October 31, 2010

Are We Becoming Lazy Cooks?

A number of things disturb me about Sandra Lee...
There seems to be a trend in cooking, and it seems to be all about making cooking effortless. If any of you have been forced to sit through an episode of "Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee" on the Food Network, you know what I'm talking about. We want amazing results with no effort. We believe that with a few tricks from Sandra Lee or Rachel Ray or whoever else is popping up on our television sets, or from the next Ten Meals in Ten Minutes or Less cookbook, we can produce the meal of our dreams by barely lifting a finger. We want fine dining results with Easy-Mac simplicity.

But usually, cooking takes a little dedication, a little forethought, some planning, some quality time spent in the kitchen and a little more than punching in two numbers on your microwave. Eating well at home is about caring about what you are cooking, caring about what you are cooking with and putting in the dedication to know that the time you have spent cooking is worth it. There is no magic bullet for cooking, whatever Sandra Lee may say.

Which is not to say, by any means, that cooking cannot be easy and that eating well needs to be beyond anyone's capability. Cooking can still be accessible, efficient and time-worthy. You well may be able to prepare a great meal in the time that it takes you to microwave a frozen burrito. And that's good news for all of us, because it means that you don't need to quit your job or not study for your test to have a great dinner tonight.

What it does not mean, however, is that cooking can be thoughtless and effortless. Do not be lazy about food! Know that the time or energy that you put into the food you make will be worth it. Even if you don't love spending hours upon hours in the kitchen (as I do), know that what time you do put into the food you eat - whether that be thoughtful consideration of where your food comes from or how you are going to prepare it - will be evident on the plate. If you want fast cooking, get good, fresh ingredients and prepare them simply. Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes is a wonderful dish, and believe me, it's not that hard. Broccoli sauteed with some lemon, salt and pepper? Tasty! As you know, simple sandwich is simply spectacular. And I'm not saying that instant mac-and-cheese is to be done away with (if because I do occasionally fall prey to its creamy deliciousness), but just that it is not the only way to make easy food, and quickly.

And if you want to spend 4 hours in the kitchen next Saturday, I'm all for that too.

I'm just saying don't be lazy. If you put a little energy into it, you'll know what a difference it makes. Think about food and cooking. Think about it!

And if you still need to throw in an Easy-Mac every once in a while, I guess that's OK too. Though that neon-orange still scares me.