Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's so hard about cooking?

I admit to being a little perplexed about the mere existence of the Food Network on cable. In an age where almost no one seems to actually cook dinner and sit down together as a family to eat, why a whole network about food? When did cooking become a spectator sport?

Perplexed, and then completely exasperated, about the way cooking has become a hobby. It's not a hobby, for pity's sake, it's a survival skill. The same way as sewing on a button, washing and ironing a shirt, taking care of your own house and car are survival skills - not that anyone much does any of those things anymore.

(Oh, a little sideline rant - have you seen the commercial for a cleaning firm called "The Maids", where the smug lady of the house says of cleaning her kitchen "Better them than me". Yeah, because you're, like, so important that scouring a cooktop is such a waste of your talents. I don't think so.)

Anyway. . .I was thinking about the dearth of home cooking while making dinner this evening. As I do almost every single evening. Unless we're having a roast chicken or pot roast or something where I had to start the main course earlier, I usually wander into the kitchen about 5 or 5:15 p.m., start making stuff, we eat around 6 p.m. and by 7 the kitchen is washed up and I turn off the light for the night (well, not tonight because there's brownies in the oven. That recipe from the newspaper was so terrible that we had to perform a do-over with a recipe that works.) I could probably get the meal on the table faster (my mom could make any weekday dinner in 30 minutes flat - everything from scratch - but she knew, trusted and used a pressure cooker, and they scare me silly) but I don't like to rush. Is that such a terrible investment of your time to get a fresh home-cooked scratch meal?

Take tonight for instance: mushroom stuffed chicken breasts, sauteed carrots and mashed potatoes. Add iced tea and it was pretty good. The only other thing my husband could have wanted (besides the brownies he requested for dessert) was a good piece of Italian bread and we were out of it.

It doesn't take a genius to make this kind of dinner, and I think it's pretty representative of the sort of weekday cooking that anyone could do. Get out the cutting board and peel a few potatoes, cut them in half and put them in a pan of water to boil. (Oh, and what about the commercial for the bagged peeled and diced potatoes you microwave and mash? I HATE that commercial. The idiocy of it. Implying peeling a few potatoes is such a Herculean effort.) Peel and slice 2 or 3 good size carrots. Throw the sliced carrots into a skillet with a dab of butter and some water. Cover and start them cooking.

I've written about the mushroom stuffed chicken before.

Keep an eye on the carrots and when they're almost done toss in some dill. When the potatoes are cooked, fish them out and put them through a ricer, add salt, pepper, butter and milk and make mashed potatoes. Use a pyrex bowl. When they're ready, put the pan back on the burner and perch the bowl on the top, covered with the saucepan lid. The potatoes will wait for a while, kept warm by the steam from the boiling pan of water.

Your chicken should be just about ready. You could also make a salad while the potatoes and chicken are cooking, if you have the notion and the ingredients.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

This is by no means "gourmet" food. But it's all fresh, home-made and easy. No MSG, no preservatives, and pretty cheap, too. I would much rather have this than a Lean Cuisine or something from the drive-through. Am I weird?


Suzan Oxenreider said...

It's a very good question. I was raised in a household with a lot of children and the one place I could have my mom all to myself was in the I learned to cook. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal to share. My former husband was amazed that I could make gravy. (Apparently his first wife couldn't figure out how to do it!)

My sister bakes cookies for her son's football team, guys that come over to "hang out", kids on the track team, etc. She gets special requests for her cookies. They are "Tollhouse" cookies for heaven's sake! She is the only mother that bakes.

Kind of makes you wonder why new houses have such large, extravagant kitchens. It doesn't take much room or effort to pop something in the microwave. (Maybe those kitchens are for when the caterer comes...)

Tanya said...

You make me hang my head in shame! I do not enjoy cooking even though I know it is a perfect expression of love towards one's family. When I do get in the kitchen I start around 5:00 and don't get everything away until 10:00. That's because I'm working in the evening too so I'm not just cooking that's for sure! And then I eat and clean up. And then hubby comes home at 9:00 or so and I reheat and clean up again.
I will try to remember it as an act of love and think of you when I am cooking! SMILES!

Joan J said...

I swear, cooking dinner every evening has become a lost art. You know when they invent FROZEN peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the world is in a weird place when it comes to cooking! Like you, I cook dinner every night with very few exceptions -- and very few pre-packaged/frozen meals! Some time this weekend I'll post a recipe I just tried - Shrimp Alfredo. In 30 years of cooking, I've never heard my husband rave about a meal like he did that one - and it was SO easy!

Long may we cook!

Catherine Jones McClarin said...

Well that does it. I am now more sure than ever that I need a wife. After I kicked out my alcoholic, abusive husband, I was a single Mom for the next 16 years. I worked 60+ hours per week just to pay the minimum bills - house, utility, food, childcare. I cooked because it was cheaper. Now I am on my own, still working 60+ hours per week. By the time I get home, I am so exhausted that I sometimes don't even eat Lean Cuisine! I just got to bed. But if I had a wife to whip up a meal in 30 minutes ... now THAT would improve my life!!!