Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

Easy, My Ass…

on January 28, 2016

“…books about cooking largely admitted what every homemaker knew to be true:  that feeding people was backbreaking work, and then you died.” (The “Myth” of Easy Cooking by Elizabeth Dunn – linked in earlier post referenced and linked below)

Thanks to Els’ encouragement to expand on my earlier post (which was really just a link), and because my blog pal’s latest post has sparked some excellent commentary, here is my little screed on the matter of “Easy” cooking.

Every single thing in that article resonated with me.  I have DOZENS  of cookbooks (even post-cull) and any number of them promise “easy”.  Easy.  Sure.  Maybe in an alternate universe.

Let’e talk turkey, shall we?

30 Minute Meals.  I owned 4 of these cookbooks.  You can’t actually prepare any of this, from lights-on to table in 30 minutes.  Really, you can’t.  Not unless all your prep is done ahead of time.  And then – let’s talk about the sheer ridiculous number of post and pans and utensils required to produce the meal – basically an hour of clean up.  And you know what else?  In my house, the produce is not all washed and dried and prepped and ready for me to slice/dice/chop.

How about ingredients?  Spurred on by this article, I pulled out a couple of my “easy weeknight meals” cookbooks.  Kohlrabi.  Celeriac.  Butternut Squash (you know it takes an hour alone to simply carve that thing into something you can actually at some point cook and eat, right?).  Le Sigh. (Disclosure – I can actually get kohlrabi and celeriac at my local grocery store, but I’m lucky that way and anyway, it’s only fairly recently that securing some of this stuff didn’t require a pilgrimage to Whole Paycheck).

Mostly where Dunn gets it right is in WHO is exactly creating these recipes.  Not “home cooks who learned at their mothers’ elbows in family kitchen”.  Culinary School grads.  Nothing against them, but what the ^%$#(*&^do they know about screaming into a driveway at 6:30 (sure, you left the office at 5, but then you had the commute and you had to pick up the kids from daycare and then you still had to stop by the grocery store before heading home) with tired, hungry, cranky kids?  Answer?  Big Fat Hairy Zilch, that’s what.

I firmly believe that there are nights you pick up a grocery store rotisserie chickn, maybe a frozen mac & cheese and bag-o-salad.  That’s what you do unless you have a martyr complex the size of Mt. Rushmore.

You also need to get over youself and allow that shortcuts by way of semi-prepared and/or prepackaged food items are not only permissible, they’re essential.  Look, most women, whether they work outside the home or not, ain’t sitting back on the chaise longue, sippin’ on mint juleps and noshing on bonbons all day.  They’re really working.  All day.  And some of them are herding small children.  All. Day. Long.  They’re tired.  Kids are tired.  Hubs comes home – he’s tired.  Everybody’s hungry.  Shortcuts are your salvation, and if you can swing some prep work on the weekends, or even do some make-ahead meals, that’s great.  Otherwise, let’s all chill out and stop worshiping at the altar of “Everything-From-Scratch”.  And have a glass of wine, while you’re at it.

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15 responses to “Easy, My Ass…

  1. Nonya says:

    Those 30 minute meals are a sham and Dh used to tease me because it took me an hour to make one. LOL. I bought a few recipe books full of “weeknight meals” that were also way too much trouble for the average Wenesday night.

    A frozen Mac and cheese would not go over well with my spoiled southern family but I believe in taking whatever shortcuts I can.

    • Maeve says:

      Iseult went through a phase where she only wanted to eat the Kraft stuff (you know, powdered cheese, etc…). Also, true confession time – its one of my favorites, too.

  2. allamagoosa says:

    “Not “home cooks who learned at their mothers’ elbows in family kitchen”. Culinary School grads.”

    Yeah, I’m friends with one such person. I asked him how to dry parsley. His process involved washing the parsley, chopping it finely, washing it again, then spreading it on a baking sheet and either baking it or laying it in a sunny spot to dry. I gave up 3/4s of the way through the bunch, tied the remaining stems together and hung it on a nail in a cool, dark place. Much less hassle. Especially since I was going to be continuously drying parsley for months.

    The only stuff I make totally from scratch I make in large quantities with the intent of eating it for several days or more. I make 4 cups of friend rice or 6 1/2 dozen oatmeal cookies at a time. I dedicate the time up front and save it the rest of the week. Same with my chili recipe.

    The only thing I make that approaches gourmet that can be made in under 30 minutes are my salmon dinners. And any sides would have prepackaged elements anyway. I frequently eat the salmon alone though.

  3. Elspeth says:

    Sam’s Club rotisserie chicken. “Nough said.

    Oh, and that avocado vinaigrette was excellent. So thanks!

  4. pukeko60 says:

    Bad nights?
    Fish and potato balls and frozen veggies. Without guilt. I

    have two grown sons. I know food should not come from a box, but when it is 7 PM (Yeah I got to the gym at 5 PM and stretched for 30 minutes so I could survive the 5:30 session which generally runs long) and you did not get home on the way to said gym to start a slow cook you are simply going to make something brain dead.

    I’ve made bacon and eggs for dinner. I’ve made that into fried rice.

    Most cookbooks assume you have enough time to retreat into the kitchen. Yeah, right. Most of us do not have that luxury.

  5. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    Sis Allamagoosa say something about salmon?

    That’s fresh salmon! It’s still flopping.

  6. Psalm1Wife says:

    Awesome post! I sit a lot during the day but I work a lot too. Either way when it comes to dinner, it is an ordeal no matter how you slice it, if you work or not, if you follow a recipe or not.

    Also, I have never made a meal in less than thirty minutes and I use ALOT of frozen/canned/boxed ingredients. So poo poo on anyone who falsely promises more work for less time.

  7. hearthie says:

    Alright. 15 minute burritos. We ate these at least once/wk when I still worked.

    1) Have on hand – tortillas, shredded cheese, canned refried beans, salsa, sour cream. Always have these on hand. Always. There’s a law. Buy some ground beef, some tomatoes.
    2) Brown ground beef, season to taste.
    3) Dice tomatoes. Put out condiments. Heat tortillas. Heat beans. (Add whatever else you like in your burritos – ranch style beans instead of refried is sometimes nice, and I like more veggies than this).
    4) Assemble. Eat.

    If you want to get all fancy, you can make some rice while you brown your ground beef, which will enable this meal to be changed to burrito bowls. All four food groups in one dish.

    Or you can fry up carne asada or pollo asada or… whatever. This will increase time for frying and slicing up and marinading, but not so much as to make it an all-afternoon event.

  8. Isn’t this the truth! Now that I’m working 25+ hours a week PLUS homeschooling my 17yo, I have little time or energy for big dinners. Also, I’m at work three evenings a week so I have to make dinner before I rush out the door.

    Several things saving my sanity: lettuce in boxes/bags (I still tend to make my own dressings but it saves me so much time and energy to already have the lettuce ready to go); pork tenderloins (my grocery store has these on sale about once a month in a BOGO free deal. I stash them in my freezer. I’ve discovered that I can cook dinner in about 45 minutes with one of them little roasts. Fantastic for busy week nights.). Boneless, skinless chicken beasts have multiple uses. 60 minutes minimum though for dinner even if I have pounded them thin for faster cooking. Ground beef is fast but so, so expensive. I can do a meal in 30 minutes with ground beef. Frozen vegetables are a great timesaver but my husband only tolerates them once a week or so, usually on a night I’m not here to cook because 17yo can handle them. Yeah, Wegman’s rotisserie chicken in a pinch and then throw the rest in crockpot overnight and you have the base for awesome chicken soup. 🙂

  9. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    There is also the matter of dessert. This is one very content bear.

  10. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    Not that it will help you much where you are but, I saw a post comparing and contrasting two UK grocery chains’ take out meals. Tedesco had one that had small portions but restaurant quality for ten pounds that included a bottle of wine. Marks and Spenser had one that had more generous portions but wasn’t quite as good.
    It is a sound marketing concept that may travel. Who knows?

  11. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Video is G rated.

  12. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    Maeve,
    You’re missed and I need a reason to find a new bear video.
    I hope that everything is all right.

  13. Love this post! Agreed on all points–especially when you’re feeding one or more picky eaters. 🙂 I wouldn’t have time to write if I made food from scratch. And if my astronaut one-meal-a-day husband prefers the same easy foods over and over…why not??

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