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.