Whatever happened to pineapple upside-down cake?
Don't get me wrong, this question and other deep worries like it do not keep me up at night. In fact, I'd forgotten all about the classic caramelized fruit-and-cake treat until I stumbled across it recently in a supermarket bakery. Until then, it had been years, maybe decades, since I last beheld its sunny yellow goodness.
Once upon a time, pineapple upside-down cake was everywhere. It was what your Great-Aunt Esther brought to family reunions. It held its own with strawberry-rhubarb pie at the church social and it sometimes appeared in multiples at potluck barbecues.
But food, like everything else, has a fashion window and pineapple upside-down cake passed its popularity phase some time ago. (Although I still hold out hope that it will be found 'retro' like macaroni and cheese and bikes with banana seats).
What else is long gone? Tuna casserole. Red Delicious apples. Wine coolers. Ambrosia salad.
And what has taken its place? Raise your hand if you never heard of (until the last decade or so) kale. Or biscotti. Or salted caramel. Or even grass-fed beef.
Honestly, for the first few decades of my life it didn't occur to me that I was allowed to care what cattle were fed.
I am not one of those food-was-so-great-in-the-olden days kind of gals, however. For the most part, not only is food more healthful today, it's tastier. If I never have to face another Jell-O salad with fruit cocktail inside, that's OK with me. And a big plate of liver and onions will not be missed.
In general I feel like the 20th century was not known for its culinary successes. Food became about speed and profit. Produce was engineered to grow fast and travel far — thereby breeding out every bit of flavor. And in the home kitchen it was all about saving steps and using processed food in recipes. Cornflake-encrusted fried chicken, anyone?
And while the new (or returned) locally-traveled, pesticide-free, made-from-scratch food trends cost me and everyone else a larger percentage of our incomes, man is it tasty! I love looking at a restaurant menu and seeing a dozen salads with dizzying arrays of vegetables, legumes and seeds and even a few flower petals, instead of the stale choice of Crab Louis and Cobb Salad.
Of course, I am not immune to the food-as-nostalgia disease that we humans are so fond of. Few things make my heart go pitter-patter like glazed carrots (Gramma) blueberry pancakes (my first job) or spaghetti (summer camp), but overall I prefer today's food scene. The choices, both to eat out and cook at home, are so much more diverse, with many more dishes using the freshest ingredients. Of course I personally don't cook with that much dedication or patience. I still appreciate a good one-pan, five-ingredient supper — even fewer if I can get away with it. It's more like a do as I say, not as I do kind of thing.
Leslie Pugmire Hole is editor of the
Wilsonville Spokesman and loves a good peanut butter, lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich.