"Ingredients people" citation?
February 4, 2023 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I can't believe I'm wasting a question on this, but you know the idea of people who are "ingredients people" (i.e., they have eggs and butter and flour in their larder but no actual prepared foods)? Where did that idea come from? Can someone provide me a link to some writing about this? (It doesn't actually have to be the original person who developed this idea, just something that sets out the concept.)
posted by shadygrove to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Know Your Meme: Ingredients Household
posted by phunniemee at 2:06 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Perfect, thank you, phunniemee!
posted by shadygrove at 2:16 PM on February 4

I'm one. it came from the budget. once you build up a nice pantry, cost is all downhill. plus, it can be easy; there's millions of four-ingredient recipes.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:20 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Oooh, interesting. From the Know Your Meme thing and some other articles I googled up by searching for "ingredient household," it sounds like this isn't a smug "I am a superior food person who doesn't eat junk" thing. This is a "my parents refuse to buy good snacks, so I have to improvise weird food combinations" thing. It's not the 40-somethings who think they're awesome because they only shop the perimeter of the grocery store. It's their resentful teenage kids who wish their parents would just buy some chips occasionally.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:24 PM on February 4 [20 favorites]

This is just not having junk food? I am confused.
posted by haptic_avenger at 2:45 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

This is just not having junk food?

Yes and no - this is more like, not buying cookies because "pshaw, I don't need to buy Chips Ahoy, I can make them myself because I already have eggs and flour and chocolate chips at home!" Except....you don't ever get around to making the cookies yourself after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:53 PM on February 4 [12 favorites]

And then your kid posts a video on TikTok that shows her putting peanut butter and chocolate chips on toast because her mom doesn't believe in Chips Ahoy, and it gets a million views, and you're internet famous by association for your annoying (or sensible) attitudes towards cookies.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:58 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]

This is just not having junk food?

And it's also about not buying snacks, so one makes butter and sugar sandwiches for sustenance because there are no pretzels or popcorn or chips or cookies.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:10 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]

So, I actually thought it was kind of about not buying prepared foods in general -- like making your own marinara or salad dressing or fresh pasta as a rule. There is something disappointingly mundane about it being about snacks that I can't quite put my finger on, probably informed by growing up extremely poor.
posted by sm1tten at 3:38 PM on February 4 [16 favorites]

Also not having ready made meals/freezer meals, I think- no instant noodles, frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, frozen lasagna, etc.
posted by MadamM at 3:39 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

...huh. My ex has been complaining that my parents' house had "no food, just ingredients" since the early 2000s. I'm pretty sure she is not the source of the current meme, but I bet she'll at least feel vindicated when I tell her about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:00 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

(Oh, wait, the current meme is bragging about this? Yeah, no, we thought it was totally asinine.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:04 PM on February 4

> (Oh, wait, the current meme is bragging about this? Yeah, no, we thought it was totally asinine.)

No, ArbitraryAndCapricious has it right, the meme is mocking this with tales of the weird snacks you make up as a kid in an ingredients household.
posted by desuetude at 4:56 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]

Surprised to see in the linked Know Your Meme page above:
where they make a meal by frying a tortilla and covering it in tomato paste and shredded cheese

I hadn't come across the idea of "ingredients household", or at least not that phrase for it, before seeing this metafilter post. If people using this term think of a package of prepared tortillas from the store as some sort of a basic ingredient rather than being cooked at home from ingredients like flour, lard, etc as one would get at many restaurants or even using a tortilla mix, it seems like this might have some relevance to the question of where this term comes from. It might be more of a regional distinction rather than any particular ethnicity. A fresh tortilla is a wonderful thing, and relatively quick to prepare an attractive and tasty one with some amount of practice (I've tried making my own tortillas and mine were... not attractive. So it probably takes more practice than the five or so times I've tried)

I myself buy tortillas at the store, or occasionally from certain restaurants that sell theirs in packages to take home, because I am NOT an "ingredients household", at least as far as I understand the term. I know how to cook from basic ingredients but just don't bother to actually do it much these days.

For an early example of someone lamenting that there are no tortillas, see the classic song by Lalo Guerrero. While he doesn't specifically mention ingredients for the tortillas being around I feel like it has a similar feeling to the tiktoks of people looking for something to eat. I'm not sure what year the song was written but Lalo Guerrero started recording in 1939.
posted by yohko at 5:09 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

I'm definitely a recovering ingredients person and I still struggle.

But more in line with what the rest of you have explained about the meme, growing up my brother and I used to cut the crust off white bread, roll it flat with a rolling pin, all very conspiratorially. And then we would use a pizza cutter to cut it into little squares and pretend it was candy. At the time we thought were were brilliant. It's only now I realize that this meant we didn't have any of the "good stuff" around...my mom must've been so proud of herself lol.
posted by cacao at 5:43 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Wait a minute! I deliberately buy chocolate chips so that I can eat them out of the bag. Sometimes I'll even take a very small swig of mint extract with a handful of chocolate chips because I love chocolate and mint. You're saying that if I did a tik tok of this would I get famous for a few minutes? The world is strange...
posted by ashbury at 7:39 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

I grew up in an ingredients house in the 70s. I used to snack on spoonfuls of Betty Crocker frosting from the container. At the time I didn’t think it was weird that I hid them in my dresser drawer.

I branched out to spoonfuls of peanut butter and handfuls of chocolate chips as an adult.
posted by bendy at 7:46 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Just… cook stuff. It’s not hard.

burn the witch
posted by phunniemee at 8:14 PM on February 4 [33 favorites]

I think we’ve just discovered the new ask v guess and I know what I am.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:44 PM on February 4 [11 favorites]

I grew up in an ingredients house but my friends who had things like chocolate chips were in a whole different category. That would have lasted 5 minutes in our household, so we just didn't have it unless we were going to make cookies. My brother used to eat straight Crisco.
posted by aniola at 9:05 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]

Cooking might not be hard for you, but everyone has their own finite number of spoons and energy for the day.
posted by Aleyn at 9:23 PM on February 4 [18 favorites]

I wonder if there are corelations between ask / guess cultures and "food"/ ingredient cultural backgrounds?

It is actually useful to have a name for this.

I tend to be an ingredient household person but the ingredient childhood that proceeded it also came with the skill and capacity development that supports more effective and intuitive transformation from ingredient components into edible substances. Cooking and food prep / growing / production were also cited as meaningful activities that are enjoyable in their own right.

Riffing off this is a rough rule of not not buying products with five ingredients or more household which a friend from Kosovo followed. For context, she was the older sister and often primary caregiver of her siblings including one with significant learning difficulties) so a certain loading of spoons and forks already.

It is probably a better explanation of what counts as an ingredient or component in my current household of two adults one preschooler though that has fluctuated over the last couple of years. Reducing packaging has probably been one of the bigger drivers back to a more ingredient focused household especially since Australia's soft plastic recycling turned out to be a myth. So less cookies and slice bread from behaviour changes around less consumption or some things and an attempt to make a bit more of other stuff
posted by pipstar at 1:26 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]

No i will not be made to feel guilty about being an ingredient person
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 1:57 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]

she was the older sister and often primary caregiver of her siblings

This may explain something I have thought about after reading the discussion here: we grew up in an ingredients household. And my household is an ingredients household (though my store-drawer is full to its limits of delicious ingredients). But all of my younger siblings have huge amounts of snacks and sweet drinks in their stores, and when they visit, they always bring cartloads of snacks, knowing that I have none. I'm a little shocked by their behaviour, but I don't say anything. I don't want to be that big sister.
posted by mumimor at 2:08 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]

Meh. Mocking people for the food they eat is mean and déclassé. Mocking people for the food they don't eat seems just as bad.

This whole concept and term has lots of potential for punching down, racism, etc. Count me out.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:09 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

Y'all are being weird. No one is mocking anyone or trying to make ingredient people feel guilty. Did you even watch the videos? Let the self deprecating tiktoking teens have their memes in peace.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 AM on February 5 [13 favorites]

No one is mocking? Just scroll back a bit:
No, ArbitraryAndCapricious has it right, the meme is mocking this

Y'all can have fun with it if you want, just seems mean to me.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:49 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]

Mocking people for the food they eat is mean and déclassé.
Dude. This is people gently poking fun at their own upbringings. You think teens complaining about their parents' food-buying habits are being déclassé? That strikes me as a slightly bizarre word to use. Like, if they were children of sufficient status and breeding, they would be thanking Mamá and Papá for feeding them elite food and not buying Fig Newtons like some kind of heathen? I'm glad you weren't around to hear me and my brothers talk about my mom's strict "no Saturday morning cartoons" policy. You would have thought we were utter peasants.

This is lighthearted and fun, and it's sort of depressing to see that the boomer brigade can't take it for what it is because we're so invested in food moralizing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:23 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]

Since this question is asked and answered, but we're getting into it in the comments, I think this may make an interesting MeTa. I'mma go see if I can get that started.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:33 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Lol that this question apparently introduced askmeta to ingredients households! FWIW, in the wild I have only seen this used by people to gently self deprecate their own households, not to criticize or satirize others.
posted by shadygrove at 8:47 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]

I still feel like I don’t completely understand what this is, but I’ve heard millennials talk about it. I associate it with a certain degree of privilege combined with a certain degree of societal and parental gaps. Think I’ve only really been around one end of the extreme, which is the people who simply don’t buy ingredients and wouldn’t know what to do with them. Like I’m positive my oldest niece doesn’t know how to cook rice on the stove or like, dice an onion.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:52 AM on February 5

> Y'all can have fun with it if you want, just seems mean to me.

Gently mocking your own parents by highlighting the unintended and harmless consequences of their grocery shopping habits is mean? Shiiiiiiit.
posted by desuetude at 10:56 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]

I associate it with a certain degree of privilege combined with a certain degree of societal and parental gaps.

Yyyyyyyeah, we were an ingredients household because we couldn't afford to have lots of prepared snacks just lying around for random consumption (with a mild side order of Christian-crunchiness). Some of the takes here seem quite odd to me.

But I don't want to begrudge teenagers joking about having to live off nuked "quesadillas" and cinnamon toast, because when you're that age...the struggle is real!
posted by praemunire at 1:23 PM on February 7

Ingredient Household is an internet slang term for a household that only keeps a stock of food commonly used as ingredients in larger dishes, such as chocolate chips, marshmallows, peanut butter, graham crackers and dried fruit.

Huh. I definitely live like this (i.e. with ingredients, though I also have some prepared meals) but not because I... think it has independent value or anything (for anyone other than me) just because that's how I eat. Did not know it was an Internet Thing.
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Comrade Doll (aka my spouse) sort of intends to be an ingredients person, but is terrible at it, frankly. She can spend $150 at the grocery and come back with nothing but eggs, bread, fruit, tomatoes, bell peppers, some cured meat, and a couple of snacks. We were constantly having to get after her to actually think about what we might want for meals in a given week and try to buy the stuff for those, so we don't always end up eating salami and sliced peppers or an omelet.

The eventual solution was that her share of the shopping has been largely eliminated and I (a committed meal planner shopper) became exclusively in charge of grocery runs. We still cook together, we just have more options now than a European continental breakfast. We only send her occasionally and always with a list to get specific things.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:08 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

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