I spent nearly 30 minutes Sunday afternoon chopping vegetables. Homemade pico de gallo is a harsh mistress.
Admittedly, it probably should have taken only about half that long. I’m slow and accident-prone.
Still, it gave me a long time to ponder the psychology of food preparation these days.
I grew up in the ’80s, when moms were going to work in droves and the buzzword in cooking was “timesaving.” Jars of spaghetti sauce and boxes of brownie mix became standard pantry supplies.
The divide between male and female roles was never more apparent. Women became fully aware that they were working a second shift after their 9-to-5 job ended, and many resented every minute of it.
Cooking became a chore made easier by letting somebody else do the grunt work. Convenience was our mantra, and we bought into the pursuit of better living through chemistry.
Somewhere along the way, we went too far. There seems to be a couple generations of people who think nothing of buying a week’s worth of meals from the freezer case. There are likely teenagers who think French toast only comes in sticks, and that “homemade” cookies come from rolls of dough in the dairy case. There are 30-somethings who cannot navigate the meat counter, not because they’re vegetarians, but because the only meat they ever buy is pre-seasoned and pre-cooked.
I’m no cooking saint or food snob. There’s a jar of spaghetti sauce in my pantry and a big bag of Costco meatballs in the freezer, and I’m not afraid to use them.
But I’ve also made my own sauce and meatballs from a recipe passed down through my Italian mother-in-law’s family. I’ve melted three different kinds of chocolate to make brownies that would make anybody eschew the boxed stuff forever.
I, ladies and gentlemen, have made a souffle.
While there has been a foodie revolution gaining momentum over the past decade or so, the quality of many American diets seems to have gone down.
For some, it’s an economic issue. You can buy a couple of cheap hamburgers if all you have is $5 in your pocket, but that $5 won’t cover ground beef, buns, condiments and veggies to make a better version.
Note, however, that if I see you with a cart containing a $6 carton of organic milk AND a stack of Lunchables, you’re doing it wrong.
I don’t always have 45 minutes to make my own pico de gallo and fajitas, but I do have a slow cooker and mad planning skills.
All in all, I don’t mind cooking on the second shift (though I must add that the husband makes an excellent calzone and superb oatmeal cookies). I deserve proper nourishment, as does my husband and anybody else I’m feeding. More than that, though, we deserve delicious nourishment, and the way to delicious is sometimes marked with a sharp knife and zen-like concentration.
By choosing what we eat based on convenience, we stand a chance of shortchanging our bodies and our tastebuds. Avoiding that outcome is never a waste of time.