Why have we stopped cooking?
Lately I’ve embarked on quite a few recipes I once thought were too hard and too time consuming to make from scratch. And it wasn’t until I started reading Cooked, Michael Pollans newest novel, did I realize that perhaps I had been made to think this way by the food industry. For instance I have always eaten Spanakopita pre made and frozen in a Trader Joe’s box. I never once thought to make them because I always assumed it would be too difficult. Why did I think that? Because I purchased it in a box? One day I stumbled upon a recipe and took on the task and yes, it is time consuming but it is by no means impossible to make fresh, homemade delicious Spanakopita.
Next, homemade pasta. Seriously? It’s flour and eggs. Why did I think this so hard? Sure having a pasta maker makes it easier but realistically all you actually need is a rolling pin and a knife and you’ve got homemade delicious pasta (trust me, once you make it you’ll never want to go back..)
But my all time favorite is something I have never once bought pre made. And that is tomato sauce. I can thank my Italian mother for that one as I have never been exposed to Prego, Newmans Own or any other tomato sauce that comes in a glass bottle. Given how it only takes a can of tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, olive oil and some herbs..I really don’t quite understand why we are made to think we either don’t have time to make it or that it’s too difficult and thus must be bought pre made. Really?
On that note I have always been intimidated by Asian cooking. It always seems so involved and included so many items that I didn’t know what they were or where to find them. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a recipe for mooncakes, a Chinese desert made in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid Autumn festival is a sortof Chinese Thanksgiving, where people come together to celebrate, worship the autumn moon and eat mooncakes. I personally love mooncakes so after giving the recipe a quick read I embarked on a quest to find mooncake molds. Obviously they were high in demand and all the good ones were sold out, so I ordered a sub par mold from the only online seller in the United States. A few days later my boyfriend picked up the one wildcard item we needed to make the dessert, lotus seeds for the filling, from a Chinese market.
On Saturday night I soaked the seeds in water and early Sunday morning I boiled and mashed them into the paste. We then headed out to the farmers market to pick up our food for the week. We came back a few hours later to make the dough which took no more than 5 minutes and after letting it set we measured out portions of our filling and dough and assembled! 30 minutes later the cakes were baked and my boyfriend and I enjoyed a freshly baked and might I say delicious mooncake!
I suppose the one downside to cooking could be that once you make something from scratch you’ll never want to buy it pre-made again (as is the reason we have a case of canned San Marzano tomato’s sitting on top of our fridge..). OR you’ll never eat it again once you see how much butter or sugar or lard the recipe actually calls for (damnit fudge!). But similarly to the Mid Autumn festival one of the many upsides to cooking is that it brings people together and that alone makes the art of cooking a meal totally worth it. After we made our mooncakes I thought about how EASY it was and how nice it was to cook something from my boyfriends heritage and to share the experience together. We shared a few with his family who were also really impressed and remarked at how I was the first one they knew to attempt to make the cakes, and I’m not even Chinese! Why as a culture have we stopped cooking? To quote Michael Pollen, "How is it that at the precise historical moment when American’s were abandoning the kitchen, handing over the preparation of most of our meals to the food industry, we began spending so much of our time thinking about food and watching other people cook it on television?"
Think about it :-)