Friday, July 20, 2007

Cooking for What? 101

This latest offering by Mark Bittman of a list of 101 dishes that can be cooked in 10 minutes or less makes me think of an oft-repeated response to critics of Rachel Ray who, as anyone with a nanometer of sense understands, cannot cook to save the life of a virus. "Well," Ray's apologists opine "at least she's inspiring people to cook their own food."

Yeah, I say, she's doing them a real favor by inspiring them to add canned tuna fish to jarred tomato sauce when they could be eating a Big Mac and not having to scrub pots. Thanks Raych!

I feel almost the same way about Bittman's quick and easy approach to cooking and his recent list of Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. Cooking, not matter how simple the dish, is only a small portion of the total work involved in getting a meal on the table. Even a fast dish like boiled lobster with lemon and butter from Bittman's list requies that the cook
  • works X minutes to earn the purchase money
  • spends X minutes transporting ingredients home
  • Cooks 10 minutes
  • Cleans at least 10 minutes
There is this notion in the foodie community taking charge of your own nutrition is something that everyone must do in order to become a "whole person." It's spineless rhetoric of course, nobody can prove that the road to happiness or self-fulfillment goes through the kitchen or the garden. It's more like a religious belief, something not provable through the examination of empirically derived data but accepted or rejected based on how one "feels" about it: fuzzy logic, if you will.

And it never, I mean never, talks about all the drudge work that comes along with it.

I'm not suggesting that cooking cannot be immensely rewarding -far from it. But I think that in taking the rhetorical position it's so easy, anybody can do it! food media evangelists like Rachel Ray and Mark Bittman end up tricking a lot of people into wasting money on books and wasting time in front of the TV and in the kitchen when they could be out doing something more idiosyncratically fulfilling, like picking up the phone and ordering a pizza.

Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less - New York Times


Kevin said...


Don Luis said...

Yeah, Bittman's been writing some pretty silly stuff lately.

Well over a dozen of these dishes involve pasta, which can only be cooked in 10 minutes if you happen to have some boiling salted water handy.

Cameron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron said...

I think the main problem is that most people who buy into the ten or thirty minute meal fads have no inclination to really cook anyway.

These people end up with stacks of "You can cook!" books that end up in the recycle bin with their empty pizza boxes.

And this one scares me:

"Put three pounds of washed mussels in a pot with half a cup of white wine, garlic cloves, basil leaves and chopped tomatoes. Steam until mussels open. Serve with bread."

This list is obviously intended for people that don't have a grand knowledge of cooking or food, yet Bittman doesn't tell the reader to discard the mussels that were open before cooking or closed after cooking!

redman said...

big time. I always cringe when I see those lists.