Thursday, April 25, 2013
Introducing 'Cook In 101'
The current food literature has made it abundantly clear: we need to get back into the kitchen. And not to use our microwave to reheat frozen entrees or our pots to reconstitute dried packet meals, but to re-learn how to turn basic raw ingredients--vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats--into healthy, tasty meals. We've allowed convenience foods, once viewed as an occasional indulgence, to become the centerpiece of our dining room table (if we're even bothering to transport the meal to the table). We've done so at our peril.
Michael Moss effectively critiqued the convenience food industry in Salt Sugar Fat--an industry that thrives on our perception that we lack the time to really cook. While that may often be true, sometimes I think people choose not to cook because they don't know how. If our parents didn't cook and we attended schools where home economics was no longer taught, it's no wonder some people can't tell a whisk from a spatula. Michael Pollan's new book Cooked is all about getting back into the kitchen.
For a lot of families with two working parents and multiple children in different schools, dinnertime can suffer short shrift, if it happens at all. As commutes gets longer and more car time is added on to shuttle kids from school to soccer practice to piano lessons, etc., families spend less time in the kitchen making nutritious, tasty meals. It's no wonder the convenience food industry has blossomed with promises of quick, easy meals, but we are paying the price for that tradeoff, as obesity rates, and related illnesses, continue to rise.
Cook In 101 is a new occasional feature targeting novice cooks to help them break the convenience food habit and get them back into the kitchen making real food. Since I see the cooking knowledge gap as one of the primary reasons people aren't cooking, Cook In 101 recipes will be simple and take time to thoroughly explore the cooking techniques used in the recipe. If we can demystify the difference between julienne, dice and mince, I think we're a good ways towards helping people realize it's just as easy to cut up and sauté a couple of fresh vegetables and serve it over brown rice as it is to boil water and dump in a packet of who-knows-what loaded with salt, sugar and ingredients of questionable pedigree.
For my first Cook In 101, I worked with a friend, a working father of two, make Spaghetti with Meat Sauce from scratch, a recipe that takes about 30-40 minutes.