Saturday, August 8, 2009

How much do we really cook?

Thanks for Cheap Healthy Good's Megalinks, I get to read lots of interesting articles out in the internet about food. I really enjoyed one this week, a Michael Pollan editorial.

Now, Mr. Pollan discusses Julia Child, and how she got millions interested in (French) cooking. And how she was the prequel to the food network. And how people JUST don't cook anymore. Women work outside the home, there's ample opportunity to eat out or buy frozen meals. it true? And if so, is it a bad thing? You know...I don't really *want* to cook beef bourguignon or duck a l'orange, despite my high school French. I like more simple, vegetarian foods. And one of my favorite cookbooks is "Simple foods for the good life" by Helen Nearing, which is about as "un-cookbook" as you can get.

If you are eating fresh, does it matter that you spend 27 mins, or 36 mins per day prepping meals instead of 2x that? And what is considered cooking? I use prepared ingredients...canned tomatoes, sometimes frozen vegetables. I buy bread (do make the occasional crusty loaf). My mom certainly cooked more "from scratch", but there was still cream of mushroom soup in our cupboard.

Why do we like to WATCH cooking without actually cooking? I love food and like to use the cooking shows as inspiration. Let me tell you, when I was on maternity leave, my husband ate like a KING. I like to cook. But I don't like doing dishes. So given the chance, I'd prefer to cook 3-4 x a week and fill in with leftovers. And our meals are simple: salads and sandwiches in the summer, soups, stews, casseroles in the winter. I don't like reading that "the skills are already lost". Now, that's sort of true. I started this blog, in part, to record my attempts to make a good roast chicken and a good pizza dough...figuring that when I succeeded, I could just look it up next time. But how many of these other skills do we actually *need*. In order to feed my family a healthy diet, I need to know how to bake, chop, saute, steam, carmelize, roast. Mostly plants.

Do I need to know how to cook every manner of meat? Not really. We eat mostly I've learned how to roast a chicken, bake a tri-tip, saute salmon and shrimp. Just enough to get by...since it's a rarity to cook these things in my home. I *do* however, know how to make a mean pinto bean burger and some pretty good falafel.

What have I cooked this week? Well, this was a busy work week. I cooked beans and rice, and later used them to make burritos (no, I did not make the tortillas, but I have in the past). I made up a delicious pesto and vegetable pasta dish. I made a number of open-faced tomato sandwiches and a lot of guacamole. One night was veggie burgers (I don't really count that as cooking). I sliced up veggies for salads and fruits just to snack on. I cooked eggs for breakfast one morning, and used the blender to make smoothies and popsicles. Remaining for the weekend will be a sauteed shrimp with cashew curry sauce (Martha Stewart), a bean salad chock-full of CSA veggies (green beans, cranberry beans, garlic, red bell pepper), a green salad, and either a pasta dish or some homemade falafel.


Joanne said...

I read this op-ed and really enjoyed your review of it. I am a purveyor of food shows as well, mostly because they give me ideas and plant things in my head that then knock around and will hopefully emerge somewhere in my cooking at some time in the future. I got the feeling that Pollan was annoyed more by those who will sit in front of the tv, watching the Food Network while eating McDonalds every night. Any homemade meal, whether it be veggie burgers or a pasta sauce that uses canned tomatoes, is considered cooking in my book.

Daniel said...

Also enjoyed reading your take on Pollan's article. That article bugged me on some level too. I think it's partly Pollan inadvertently slipping and showing some food snobbery, but he somehow seems oblivious to the entire multitude of food blogs out there, like yours, Joanne's and mine, all of which practice and celebrate cooking at all sorts of levels, from casual to haute cuisine.

Casual Kitchen

Amy B said...

I remember my mother's grocery list was something like: a brick of Velvetta, lb of hamburger, chicken, bag of onions, bag of potatoes, eggs, supermarket bread, frozen broccoli, frozen peas, milk, spaghetti, flour, tuna, margarine, sugar, Miracle Whip, orange juice.

I thought I was so much more sophisticated when I bought bagels, hummus, good cheese, good bread, spices, all manner of vegetables and pomegrante juice. But the truth is, I don't feel very confident about how I shop. I kind of envy my mother's simpler regime (and if I eat healthier, how come I am heavier than she was?) I think there is a lack of a simple foundation in American every day cooking. We are so conditioned to look for the latest thing, the newest fad, we haven't developed a sense of every day good cooking. Or, at least, I haven't!

Amy B said...

PS I really disliked that Julia/Julie movie. I thought the Julie character made a mockery of Julia's achievement.

I just really liked Julia Child, as a person, and I thought this movie belittled her. Anyway, that was my reaction.

Marcia said...

Thanks for the comments! I am looking forward to seeing Julie/Julia movie (on DVD, of course! Not really a movie-goer.) I like Julia Child. She lived here in my town, so there were many articles in the local paper about her while she was still living.

I love Michael Pollan, too, but this article did kind of bug me a bit.