I Cannot Wait for Bourdain & Ruhlman to Get Hold of This Guy

MORAN.

Speaking of Ruhlman, I’ve hadthis bookmarked for a while:

Book sales generally are stagnant but cookbooks keep selling.
People want to cook but they’re told at every click of the television
remote, in every cookbook, in all the magazines, this is HARD people,
so here are the shortcuts!

Next cookbook I’m going to write? It’s going to be called, Recipes That Take a Really Long Time and Are Too Hard For People To Do. (The only problem would be coming up with enough recipes where that was actually true.)

I don’t cook every day. Last night, we wanted wanted to squeeze in
an extra game of pool, kids at home were getting hungry, the intended
stir fry was going to take 45 minutes to get on the table. Decision?
Chipotle, beef and chicken burritos, chips and guac. Sometimes work
goes on too long and we don’t even have 30 minutes to cook—fine, fry a
burger and mic some frozen peas. Order take out.

I’m not an idiot. I know people are busy. I don’t always feel like
making dinner. And I know a lot of people who simply don’t like to
cook. If I had to knit my own clothes I’d be really bummed. But the
notion that cooking is hard and that it takes a long time and we’re
just too stupid to cook is wrong. And I want people to recognize the
truth from the bill of goods they’re being sold.

Mostly because while I don’t think he’s wrong (it pisses me off that people convince themselves they can’t do things just because, like, there’s so much in the world that limits you, why would you do it to yourself?) but it’s not necessarily about the cooking time. It’s about the ability to maintain freshness of ingredients when you don’t shop every day.

I hate grocery shopping. I just hate it. I hate the crowded stores, the people blocking the aisles, the kids throwing cereal at each other, the self-checkout that never works, the person in front of me in line who has obviously not been out of her house in 20 years and is just flummoxed by the whole moving conveyor thing, and the way I can find 90 percent of what I need in one store but still have to drive to another one for the other 10 percent (dear Trader Joe’s, please stock Diet Coke, love, A). And, first world problems, but I also can’t bring myself to order through Peapod or something and have it delivered, because if I buy an apple I need to see it’s a good apple. So I shop once every two weeks. If that. My personal preference would be to pick the pantry clean of everything including the ketchup and a box of lentils I’ve moved to two different homes before ever going back to the Dominick’s.

If you shop every two weeks, the lettuce you buy at the beginning of the trip will be nasty three days later. Ditto just about every other fucking vegetable these days: Come back to me, farmer’s market! So you eat fresh for two days and then go back to frozen veg medley. You can buy the chicken unfrozen but if you don’t eat it right away … and keeping fish around in the fridge freaks me right out. I am paranoid about fish. We don’t eat it much because the only time I do buy it it’s from someplace I’m sure it’s fresh and then it costs the earth. I could freeze it, but then I’m thawing it and also then it tastes like cardboard.

Usually in the summer, when I have more time and energy, I do better in
terms of making a soup or a pasta sauce or something fresh and then
preserving it for later use. We had farmer’s market cherries steeped in red wine and sugar over ice cream with brownies the other night because I bought enough to freeze all these long months. Last Sunday I baked all afternoon, and froze the brownies and cookies and biscotti so I’d be able to pull out homemade desserts for a while.

So it’s not just about cooking time. It’s also about the entire pattern of the way we live, the stores we have to drive to, the crap trucked-in produce they stock, and the calculus in our heads of how much we’re willing to throw out before we say fuck it and just go back to frozen pizza. I would cook every day like he suggests, roasting a chicken and making a salad and some steamed veggies, if that didn’t also mean shopping every day, and if shopping every day didn’t mean driving every day. There’s more at work here than just the ability to convince yourself you can cook.

A.

27 thoughts on “I Cannot Wait for Bourdain & Ruhlman to Get Hold of This Guy

  1. We’re leading parallel lives, or we’re twin daughters of different mothers, or something.

  2. whet moser says:

    It’s encouraging to know I’m not the only person who loses his or her shit in grocery stores. All of them, basically. I try to shop at the little boutique grocery near my house, so far as I can afford to do so, in part because it isn’t completely overwhelming.
    Then again, given that the Clash recorded “Lost in the Supermarket” ages ago, I suspect there are more people out there like me.
    I did manage on Monday to cook for almost all of this week – though I did go to the most excellent Jibek Jolu one night – took about 2 hrs, but I did it.

  3. pansypoo says:

    thaw fish in milk?
    i still haven’t used up the onions i got at the farer’s market last nov. i stocked up. in winter i get carrots or broccoli, tho i got cabbage this march. i do not get anything that won’t last or is ok in winter. i cook for leftovers. and yes, the 1st time it takes more time.
    good quick recipe i discovered. i had some old good seasons italian dressing packets. i sprinkled a little on chicken + fried it in cast iron using BUTTER. a very easy delicious dinner.

  4. Elspeth Ravenwind says:

    I’m hopeless getting fresh produce… I have all of the best intentions, then I get sidetracked (me? Nooooo!?!?) and when I recall I have something in the crisper drawer, well, let’s just say it’s moved to a more liquid/limp state…

  5. Scott Alloway says:

    Yes. Thaw fish in milk. And vacuum pack parboiled veggies to freeze for later use. Best thing I ever did for the kitchen is the vacuum sealer.
    No good answers for fresh greens other than buying them every 3 or 4 days in small qantities.
    I shop late Sunday afternoons in our Philadelphia supermarket. Fewer people than any other time and it works well with our later dinner time (we usually eat around 7:30 or 8 on Sunday). I don’t mind shopping but have a list and an eye for buying off-list when what we usually use is on sale. Since I do the cooking, I have an idea what may be needed in the next week or three.

  6. OkieBlue says:

    Well, thank goodness. I thought I was the only person who had this problem and it was due to how inept I am. I guess this is a problem for everyone who lives the busy lifestyle.
    And about grocery store lines – why do so many people seem shocked when they are told it’s time to pay? It’s like it finally occurred to them for the first time that maybe they should start looking for their purse or their billfold or their abacus or whatever. Seriously dude, why aren’t you ready to pay? Did you think it was free?

  7. dr4lom says:

    I hate to make you all jealous, but part of the reason we live where we do is because Cleveland, Oh has a really really great farmers’ market and during the summer there are co-ops, small local farm stands(even though the city is so close). I live in Ohio City and five minutes away is a year round fresh market with good produce, great fish and meat(though I’m pescatarian) and friendly people doing what they can to make it worth it to go there over the megamart. Yeah, we still hit up Trader Joe’s for some items and still wind up bouncing into the Giant Eagle for a bit(like your diet coke issue), but on the whole, when we’re smart and plan for it, fresh isn’t really the problem, it’s where you go. The catch is timing. If we don’t hit the market super early Saturday morning or my girlfriend is able to go during the week(when they tend to stock less items), we’re back into the stupid.

  8. Adrastos says:

    I;m one of the few people who likes grocery shopping. I like it even more now that the Houma based chain Rouse’s is in NOLA. They have tons of locally sourced seafood and produce. My favorite part is the misc meat area where you can find boar pate one day, rabbit another and always duck. Quack.

  9. Jim Pharo says:

    This is why community dining is the way to go. There’s really no reason why every X number of humans can’t affordably employ the staff, buy the food and provide nearby facility for getting a couple of squares every day.
    Think of it as a friendly neighborhood dining hall, but with less gross food.
    If the federal government would put up the seed money, we could have hundreds of these things in five years, thousands in ten.
    Oh, and we need to live in an alternative universe where Americans aren’t so shitty to each other.

  10. k says:

    We need to live in an alternative universe where we can slow down. And be nice to each other.

  11. virgotex says:

    The way American food marketers-and most other retailers- work, we have to decide what we want to pay. If we save time and money, then we usually end paying a different kind of high price: nutrition-wise, quality-wise, fair labor-wise, etc. That’s how they have us, and they are counting on us taking the cheapest way out, money and time wise. That’s the reality. (Think that documentary about Wal-Mart, “The High Cost of Low Prices”) And indeed, for a lot of people, it’s prohibitive, time and moneywise, to stop the dance. And as long as they have enough customers dependent on low costs, quick n ‘easy, they’ll rule the market.
    When I decided last year I had to eat real food of higher quality, preferably raised locally as much as possible, and cook most of my own meals, I had to really get my head around what it was going to mean. I was going to spend more money, I was going to have to have to spend more time planning, cooking, and shopping. (I live in a teeeeeeeny little town 15 miles from the next largest town.)
    But it was important to me (for several reasons) so I committed. And the first month SUCKED ASS. Then the payoffs became very real and visible, and that in turn motivated necessary tweaks to the routine, then I just never looked back. The costs in time and money and energy seem normal now, and pretty damned reasonable for what I get in return.
    That said, some things make my situation easier: 1) there’s an amazing local food coop, and a thriving regional green market system, so there’s a community of like-minded people who support a great community of local and regional farmers and ranchers who want keep doing what they’re doing without having to cave-in and sell to the big corporate food machine 2) I only have one person- me-to feed, so my budget (of time and money) goes a lot farther.

  12. Michael says:

    Count me with Adrastos–I like to shop for groceries…these days groceries are pretty much my only shopping experience.
    I mix and match the regular, plain old supermarket with a few specialty stores (Indian, Asian, a small boutique place, and Whole Paycheck for things like fish) and I like to cook.
    Fresh produce would be nice, sure, but to be honest, I don’t really trust the farmer’s market or the large produce specialty place…the latter probably buys from the same wholesaler that stocks the supermarket, and some of the farmer’s market stuff looks suspiciously similar.
    And sure, it’d be nice to always have fresh fish, chicken, or, yeah, even red meat (I don’t mind admitting that I eat the stuff)…but…I buy what’s on sale and keep it frozen. I guess if I was cooking for guests it’d be different, but just for me, it’s a nice end to the day and economical, too.
    And now I’m going to the kitchen to whip up pepper steak stir fry…

  13. abo gato says:

    I love to go to the grocery. I think it’s because I’m not a shopper in any other sense of the word, so this is my shopping experience. Also, I feel like it is the only place I can kind of spend with impunity. For the past year or more, we’ve really done little spending anywhere, except for the grocery.
    I have to agree too, with Michael, that I wonder about some of the produce I see at our local farmer’s markets. But I still like to go to them and look around. In the summer I like to buy small pickling cucumbers so I can make batches of pickles. Every couple of summers or so I get the bug to make tomato preserves and I get a lot of them at the farmer’s market and make a batch of the stuff.
    All of that though, I still love to cook. My deal is just making things…truly, it hardly matters what it is, as long as I get to make it. So for me, cooking is perfect. I get to make something; and we all need to eat, so win-win, I say. I have a husband and a 19 year old son and they are very happy with this arrangement.
    I made shrimp and grits tonight. My son wants to go on a road trip to Charleston, SC to see a friend graduate from some Navy school…(along with two girls)…so I told him that if he went on this trip, he could try shrimp and grits in situ and he thought that sounded like a freaking great idea, after he ate dinner.
    Food is an adventure. It can take you anywhere in the world. I like that a lot.

  14. pansypoo says:

    i rarely use salt in cooking

  15. Kaleberg says:

    We love the cook. Food shopping out here can be fun since we have one good supermarket, an overgrown farm stand that has great stuff and a growing farmers’ market. The farmers’ market keeps getting better since there are now three fish guys, a mushroom guy and a family selling their own beef. (Their kids are so cute.) A local bakery shows up along with the usual round of vegetable and fruit mongers. (Oh yeah, they all have eggs. Everyone has eggs. Our architect raises chickens, so she has eggs.) It helps that we’re in the crucifer capital and our growing season is mild since crucifers, kales, chards and the like, are winter hardy.
    On the other hand, there are dishes that are too much for ordinary people to cook. No one in their right mind makes real duck confit, though we do. You have to skin and cut the meat from four ducks. The spice mix has 15 ingredients. You have to render all the duck fat from the skin and salt the meat for 36 hours. Paula Wolfert has a lot of recipes like this. They’re all authentic. They’re all ridiculous. They’re also all delicious.
    We’ve always liked cooking for ourselves, if only because packaged foods taste awful. Shopping and cooking can be streamlined. If you can only shop every two weeks, you have to have a storage strategy and make the most of those fresh ingredients while they last. I don’t think everyone cares to do it, but it is mainly a matter of priorities.

  16. Sandia Blanca says:

    Here in Central Texas we are so fortunate to have a wealth of local food sources. We’ve been using Greening, our organic/local food delivery service, for more than four years. Every Friday we receive two bins of fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, meat, prepared foods, and pantry staples. They even offer beer and wine! And even though I don’t see the apples before I buy, I am generally very happy with the quality of the food we receive. And our kids were amazed to find out how delicious produce is when it’s organic.
    We still have to supplement with occasional trips to Costco, Sprouts, and the local supermarkets, but I love having most of our food delivered to our door. We also have several excellent farmers’ markets, and some local producers sell directly to the public.
    As Kaleberg says, you do need to become more deliberate about meal planning and preparation–that’s not always easy in a two-career family with kids, but we’ve improved over the years.
    If you also compost your vegetable scraps, you’ll be able to tolerate an occasional overbuy of lettuce or other perishables–at least you’re enriching the soil!

  17. hoppy says:

    Several years ago I decided to become the cook in the family. I had just retired, so I had the time and enjoyed doing it. My daughter lived with us when I started, and she cooked when I didn’t want to, or when she wanted some specific dish.
    I treat my local grocery store as my pantry. Why should I keep fresh vegetables and fruits and have them spoil? Instead I let the store do that for me. Then about every other day I shop – visit my pantry.
    I also have about a half dozen dinners I rotate through. During the winter I make lots of stews, making enough to last two days, so I only have to cook every other day. And, I make frittatas – big ones that last for two days. When I cook a meat dish, it has to last 2 days. It is fun. I even enjoy grocery shopping. (visiting my pantry)

  18. The Other Sarah says:

    I spent some money the last couple times I left home — a total of $5 so far — on seeds for the garden.
    Four kinds of tomatoes. (hopefully one of the vines will survive to bear, this year. Last year I got hailed out three times.)
    Five kinds of squash.
    Radishes, carrots, pumpkins (two kinds, and I know they’re just big squash, but so?)
    Lettuce and mixed greens.
    Collards.
    Onions.
    Looking for kale, still. (Kale, with a little onion and a little smoked pork and a little onion, turns butterbeans into heaven in a bowl…) Trying to find some herbs: thyme, cilantro, dill, rosemary, sage, savory, chives and garlic chives, shallot and mint (as many kinds as will come up).
    And corn, but not sweet corn.
    Now, if it’ll just quit freezing every third night and snowing every fifth …

  19. FeralLiberal says:

    As an avid cook I don’t mind grocery shopping (good thing since I’m the food shopper in the house), I see it all as potential. I cook large quantities on weekends with leftovers and repurposing in mind for the week. Having a large deep freeze helps the food budget, as well as an extensive garden every year. I can and dry tomatoes, and freeze corn, beans & brocc. Supermarket produce is often disappointing, but you have to be choosy and not dead set on something. Buy what’s good and plan around that. Local super just had a great deal on nice red bell peppers – 99 cents/lb. A little pork sausage (free thanks to double coupon day) some onion, leftover brown rice, and a quick marinara sauce = stuffed peppers for dinner.

  20. jezebel says:

    I love cooking. And love grocery shopping. One of the biggest selling points for me when we found our place in Philly is that we live right across the street from Whole Foods. Costs a bloody fortune, but oh so very convenient.
    I think the key to cooking regularly is planning, especially if it’s a pain to get to the store. Plan out your meals for a week, then make a list of what you actually need from the grocery store and do a super-efficient shopping trip to get just what’s on the list. And if you can only get to the store once a week or every other week, plan your meals so that you use the most perishable stuff first. So, use the fish the first day (and I totally agree — don’t keep fish in the fridge more than a day), use the lettuce, zucchini, raspberries, more delicate veggies and fruits in the first few days, and save the peppers, cabbage, apples, and other longer-keeping produce till later. Meal planning does take a little time but it gets easier once you start getting some favorites that you’ll make regularly. Also, a lot of cooking websites, like Cooking Light and Epicurious, have weekly meal planner guides to help get started.
    In terms of the cooking itself, I try to use the weekends for cooking things that take more time and that I can make extras of for leftovers during the week or to freeze. Make two lasagnas, freeze one. Make a super big batch of chili and freeze individual servings for later. Make a big pot of soup or stew and have leftovers during the week. That sort of thing. During the week, I usually (but not always) keep the cooking a bit simpler. Pasta, sauteed chicken or pork chops and a veggie, panini and fruit, etc. A slow cooker can also be your weekday friend. Carnitas, pulled pork, short ribs, all kinds of soups and stews are serious slow cooker fare, even for a cooking snob. And then there’s grilling in the nicer weather.
    And, last tip on the Diet Coke — check out sodastream.com. You can make your own seltzer and carbonated beverages, including regular and diet Coke, cream soda, root beer, Sprite, Fresca, etc. It’s a bit of an up-front investment for the sodamaker, but after that it costs less than a third as much to make your soda rather than buying it. Plus fewer trips to the store, no more bottles/cans to dispose of, far less of it going flat, etc. Mr. jezebel is a Diet Coke junkie and I love seltzer, so we use ours constantly. So much easier than having to stock up on the stuff every time I go to the store.
    Okay, I’m done! 🙂

  21. Dan says:

    This was the winter we rediscovered theslow cooker. And fell in love. I mean, lookat this – potatoes, carrots, onion, celery and parsley. Cut ’em up, add water, throw it all in and let it go. You can prepare it in 10 minutes before work, let it go all day and have a hot, fresh, nutritious, cheap and tasty dinner waiting for you when you get home. I’ll probably never be a real cook, but it doesn’t take a lot of skill to make really good soups & stews.

  22. virgotex says:

    You folks that don’t trust farmer’s markets. Why? Because the food’s not prettied up and spritzed with water every hour? Are there no producing farmers near where you live? Do you own Safeway stock?
    Ask the people in the booth. They should be able to tell you exactly where that food came from and when. Because most producers committed to farmer’s markets have to be able to tell you. Most of the ones I know will invite you out to their farm to take a look. If they are unable to give you specifics, your fears are probably founded. If you want to make sure, check with your local extension office (supported by your tax dollars)- they should be able to corroborate.
    When you’re in your supermarket ask the produce guy the same thing. Does he know when when that head of lettuce was picked in another state across the country from you? The bigger the store, the older the “fresh” food.
    This is your test. Buy greens. Something you usually buy in the supermarket. Store them the same you store the supermarket stuff. See if they don’t last twice as long.
    Sorry to be a dick about this but independet farmers need support to survive. I’m on the fence about whether local food is actually inherently more nutritious than identical food of the same age picked elsewhere and gotten to youin the same time frame. I tend to think think food picked yesterday is food picked yesterday. But if you don’t support your independent farmers, you won’t have any. That’s not healthy for your economy. And you’ll be eating food that’s weeks old instead of hours old, and your money is going to some national corporation instead of staying in your region and state. If you think two week old spinach that’s ridden in a truck across two or more states is as good for you and your local economy than something picked yesterday by someone 10 miles away, sorry, I believe your trust is misplaced.
    If cost is the bottom line, and sometimes it really is, frozen stuff is more nutritious than something “fresh” from Mexico or Chile or across the country.

  23. Michael says:

    I don’t trust my local farmer’s market BECAUSE the produce is prettied up and looks like it’s been spritzed with water every hour…to be fair, not with all the booths, but at some it honestly looks like it could have been bought at the grocery and reboxed.

  24. pansypoo says:

    i got carrots at the farmers market in oct that lasted into jan. still have a few nov onions. and it’s almost PEA season! RHUBARB!

  25. abo gato says:

    Oh, Jezebel, I got a sodastream a couple of months ago and LOVE it! Been using Torani syrups to make light Italian soda type drinks…omg, the Blood Orange is amazing! And, not too calorie laden as I only put one or very rarely two jiggers of the syrup into the liter bottle. Plus, the Torani’s are made with real cane sugar and we were trying to get rid of the high fructose corn stuff. I like the sodastream flavors okay, but with the Splenda they put in them, I’m kinda not all that happy with the flavor. Oh, and I do like the orange and lemon lime mywater flavor essence they have…that makes the fizzy stuff taste a lot like La Croix flavored waters. Great stuff, and really economical.

  26. snarkypam says:

    A few years back, I bought some Tupperware containers that are specifically made for refrigerator storage of fresh produce. They have 2 little vents on the side, and there’s a sticker that tells you whether to have both open, both closed or one-open-and-one-closed for a specific type of produce. Produce lasts at least twice as long if stored in them. I don’t even know if they still make them, but they are far and away the best food storage investment I ever made.
    The biggest container is a round gallon container (looks like the 5 qt. ice cream buckets my mom used to buy when she had 5 kids at home), and I clean 2 heads of romaine lettuce at a time, which pretty much fills it. I hardly ever have any lettuce go bad, even though I’m only feeding one person, and a gallon of lettuce goes a long, long way.

  27. D says:

    you can absolutely keep fish in the fridge for more than a day. Just put it on an ice-bed (or use Ice packs) so that the temperature where you keep the fish remains lower than 36/37 and does not fluctuate with the air temp of the fridge as much. I’ve been able to keep sashimi graded fish up to par for several days – and if you’re going to actually cook the fish, you can do this for longer periods of time. I’m not sure how cold you’re keeping your fridges or whether you have the humidity settings, and the like – but things like fresh asparagus and broc can last for a week or more stored properly.

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