces delectable, but the chocolate coating surrounding each bite transforms an ordinary bowl of milk into an extraordinary chocolate drink-that's two treats in one! Now, we love our granola as much as the next Berkeley kid, but sometimes late at night we creep into the kitchen in search of something to satisfy our midnight hunger. The box of Cocoa Pebbles atop the counter calls out and we find ourselves dipping a spoon into one very large bowl of cereal.

Canned Mandarin Oranges:

Canned fruits and vegetables have been a staple in the American household for decades. Inexpensive and able to be stored for months or even years, these goods fill children's lunches and play starring roles in earthquake kits. In today's world, purchasing fruit preserved in a can is an economical choice and can be surprisingly delicious. There are many great canned fruits out there, and one of our favorites is mandarin oranges. Bathed in sugary water, these plump morsels are more like candy than a serving of fruit. Regardless, they are fun to eat-perfect for pulling out of your knapsack when your stomach rumbles in the middle of class. If you haven't yet discovered that the Golden Bear Cafe sells cups of mandarin oranges, (which are almost as great as canned), you'd better get on that. What better way to use those extra meal points?

Lofthouse Frosted Sugar Cookies:

To say that these cookies, which come packaged in a plastic tray and adorned with a thick spread of sweet frosting, are addicting is a considerable understatement. Lofthouse has a cult following. Well-stocked groceries are regularly wiped out when frosted cookie aficionados come calling. An exceptional crumble and an irresistible sweetness lure even devout Thomas Keller macaroon lovers.

Bagel Bites:

Evoking sentiments of childhood sleepovers spent staying up late and watching Peter Pan with best friends, these bite-sized pizzas are easy for even a 10-year-old to proudly heat up for his friends (in the microwave, of course). Much like Peter Pan, bagel bites will never grow old.

Mother's Frosted Animal Cookies:

Who can resist the bright pink and white frosted animal cookies? No matter that the animal figurines are completely indecipherable, each one tastes marvelous coated with rainbow sprinkles, adding to the crunchiness of each nibble.

Hawaiian Sweet Bread:

No need to fly to Hawaii for these tasty bread rolls! You can find them for sale at most Safeway locations and we even bought them once from a miniature Mexican market on San Pablo Avenue, just west of campus. Hawaiian sweet bread is fantastic as a sandwich roll, delightful when spread with jam and though we have never tried it, it's rumored to be extraordinary in bread pudding.


Eat locally-grown strawberries and frosted flakes with Maria and Graham at [email protected]

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