What if You Just Hate Making Dinner?
October 9, 2014 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Eating healthy food and eating together is important. But if you hate to cook, what's the best way to do that? (SLNYT)
posted by Margalo Epps (109 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
This completes today's NYT trifect: posted by mbrubeck at 8:50 PM on October 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I absolutely love this article, thanks for posting. She pretty much nailed all of my complaints about how we talk about food right now. I have many of the same complaints about figuring out how to cook for myself, much less for a family when it all becomes so much more complicated for parents.

I just wish the article could have sent people in the direction of how to eat healthy when you are eating a lot of convenience foods, someone needs to write that "cookbook", or link it to me if it's already out there. I mostly manage to get the right nutrition for myself as far as I can tell but I feel like there are areas where I could do a better job, like cutting down on sodium. It sure doesn't help that I like to snack on pretzels. Convenience foods are a ton easier to make and they easily solve the problem of not wanting to invest a lot of time in cooking, but you do have to work out an overall plan that is nutritious which is still hard.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:05 PM on October 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


I like cooking for myself and for my partner, but I find cooking for other people to be quite fraught. Food is so loaded with meaning and with symbolism, and people who are otherwise totally easygoing bring out all their judginess for food. I don't have kids, but I could relate to the desire to be done with the enterprise and all of the attention it gets.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:31 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think she's dead on about the gendered expectations surrounding food and the weird near-religiosity that people bring into discussions about food.

That said, in terms of her specific complaints about food, I guess what's confusing me here is that there's lots and lots of stuff out there that's pretty simple and quick to make and that tastes pretty good and is pretty healthy. Her complaints kinda sound like the black-and-white "Before" section of an infomercial. I'm not whipping up "Sweet Barbecue Salmon and Beluga Lentil Soup With Anchovies" on a nightly basis, but you can make pasta, steaks, chicken, salads, fish, burgers, random stir-fries, and lots of other food in just about any kitchen with a total of four or five pots, pans, and bowls, standard kitchen gear, and about 30 minutes of time. You can spend 20 minutes chopping up veggies and meat, dump them in a crockpot with some broth, go to work, and have soup for the next two days. Sandwiches take a few minutes to make, even if you want to get real fancy and put a slice of tomato on them or throw them on the panini press.
posted by protocoach at 9:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I figure out who’s had enough protein or carbs for the day, who can bear eating the other’s favorite food, or whether I must figure out two meals; figure out which is more endocrinologically devastating, highly processed soy milk or not-entirely-organic lactose-free cow’s milk."

You have been deceived, whether by society or very small people wanting Lunchables [both are efficient as this, the society and kids]. It's a human and they will find nutrients at the neighbors house. Not only that but a lack of food at your home is a means to provide you with free day care. I saved hours and sanity by not having food and perhaps more importantly, not allowing television or electronics. [Sorry Trudy].

Sometimes you go to the cupboard and open up the biggest can and make the contents warm. Sometimes you make really healthy food. Sometimes you disguise vegetables. Mostly children are quite durable and they will subtract the necessary nutrients from any sane diet.
posted by vapidave at 9:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wish food could come with a bit less guilt. It seems like whatever we eat or even more fraught, what we feed to our kids, has so much meaning attached. So many foods get labelled as "bad" and even things we've cooked ourselves, if not sufficiently healthy, we feel bad about. It would be nice if we could be happy that we managed to feed ourselves or our family, whether it's with takeout, frozen dinners, or quesadillas*.

*Quesadillas are my family's "we don't know what to eat" dinner.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:40 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised there was nary a mention of Peg Bracken's witty 1950s classic, The I Hate to Cook Book! It was relevant then, and it's relevant now.

From Gourmet:
Bracken’s target was all the emotional baggage that women dragged into the kitchen with them whenever it was time to cook. Back in the 1940s, when she was starting married life, women who cooked badly and were horribly aware of it had guilt snapping at their heels from breakfast to dinner. To fail at cooking was to fail at femininity, not to mention love, motherhood and the honor of the family. Good cooks had an easier time of it, but by midcentury even they weren’t fully immune, because the very definition of good cooking was always moving just out of reach. No sooner had you mastered pot roast and chocolate cake than seafood tetrazzini and madeleines hovered into view. Only the women who cooked as naturally as they breathed, and liked to confess laughingly that they couldn’t follow a recipe if they tried, lived in that blissful realm beyond the icy grip of inadequacy.
....
“The I Hate to Cook Book” sold some three million copies, many of them to people like Bracken, who didn’t mind cooking at all but hated the moral, social and culinary commandments that came raining down like arrows when they started to plan a meal. It’s still worth a place on your cookbook shelf. True, the recipes show their age every time canned potatoes or processed cheese make an appearance. But her sense of humor remains beautifully in tune to this day. What’s more, it’s clear today that an honest food-lover is presiding over this book, someone who insists on a real vinaigrette, a decent loaf of French bread, a dash of brandy in the pumpkin pie, and crystallized ginger just about anywhere it will do some good.

Bracken didn’t start a revolution, either in food or in women’s lives, though for sure she could hear both those revolutions rumbling in the distance. What she did manage to establish was a healthy bit of distance between the cook and the meal, the homemaker and the home, the woman and her assigned lot in life. She used wit as if it were a handy screwdriver, gently prying apart two entities that had been clamped together for centuries; and she created a little breathing room. Okay, Brillat-Savarin was right; we are what we eat. But most assuredly, we are not what we cook. For that welcome lesson in culinary sanity, pour a glass of the best you have and offer a toast to Peg.


I'm sure Peg Bracken would have read this article and nodded approvingly.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:45 PM on October 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


you can make pasta, steaks, chicken, salads, fish, burgers, random stir-fries, and lots of other food in just about any kitchen with a total of four or five pots, pans, and bowls, standard kitchen gear, and about 30 minutes of time.

Not everyone has thirty minutes of time.

I work, minimally, twelve hours a day. And that could be pretty much any twelve hours, from 6 to 6, 9 to 9, 2 to 2, whatever. I don't really have an extra half-hour to cook dinner. If I am lucky and leave work early, or happen to be on that relatively easy "morning until a civilized evening hour" schedule at the moment, I'll take that half hour for myself. Catch up on reading or TV/movies, work on a project, go to the gym. If I get out of work at midnight, I go straight to bed when I get home.

So even on my best nights, I don't choose to cook. Even a "simple" meal that would be easy for someone who works only 8 hours. Over the past year or so I've been working to find a happy medium where I eat well despite not really cooking from scratch ever. Before, it was kind of all or nothing, buying produce and watching it rot while I picked up takeout on the way home from work at 11 PM.

At this point, my dinners look more like this:

- cheese plate

- frozen dumplings from the Asian grocery steamed in a steamer basket for 5-10 minutes

- pre-packaged curry over pre-cooked and heated rice

- pre-cooked Trader Joe's frozen anything, especially if it can be prepared on the stove rather than spending half an hour in the oven

- A salad picked up from the Trader Joes that, yes, is around the corner from my office, supplemented with homemade vinaigrette

- Pre-packaged soup

- various Middle Eastern inspired noshy platter things with hummus, olives, tabbouleh, crudite etc.

- pasta with jarred sauce

- various dishes that can be cooked on the weekend and frozen, or just leftovers in general.

Is this the most healthy food ever beheld by man? No. But it's better than McDonald's, is doable on the time that I have, and certainly isn't going to kill me. Would it be "better" to spend half an hour cooking from scratch every night? Maybe. But I have no real time for the judgment, and it's frankly none of anyone else's business.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 PM on October 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


If she wishes Dad would cook for the kids, she should talk to Dad, not consult family cookbooks. If you don't like the gendered expectations in those books, stop seeking them out, or at least stop assuming they somehow represent the overwhelming force of social convention which you are powerless to resist.

My perception is that people make all kinds of arrangements about cooking these days, and nobody cares.
posted by Segundus at 10:32 PM on October 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hate these things and I'm not even a mom. Every time there's some get-together, the assumption is that I, as the female, will come up with a pot luck dish for the two of us to bring. (But not a dessert.)

I hate pot lucks. Fortunately for our social life, my husband is happy to pick up a pile of frozen samosas from Trader Joes to show up with.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:39 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It also continues to shock me that people cook separate meals for their children. When I was a kid my mom made whatever and we were all on the hook to eat that or fend for ourselves. When my dad went on a serious diet and lost 100 pounds over the course of a year or so, we all started eating healthier, rather than three separate dinners needing to be planned. We were allowed to make a meal of any components that were available, so if you hated tomato sauce you were welcome to have noodles with butter. But generally, one family, one meal, one dinner, period.

It should also be said that both of my parents shared the cooking equally and parented/disciplined equally at the dinner table, so that "evil harpy mom convincing everyone to eat their vegetables" dynamic didn't have a chance to develop.

Oh and don't even get my started on those recipe reviews that are all like "Even my hubby liked it!" groan groan groan
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 PM on October 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


When I was a kid my mom made whatever and we were all on the hook to eat that or fend for ourselves.

Same here, though there was no "fending for ourselves" allowed. It was "Better luck tomorrow!"
posted by small_ruminant at 10:42 PM on October 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Smoothies. I've recently discovered a love for them when I bought my Nutribullet. If I don't feel like cooking but want to make sure I've got a lot of nutrition in, I throw in fruit, veggies and greens, a little vanilla soymilk and water, blend it up and drink it raw. If I want meat I just eat some sliced cooked chicken or something with it. It tastes good and cleanup is pretty much just rinsing the blade and cup in hot water.
posted by DriftingLotus at 11:38 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is stupid. Cooking isn't hard. I can make a fresh pasta sauce for my children in 15 minutes (and I'm a very poor cook). Most cook books are overly elaborate and put people off cooking. Try Nigel Slater's 30 Minute Meals.
posted by Major Tom at 1:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once again, not everyone has the luxury of time when it comes to just "making a fresh pasta sauce" or "whipping up steaks and stir-fries." You have that time, that desire to make that effort? Great! But not everyone does. This does not make them lazy, deficient at adulthood and/or parenting. This makes them stressed, cash-strapped, time-strapped, or a combination of various factors that people don't really need your judgement on.

This article could have handily been written by my sister--whom I've mentioned before in terms of a non-cooking mom I personally know--but I can only imagine how unhappy she'd be to know that there's a whole mass of people out there judging strangers for not being good enough to be, well, a person.
posted by Kitteh at 3:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


Kitteh, your sister has my sympathy. It's not for me to tell her what to do with her time, so, apologies.
posted by Major Tom at 4:25 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


If she wishes Dad would cook for the kids, she should talk to Dad, not consult family cookbooks. If you don't like the gendered expectations in those books, stop seeking them out, or at least stop assuming they somehow represent the overwhelming force of social convention which you are powerless to resist.

Exactly this. This was presented as an article about how she hated to cook, and how unfair it was that the cookbooks were presenting it as a mother's responsibility, but that is not the cookbook's fault. This is an article that should have been in a "gender" section, not the food section.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:33 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do all the cooking, and have done so for ages. While I do like to cook, the routine of trying to plan something for dinner every. damned. day. week-after-week, month-after-month absolutely takes the specialness and a lot of the fun out of cooking. Mix in the various likes/dislikes of family members and I often feel like going on strike for a month or two.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:39 AM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's not just about being strapped for time - some of us just don't like cooking. Or are just rubbish at it and are sick of being judged as deficient human beings because of it.

And then when you are a parent there is a whole new layer of 'having to do it, and do it well' because otherwise your child is missing out and you are damaging them. Forget the fact my kid has tasted a broad range of foods and cuisines I didn't even know existed when I was his age, the fact I am not cooking every meal for him, and that when he has pesto and spaghetti at home it is packet spaghetti and pesto out of a jar makes me a bad mother. And a bad adult for not taking the time to make it from scratch.

You know what? It is easy to make basic clothes. Better clothes than you can buy in a shop, and probably more ethical than buying something made by someone in a sweatshop. And you can whip up a basic skirt in half an hour. But we don't go around saying people are terrible and deficient because they can't be bothered to make a skirt. I like food, I even quite like baking sometimes, but I don't like cooking dinners. And frankly I don't think that makes me a bad person, or a bad mother. So I plan to share this article far and wide, because it is good to see I am not alone in feeling this way.
posted by Megami at 4:39 AM on October 10, 2014 [31 favorites]


I thought we already answered this question.
posted by nerdler at 5:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea that I can easily make better clothes than I can buy in a shop seems plainly wrong.

I don't want to add to anyone's woes, but I do think that parents have a responsibility to instil healthy eating habits in their children. And that includes cooking for them and teaching them how to cook and teaching them about food.

As to the feminist issue, Michael Pollen has addressed this. Women's Liberation enabled women to go out to work. Men did not respond by taking up the slack, so women end up working, cooking and cleaning. The food industry stepped in with "convenience" foods to "lighten" the load of working women. But convenience = rubbish. So men (and children) should share the cooking and the cleaning. Cleaning is always a chore. Cooking can be enjoyable.
posted by Major Tom at 6:36 AM on October 10, 2014


I was raised by a Peggy Bracken aficionado in the 1970s/80s of working moms when it was ok for food to be oft-repeated and unremarkable, and there was no shame in Hamburger Helper or frozen fish sticks. And I myself am very much in that same Jello mold--in fact, my mom passed along her copy of I Hate to Cook! to me some years back. And it's not so much even that I hate to cook, per se, but I strongly identified with the author's opening that "A vague neural itch sets in around 5 p.m. when I recognize that something must happen, and soon, involving plates and macronutrients." I hate having to "figure out" dinner.

I mean, yes, I can whip up pasta and sauce in the 20 minutes it takes for the noodles to cook, but then there's the no-grain husband who doesn't eat pasta, and a dollop of tomato sauce is not nearly enough to get your 5-a-day so you need a veggie side, and frozen veggies are now bad, and canned veggies are now double-plus super bad, and then you have to do it all again with something different the next day.
posted by drlith at 6:37 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't want to add to anyone's woes, but I do think that parents have a responsibility to instil healthy eating habits in their children. And that includes cooking for them and teaching them how to cook and teaching them about food.

But as you note yourself, all too often "parents" turns into "mom" in this case, which you also note is unfair.

The food industry stepped in with "convenience" foods to "lighten" the load of working women. But convenience = rubbish.

This is actually the crux of the matter here, I think. When I mouth off about food habits, I actually target Madison Avenue with most of my ire - because they are the ones trying to pitch food prep as harder than it is.

I do not deny that there is a learning curve to food prep and meal planning, and I also do not deny that there are other factors (access to food markets, etc.) that can make food prep and meal planning more difficult for plenty of people. But the people who have access to food and have the means to learn how to make a few simple meals still get bombarded with messages that discourage them from even making the attempt in the first place, and that I have a problem with. For the novice cook, learning can be a challenge - but it's, like, a hiking-up-a-slope-in-the-Catskills-scale challenge as opposed to the scaling-Mt.-Everest-scale challenge a lot of ads make it out to be.

And actually, the cookbook the author is discussing here is contributing to that, if they're presenting things like roast cornish game hen as a thing for "family dinners". What's wrong with homemade tomato or potato soup and a hot sandwich? Some kind of casserole or hot dish? Chili?

Michael Pollan makes a good argument that Food Big Business is the reason why we are so tied in knots about food - the big corporations have employed a parade of scientists, nutritionists, and corporate ad men to get us all to literally overthink a plate of beans as opposed to just using common sense - and common sense can tell us that cornish game hen is too fiddly most of the time, but a plain ol' chicken-and-rice casserole is damn good and would be fine. Common sense can also tell us that saying "fuck it, I'mma just order a pizza tonight" is actually an okay thing to do once in a while. And common sense can tell us that instead of trying to get beta-carotene-enhanced bread or whatever, we could just eat a damn carrot and get the beta-carotene THAT way.

In fact, I actually feel some sympathy for a lot of the novice cooks because they're so bombarded with contradictory and negative images - ones promoted by corporations - that their heads must be swimming, and that THAT is also probably a reason most of them give up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


The food industry stepped in with "convenience" foods to "lighten" the load of working women. But convenience = rubbish.

Not really, no. It's an overly broad statement about both the nutritional value and the tastiness and exactly the sort of thing the article is complaining about with shaming "defrosters." And, once you come to accept that the level of responsibility to teach cooking drastically changes. Kids need to be taught how to feed themselves with a nutritionally sound food plan, that doesn't necessarily mean they have to learn a lot about how to cook. A jar of pasta sauce from the store is not such rubbish that people should feel pressured to make sauce themselves.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:59 AM on October 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Kids need to be taught how to feed themselves with a nutritionally sound food plan, that doesn't necessarily mean they have to learn a lot about how to cook. A jar of pasta sauce from the store is not such rubbish that people should feel pressured to make sauce themselves.

There's a bit of gray area here, I think. Some pasta sauces from the store are fine - others are, indeed, rubbish.

And actually, pasta sauce is one of those things that actually isn't all that hard to do from scratch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't want to add to anyone's woes, but I do think that parents have a responsibility to instil healthy eating habits in their children. And that includes cooking for them and teaching them how to cook and teaching them about food.

I understand you don't want to add to anyone's woes, but this is still shaming. I agree to the extent that I would like children to be taught about healthier food, but expecting parents to shoulder that burden can be hard, especially if the parents aren't exactly crazy about cooking in the first place. I cook with my nieces when I visit home, but I certainly don't throw the stinkeye at my sister for not showing them how to cook when I'm not there. My mother still cooks most of the time--she is a caregiver for my ill father so a lot of the time she too is exhausted--and she does her damnedest to introduce the nieces to different vegetables, but most of the time, it's peanut butter sandwiches when they're fussy.
posted by Kitteh at 7:05 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


You can pry my frozen veggies out of my cold dead hands. Close enough or we can go out to a "build your own salad" place for dinner once in a while.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:07 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait, is anyone pooh-poohing frozen vegetables? I think the sneering at "defrosters" is more about TV dinners than "I'm using frozen peas in this recipe because I don't live near a damn farmers' market and it's also the middle of January".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised there was nary a mention of Peg Bracken's witty 1950s classic, The I Hate to Cook Book! I
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:45 AM on October 10


THIS! THIS THIS THIS!

When I finally gathered, invented, stole, simplified, borrowed, and found a publisher for a clutch of reasonably foolproof recipes, I learned I had friends I hadn't known about—more proof that a mutual dislike can be quite as sound a basis for friendship as a mutual devotion.

--I Didn't Come Here to Argue, "My Feud With Food"

Some women, it is said, like to cook. This book is not for them....

There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don't cook out of--and have NEVER cooked out of --THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and the other kind...The I HATE TO COOK people consist mainly of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, and so they do it as seldom as possible. Today there is an Annual Culinary Olympics, with hundreds of cooks from many countries ardently competing. But we who hate to cook have had our own Olympics for years, seeing who can get out of the kitchen the fastest and stay out the longest.

--The I Hate To Cook Cookbook

Start cooking those noodles, first dropping a bouillon cube into the noodle water. Brown the garlic, onion and crumbled beef in the oil. Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.

--Recipe for “Skid Road Stroganoff,” from The I Hate To Cook Cookbook


I am a big fan of Peg Bracken (and her sister-in-spirit, Jean Kerr). If you have not read The I Hate To Cook Cookbook, you are missing a subversive, feminist treat. Bracken lambastes magazines' "full-color double-page spreads picturing what to serve on those little evenings when you want to take it easy. You're flabbergasted. You wouldn't cook that much food for a combination Thanksgiving and Irish wake." She's just as hard on "the big fat cookbooks that tell you everything about everything. For one thing, they contain too many recipes."

I encourage you to seek out Bracken's other work, too:

* The I Hate To Housekeep Book - When And How To Keep House Without Losing Your Mind
* I Try to Behave Myself: Peg Bracken's Etiquette Book
* But I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World!: The Pleasures and Perils of an Unseasoned Traveler
* I Didn't Come Here to Argue
* On Getting Old for the First Time
* A Window over the Sink: A Memoir
posted by magstheaxe at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2014 [23 favorites]


The idea that I can easily make better clothes than I can buy in a shop seems plainly wrong.
posted by Major Tom at 9:36 AM on October 10

Agreed. My cousin is a very talented seamstress (of the make-a-skirt-from-scratch-in-ten-minute-or-less stripe), and she's told me herself that she'd rather throw herself under an oncoming train that make a pair of men's suit pants.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a bit of gray area here, I think. Some pasta sauces from the store are fine - others are, indeed, rubbish.

Some homemade pasta sauce is rubbish too. For instance, recipes that make it taste good with way more butter or salt or sugar than is necessary, basically the same issues store sauces can have. At home or from the store isn't what determines if something is rubbish or not, especially when we are talking about people who are not the best cooks.

I had a friend who liked to complain about the sodium in convenience foods like canned chili, when I asked for his recipe and put it into MyFitnessPal for my food tracking it ended up with more sodium than a comparable canned chili. It's easy to see the excessive sodium on a label on a can, tougher when you are putting together a recipe and not looking at each individual label. I feel like people sometimes overestimate how much they are beating the convenience foods on issues like this.

Wait, is anyone pooh-poohing frozen vegetables?

Foodies seem to think they taste terrible/have a bad texture or whatever. Locavores obviously want more local food. Nutrition people worry that canning or freezing degrades the micronutrients compared to fresh. A lot of people take issue with them.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:16 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


what? I had heard freezing is better than fresh for vegetables in terms of degrading nutrients.
posted by sweetkid at 7:19 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a vegan, I love frozen veggies when I want something other than root vegetables in the dead of a Canadian winter. Frozen peas thawed and mixed in with some short grain brown rice and crumbled nori is another one of my "oh god I don't have time to make dinner because I have a volunteer shift to get to and my entertainment budget is gone so no takeaway falafel wrap for me this week" meal.

That too is easy to make, but then I don't have kids whose bellies I need to think about. If I'm pressed for time as a childfree woman, I totally get how a working mom might be trebly pressed for time. Also, how a SAHM also has a lot on her plate as well, I should mention.
posted by Kitteh at 7:19 AM on October 10, 2014


Does anyone remember Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee? She was vilified for suggesting not everything needs to take half an hour, but I miss her and her themed cocktails.
posted by domo at 7:20 AM on October 10, 2014


what? I had heard freezing is better than fresh for vegetables in terms of degrading nutrients.

You heard correctly, as far as I'm aware.
From the Freezer Section

Frozen vegetables, on the other hand, are picked at the peak of ripeness then blanched and flash-frozen to remove bacteria and lock in their essential vitamins and nutrients. The faster they are frozen after picking, the more nutrients they will retain. Plus, while fresh vegetables have a lifespan of only a week to two weeks at best, frozen vegetables can last much longer in the safety of your freezer.

Straight off the Shelf

Canned vegetables can lose some of their vitamin C in heating process during canning, but when they are handled and canned quickly, much like frozen foods, the majority of nutrients are locked in and retained. Therefore, canned vegetables can have the same, if not more nutrients than fresh vegetables and the levels of these nutrients remain the same even after one to two years of storage. Canned vegetables are also one of the safest products to choose, as they often contain no preservatives and because they are heated before being canned, are free from food related contamination.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:22 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wait, is anyone pooh-poohing frozen vegetables?

Yes, there's a definite undercurrent that fresh and local are superior to frozen, and that frozen is a barely passable alternative only if fresh and local are not available or are too expensive.
posted by drlith at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Foodies seem to think they taste terrible/have a bad texture or whatever. Locavores obviously want more local food. Nutrition people worry that canning or freezing degrades the micronutrients compared to fresh. A lot of people take issue with them.

Well, if freezing were that bad for vegetables, my CSA probably wouldn't be doing it. And yet, I actually have in my freezer, at this very minute, about six packages of frozen kale and two packages of frozen edamame which I got from my CSA last winter. And I also have three more packages of frozen kale and three of frozen corn which I personally froze myself.

Freezing is a legit way to store and preserve food. I don't deny that there may be some foodies who sneer at frozen veg, but speaking as a foodie-and-sometime-locavore, you can safely ignore them because I do as well. Yeah, fresh food is always best, but sometimes it just ain't practical and most people get that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I obviously should have added "some" to all of those statements.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2014


Hell, I've even frozen tomatoes. You can totally just throw the whole tomato straight into a freezer bag and throw it in your fridge. You can't really use a frozen-and-thawed tomato in place of a raw one, but they work perfectly fine for sauce and stuff. Hell, it's even easier to use a frozen tomato for sauce and soup because once it thaws it's already all broken down and mushy, and all you're doing to make the sauce is pretty much just heating it and boiling off some of the excess water. If you wanna go really fancy you can pick the skin out (I don't because who cares).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


We'll be sure to consult you, EmpressCallipygos, next time we're faced with the dilemma of figuring out which food gurus we should listen to and which ones we can safely ignore.

And I also don't see how you can say, on the one hand, that "fresh food is always best" and deny there's a zeitgeist that frozen (or canned) is second-best (perhaps acceptable if you have no affordable alternative, but not if it's just a matter of convenience).
posted by drlith at 7:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those "30 minute meals" rarely acount for the chopping and prepping, let alone for the weekly 90 minute grocery trip and meal cleanup. I need something more along the lines of "10 minutes total including shopping and cleanup meals" to afford time to poop everyday and at that point noones writing a cookbook about it because you're just eating peanut butter off a spoon.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I obviously should have added "some" to all of those statements.

Oh, I understood the "not all". But you did say "a lot", and I'm more arguing that it's more like "a vocal minority". And I'm reassuring you that you can safely just walk away from them and make the finger-twirling-around-your-ear sign about them later because so do a lot of the rest of us, even people who are foodies.

Eh, every group has its hardcore weirdos. I've heard of a foodie who got all snippy with a guy selling cheese at a farmer's market because he couldn't definitively prove that the mold used in the blue cheese was humanely treated.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on October 10, 2014


Maybe we just need to rebrand bachelor food. In bachelor food, we already have pre-established methods of creating meals with minimum time and effort.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:37 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Oh, I understood the "not all". But you did say "a lot", and I'm more arguing that it's more like "a vocal minority". And I'm reassuring you that you can safely just walk away from them and make the finger-twirling-around-your-ear sign about them later because so do a lot of the rest of us, even people who are foodies."

That's great and all, but maybe you could remember that this isn't about YOU or even about WOMEN, it's about MOTHERS, which is an experience I do not believe you have. And while it's great to say, "Ignore the crazy people, do your jive," it's not that easy when you have children. It is a different, much more pressured set of standards. Also, if the message you want us moms to get is, "ignore social pressure and you do you," maybe you could stop issuing statements of how easy it is to "just do healthier thing X" instead of eating "crap food Y."

I used to like to cook. I am a pretty good cook. Now cooking is a thrice-a-day endless ultramarathon of food preparation and dishes that don't do themselves and I hate it. Dinner is the worst, as preparation must fall between the hours of 4 to 6 p.m., aka the witching hour, when my children spend basically the entire time screaming at the tops of their lungs, fighting, sobbing, trying to choke each other, destroying the house, and injuring themselves in ways that might lead to the emergency room. I have neither the time nor the patience to even cope with pasta some evenings because my children have been SCREAMING FOR TWO SOLID HOURS and I CANNOT DEAL ANY LONGER and IF IT IS NOT WINE O'CLOCK IN THE NEXT TWO MINUTES I AM GOING TO LOSE IT. And we have an hour of fucking math homework to get through, and I have to find a picture of something that starts with the letter "I" to cut out of a magazine for preschool, and a load of laundry MUST be done or we will not have any clean school clothes in the morning and I have not pooped by myself in solid week. And last week the older one would eat nothing but bread and this week it's rice and I make a nice but simple rice-and-beans dish during the screaming and he flatly refuses it and the younger one spills half the rice on the ground because he's not that dextrous yet, and the older one informs us he's not eating anything but cinnamon rolls today, and we tell him there are no cinnamon rolls, dinner is rice, or he can have a PB&J sandwich, and he proceeds to leave the table and not eat, and an hour later start to cry because he is hungry but he definitely isn't going to eat anything that isn't a cinnamon roll and it takes half an hour to coax him into bread and cheese.

And yesterday, at school conferences, the teacher mentioned off-handedly, "We always ask them what they had for breakfast that morning [talking about how they get the kids to talk in front of the class], and believe me you can tell a lot about what's going on at home by what kids are having for breakfast," and obviously she didn't mean me or she wouldn't have said it to me, but I was also like FUUUUUUUUUUCK school officials are judging my home life by the fact that I give my kids dry cheerios for breakfast (milk on the side, drink it or dump it in the cheerios, I don't care, mom does not cope until caffeine) and let them watch Curious George. And if school officials or other outsiders get judgy enough about your home life, they call DCFS and you can explain your food choices to the government.

And if you don't think other parents make decisions about whether their kids can be friends with your kids based on what kind of food regime you have at home, saying as it does so much about class and values and upbringing, you're fucking high. Is it okay if I send store-brand goldfish to school for snack day or do I need to get Annie's Organics cheddar bunny crackers, which are EXACTLY THE SAME FUCKING THING, but organic and higher-class? If I send goldfish, are people going to think I'm poor and lazy, or sensible and pragmatic? If I send bunnies, are people going to see me as responsible and healthy, or snooty and ridiculous? Because this is the kind of shit that matters, and I don't have a choice in which kids my friends make friends with, just in whether my parenting is acceptable to their parents (and vice versa) so that they can actually enjoy their friendship outside of school hours.

So you understand why I now fucking hate cooking and have a really fraught relationship with food and feeding my kids and I want it all to just go DIE DIE DIE and, yeah, if I get 5 minutes to myself, I'm not using it to fucking cut up vegetables, I'm going to go lock myself in the bathroom and pee alone. I might even choose to pee by myself EVERY SINGLE DAY instead of making slightly healthier dinners!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:19 AM on October 10, 2014 [42 favorites]


Eyebrows -

I apologize if it came across that anything I said was about any of those real pressures, or if it was unclear that I not only understand those pressures, I sympathize with them tremendously. I agree with you that they are totally unfair.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was presented as an article about how she hated to cook, and how unfair it was that the cookbooks were presenting it as a mother's responsibility, but that is not the cookbook's fault.

Yes it is?
posted by bq at 9:31 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've heard of a foodie who got all snippy with a guy selling cheese at a farmer's market because he couldn't definitively prove that the mold used in the blue cheese was humanely treated.

You mean this guy?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Does anyone remember Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee?

The problem with Sandra Lee is that her ideas are crap and the food she uses in her recipes is crap.

The especially weird/funny/interesting thing if you are into thinking about food, class, and branding, is that Ina Garten is doing basically the same thing, just in the Hamptons. But Ina Garten never gets eyerolls and mocking youtube videos, because crudite and goat cheese is the classy kind of "semi homemade".
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, the problem with Sandra Lee is cake.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:04 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, if the message you want us moms to get is, "ignore social pressure and you do you," maybe you could stop issuing statements of how easy it is to "just do healthier thing X" instead of eating "crap food Y."

This is what drive me nuts about threads like these. We have actual MeFites as well as the authors of the articles telling you that they simply cannot cope with cooking (for whatever reason), but there will always always be immediate posts about "here's an easy pasta dish for you moms/bachelors/etc out there that even I find easy" with a recipe or a link to a recipe. Or a nicely meant but actually pretty dismissive way to tell how to make your own food and not eat terrible processed food. Or that terrible processed dish is actually pretty easy to make healthy and homemade.

I can totally see why Eyebrows McGee is upset. She's not being listened to or understood. And it happens every dang time.
posted by Kitteh at 10:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [16 favorites]


I think if I was making sandra lee strength cocktails I would probably think that combining random things I found in my kitchen would be a great idea too.
posted by Ferreous at 10:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I cook for my family, and while I don't really mind it, it is way more of a chore now than it was when I was just cooking for myself and my husband. The way our work and commute logistics fall, and bedtime for the four year old being reasonable, me being the dinner cook is the only thing that makes sense. I used to like cooking, but now it's one more thing that has to get done in an endless list of things that must be done.

I have a pretty good system down where I meal plan and grocery shop once a week, front load the harder to cook meals at the beginning of the week and slide into grilled cheese or leftovers territory by the end. I can't function with the idea of choosing what's for dinner at the end of a long day of work, the choice is made on Saturday and written down on a list I stick on the fridge. I think that list is the only thing that keeps me sane at the end of the day.

If we adults want to eat food with actual flavors, I'm also making a separate dinner for the four year old, who, contrary to popular belief, is not capable of fending for himself. For one thing, if told to make his own dinner it would probably consist of pirate puffs and cheese crackers, he is not cognitively capable of thinking "oh gee, I need a protein, a carb, and a fruit/veg, and they should be balanced with a thought to what I've already eaten today/this week." I don't feel like dealing with the consequences of a malnourished kid who is tired and cranky and crying because his cheese cracker dinner isn't filling or giving him actual vitamins (or because we tell him to eat what's in front of him or eat nothing, that's a fun hour of tears for the whole family to enjoy). And seriously, the last two things I want to hear as "helpful advice" is letting my very young child fend for his own dinner and to just make my own pasta sauce. I don't care how easy it appears, it is still cans that need to be opened, ingredients that need to be measured/chopped, pots that need to be used, and another component of dinner that has to be thought about and timed to coincide with the rest of the meal. Jarred pasta sauce is one of the most liberating consumer products of our modern age.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm always kind of torn about this. I hate the notion that women are obligated to prepare homecooked meals for their families every day. Nobody should have to do that, especially not for fussy, whiny, picky jerks. (And if someone in a household decides to add new dietary restrictions, responsibility for cooking is automatically transferred to them as long as they're big enough to use a stove.)

But I also genuinely value the skills and creativity and work that go into basic sustenance cooking. Home cooking and traditional recipes are the greatest, most successful collaborative open source project ever undertaken, and it happened, discretely and simultaneously, in every human culture on earth. Women have been inventing and perfecting and sharing and tweaking these techniques just about forever, and I have access to this huge wealth of knowledge right at my fingertips. Not just my great grandma's recipes, but great grandmas in Africa and Europe and Asia and everywhere else, too.

And I guess I'm a 'foodie.' I like to cook and experiment and go to farmer's markets. I like to talk about food, and I've put a lot of time and effort into not just learning to cook, but learning to enjoy it. I'm not going to pretend I don't think it's important. I do.

But our long human traditions of sustenance cooking didn't happen in teeny little nuclear families, with one mom responsible for feeding, cleaning, and raising her own kids isolated in her home, and it sure as hell wasn't happening with moms doing all of that plus working outside the home. This kind of thing comes from generations of extended families and communities working and cooking together. It's not something that most mothers should be expected to do by themselves, and it's absurd that they feel guilty for not being able to pull it off cheerfully.

Everyone talking about this stuff is talking about it inside of a broken social structure. We can't clearly and universally bring back home cooking traditions unless we bring back our traditional social structures first.

(In the meantime, I do make an effort to regularly cook meals for my mom friends and send them home with leftovers when they bring the Tupperware back. I AM NOT A TUPPERWARE TREE, M.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:23 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thing is I don't mind pesto from a jar. My kid likes pesto from a jar. It's not like I am making him eat it every night. So if making it fresh is not something I find enjoyable, why the fuck should I change to making fresh pesto other than proving I am a better mother or something?
posted by Megami at 10:28 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


And I guess I'm a 'foodie.' I like to cook and experiment and go to farmer's markets. I like to talk about food, and I've put a lot of time and effort into not just learning to cook, but learning to enjoy it. I'm not going to pretend I don't think it's important. I do.

I identify the same; I just don't try to assume everyone can live like I do.
posted by Kitteh at 10:31 AM on October 10, 2014


We have actual MeFites as well as the authors of the articles telling you that they simply cannot cope with cooking (for whatever reason), but there will always always be immediate posts about "here's an easy pasta dish for you moms/bachelors/etc out there that even I find easy" with a recipe or a link to a recipe.

This used to be me. I meant well! Then I figured out that when someone says they don't want to cook it means they don't want to cook and that's not the same as someone saying they want to cook but don't know how or don't have the time. I love to cook and talk about cooking and sharing knowledge about cooking so now I save that for Ask.

What clicked for me was reading threads about poor people and having boot-strappers come in saying poor people "should just...." It infuriates me, but I realized I did the exact same thing in cooking threads.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:31 AM on October 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


But our long human traditions of sustenance cooking didn't happen in teeny little nuclear families, with one mom responsible for feeding, cleaning, and raising her own kids isolated in her home

Like I said last week when the very same issue came up, this is why we need a large social investment in community kitchens.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:31 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Everyone talking about this stuff is talking about it inside of a broken social structure. We can't clearly and universally bring back home cooking traditions unless we bring back our traditional social structures first.

I very much get what you're saying, but as a working mom, I don't actually want traditional social structure to come back. I love my job, it's personally fulfilling, and for the most part I vastly prefer going to work every day to the idea of staying home to raise my kid. I love my kid, but I am not personally cut out for that path (not the least because I think it's actually harder work than going to my 35-hour-a-week job). I don't get along well with my own mother and would choose this social structure in a heartbeat if my other choice is an extended family situation where we are intertwined daily with our own parents. I just don't want to feel guilty about the mothering choices I make surrounding food, and there is intense social pressure on this issue right now. There is also a big psychological component to feeling like we are taking good care of kids by the food we are putting into their mouths.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think the social structure implied there is more multi-generational homes. Taking care of kids can be so much easier when other adults are around in the same house to help out. Community kitchens are another good idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 AM on October 10, 2014


this is why we need a large social investment in community kitchens

We already have this. They're called supermarkets and restaurants.
posted by Sara C. at 10:39 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


because you're just eating peanut butter off a spoon

I call that a day that ends in "y." Alternating spoonfuls of peanut butter and your fruit preserve of choice, yo. VITAMINS.

I am in a DINK household and neither of us cooks. We both work different hours. We are kind of lazy and prefer to spend our free hours on things that are enjoyable, or the gym, or other chores (I'd much rather be living on cheese and crackers than have a moldy toilet). I was raised by a woman who did a combination of stay at home parenting, and then part-time/seasonal work, and she was the world's biggest fan of frozen skillet meals, Hamburger Helper, sauce from a jar, those rolls that you just plop in a tray and bake, etc. She knows how to make things from scratch, and taught me how to, but neither of us really care to spend our time on it.

I LOVED this article. My future hypothetical kids are so completely screwed.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also, just on the topic of four year olds "fending for themselves", when that was more the case, we were welcome to have any component of the meal that seemed appetizing (butter noodles, only chicken, etc), or to pick out of the meal any component that did not seem appetizing. Or skip dinner, because it's not like there's not going to be another meal tomorrow morning.

Most four year olds I have spent time with are into eating like five tiny bites of one very simple thing. It's not like if your kid doesn't get five servings of vegetables tonight, they're going to keel over dead tomorrow afternoon. I think there's far too much pressure on parents to treat their children like tiny extremely picky delicate flowers, and not like little people who've been selected via evolution to mostly eat whatever and not die.
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think evolution selected people to just live long enough to breed. I am unreasonably healthy, considering my sedentary lifestyle, and I have an idea that it was partly because my parents didn't let me only eat spaghetti noodles with butter for three meals a day, like a friend of mine does with her kids.

The majority of my meals when I was a kid were boring and healthy (lots of lentils and brown rice and chicken) but it wasn't every day, and macaroni and cheese from a box once a week or so was a huge treat. (For my mom, too, now that I know what a PITA cooking is.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:49 AM on October 10, 2014


This attitude the author describes is also something I've seen a lot in other arenas like cleaning, exercise, and money management, to name just a few (and not coincidentally, it similarly involves playing on gendered expectations and insecurities):
Leake outlines her own Puritan conversion narrative in which she progressed from a bleak existence, blinded and hobbled by the Standard American Diet (SAD, so sad); through faith healing at the hands of the real-food evangelist Michael Pollan; to a wholehearted embrace of organic living and her own blog-and-cookbook ministry.
It sounds sort of innocuous to say "you only have to spend 30 minutes a day not including shopping or cleaning or chopping or dealing with toddler tantrums, etc., NO EXCUSES," because sure, a lot of people (though certainly not everyone) can imagine fitting something that takes 30 minutes into their day, particularly if it is framed as LITERALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER (and you are failing at motherhood/fatherhood if you don't, etc.). But if you actually did that for every single "cause" that these evangelizers promote, you would just be completely fucked (or I guess you would have an off-label prescription for Modafinil). Not everyone prioritizes the same things.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


We already have this. They're called supermarkets and restaurants.

That's a really obtuse reading of 'community kitchen.' Restaurants that serve anything other than deep-fried lardballs are too expensive for a huge number of people. Supermarkets aren't kitchens, and more to the point, supermarkets aren't very useful if e.g. you hate cooking.

Communal kitchens, however, where costs and labour are shared? Very useful, especially if money is tight. Food preparation is more or less the classic example of a Thing That Scales Well. When I had roommates, the three of us together spent maybe twice as much on groceries as I do by myself, because we could be more efficient--and things were less likely to die in the fridge.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:56 AM on October 10, 2014


"But I also genuinely value the skills and creativity and work that go into basic sustenance cooking. ... But our long human traditions of sustenance cooking didn't happen in teeny little nuclear families, with one mom responsible for feeding, cleaning, and raising her own kids isolated in her home, and it sure as hell wasn't happening with moms doing all of that plus working outside the home."

Preach it!

A large part of my frustration here is the handful of non-parents who, in every thread where parents (especially mothers) talk about their anxiety relating to the pressures of parenting in 2014, say either, "In a totally different socio-cultural setting in 1972, my parents did X and I turned out perfect, just do X!" or else "Do it this way that is more complicated and time consuming! It's not very hard!" Neither of these things are helpful. And don't get me wrong, most non-parents participating in parenting threads on mefi have insightful and interesting things to say, and often a valuable view from outside the insanity of the trenches of parenting, where sometimes they can see the crazy we have come to accept as normal. But a few people who do not have children have to jump in and insist that the experience of parents-as-parents can't possibly be their actual experience, because their experience as non-parents is different. I mean ... what?

If you want to improve the food lives of families, listen to what they are saying is the problem, instead of just informing them how to fix what you think the problem is.

For families with young children, I think the biggest issue is there just has to be SOME labor removed from the system. Small children are a slog because they are so. incredibly. needy., and once they're potty trained, food is the most endless, exhausting expression of that. For dinners I need food that can be ready in under 15 minutes (ideally in under 8, that is about the amount of time I can stand the "I'm staaaaaaaaarving" whining), or served cold, or that requires zero attention from me because every time I leave the room they try to break each others' necks. And I do like my microwave! Preschoolers cannot knock pots of boiling water off the microwave or access fire in the microwave! I can leave the microwave unattended!

I have done my own canning in the past, and I assume I'll do it again in the future, but right now? I would throw that Ball jar at someone's head if they told me to can my own pasta sauce instead of buying some Bertolli. One of the things I didn't realize about early childhood parenting is the sheer quantity of physical labor it entails. I am a person who sits at a computer and types, not a person who does physical labor. I was not prepared for this about small children, and it still makes me exhausted.

I need someone to do my grocery shopping (we don't have delivery here, sadly) and/or my dishes and/or fold my laundry and/or watch my kids for two hours in the afternoon if I'm going to cook more. I cannot add any more labor to my day; someone has to take some of it away if home cooking is that important. (Also I think until my older kid grows out of this picky-eating phase, cooking is just going to be awful. It wears you down to have your dinner pronounced "gross" every single night.)

From parents of teenagers I hear a lot about the biggest problems being extracurriculars and homework intruding on family time, making it difficult to schedule family dinners, and difficult for teens themselves to take the time to learn to cook (because they're busy learning trig). And then if people are eating in shifts, you can only cook thing that can either sit on the stove for a long time or that reheats well; or if you get off work at 5:30 and home at 6 and need to eat at 7 at the latest, that is a time constraint. Again, those are outside-the-home demands upon the family that make cooking impractical, that can't be solved by inside-the-home action.

I do think cooking is an important skill and that family meals at home are good, and I try to cook with my kids when I can (they'll help me tonight, actually, with a bean stew. And by "help" I mean "make the kitchen take six times longer to clean."). The problems aren't that I don't value cooking, or home-cooked food, or that I don't know HOW to cook. Telling me HOW to make my own pasta sauce at home or WHY home cooking is important is not going to solve the problem that by 5 p.m. today my primary goal in life is going to be tricking my kids into going to bed early so I can have a break, and making dinner is going to seem absolutely overwhelming.

It's a damn good thing they're cute.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:00 AM on October 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


Supermarkets aren't kitchens

This is categorically untrue.

Frozen section = food basically already cooked for you, only needs reheating.

Middle aisles Michael Pollan wants you to stay away from = packaged food that, at most, needs water and/or heat added.

Dairy/meat/refrigerated sections = tons of no-cooking-required options

Prepared food sections = literally kitchens

I don't really know how the theoretical "community kitchens" would work, if not on a Trader Joe's model.
posted by Sara C. at 11:15 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm also like 100% positive that if someone did open a "community kitchen", there would be one of two criticisms:

- TOO EXPENSIVE (restaurants, Whole Foods)

- NOT HEALTHY (frozen food section of any grocery store)
posted by Sara C. at 11:18 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I very much get what you're saying, but as a working mom, I don't actually want traditional social structure to come back. I love my job, it's personally fulfilling, and for the most part I vastly prefer going to work every day to the idea of staying home to raise my kid. I love my kid, but I am not personally cut out for that path (not the least because I think it's actually harder work than going to my 35-hour-a-week job).

OH HELP OH NONONO That's not what I meant! It does look like that, I guess, but NONONONO.

I was a single mom, had a full time job and did freelance work on the side, and as much as I loved my kid and wanted to spend time with him, I would have withered and died if I'd had to do it full time. I did make a decision to start learning to cook when he was little, but I didn't actually start really enjoying it until he was old enough that I could tell him to pound sand if he didn't like what I made.

All I mean is that it is entirely futile and absurd to pretend that individual families are going to be able to replicate the type of lifestyle that our ancestors had. Nobody should expect moms, whether they work outside the home or not, to produce three fully homecooked meals for her family every single day. That has never happened on a large scale, and it never will.

The convenience food industry has effectively stepped in to replace the work that was done by extended family and community in the past. Like it or not, it is just not reasonable or realistic to expect anyone to do that alone, and convenience food is often the best option available. I do, however, think that maybe people like me, who enjoy cooking and no longer have the pressures to cook for a young family, could help out sometimes. I cook dinners for my mom friends sometimes because I want to help and because I know it's hard, but it's sad how sometimes they seem to feel guilty for not regularly cooking the way I do when I have plenty of time and little constraint. I didn't cook like that when my kid was little, and I'm sure as hell not judging other moms for not doing it either.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:25 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Nobody should expect moms, whether they work outside the home or not, to produce three fully homecooked meals for her family every single day.

There's also the fact that this expectation is like insanely absurdly high.

I'm in my 30s. I grew up in a healthier household than average, and I pretty much grew up on foods now popularly considered poison.

My mom grew up with a stay at home mom in that idyllic postwar middle class household, and ditto. My grandmother's recipes are all jello and velveeta and cream of mushroom soup.

My grandmother grew up in the depression and WWII. There's no way there was any emphasis on variety at all. Who cares what we had for lunch, or yesterday, or what you like or dislike, or if someone has food allergies. Food is on the table, and it's a modern miracle/better than a breadline/starving refugees in Europe.

Before that, you get a long string of people mostly just eating whatever food was on hand, however they could manage to prepare it, and they were lucky if nobody got rickets or cholera.

The myth of the idyllic family kitchen is just that: a myth.
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sara C., you aren't totally wrong about supermarkets, but do keep in mind the food deserts issue impacts a lot of people in urban areas. There may not be room for a Trader Joe's so you kind of need a scaled down version of that.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:40 AM on October 10, 2014


or if someone has food allergies

Okay maybe baby/bathwater a bit with this last one - anaphylaxis is hugely expensive/time-consuming and scary, and in the last food thread there were stories about kids being forced to eat things that were giving them daily explosive diarrhea. Food allergies/intolerances definitely get magnified by the woo-sector but they also really do exist. And I know you're not contesting that, but I also think we should watch out for getting overly nostalgic about a time when people were expected to put up with eating things that outright made them (sometimes dangerously) sick.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:42 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, I absolutely understand that food deserts exist.

But the easy solution is "more supermarkets and places to get good food at accessible prices" and not "let's reinvent the wheel in the most Republican unfriendly manner possible". There is basically no workable way to get state subsidized Community Kitchens to spring up. But couch your programs as business development initiatives that help preserve the traditional family in terms people are already familiar with, and some kind of solution is possible.

There's also the fact that we have this absurd idea that 99% of food doesn't actually count as food, and which tends to be loaded in terms of class, money, and access. There's no real way to solve food deserts by pretending that the vast majority of all food will kill you.
posted by Sara C. at 11:45 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


It feels like you're missing the point on purpose, Sara.

Here are some places to get started w/r/t community kitchen models.

Church-based, which isn't sustainable on a large scale, but it's a start.

Hasn't been updated in a while, but communal food has grown up around the outdoor ovens in Dufferin Grove Park.

An article about community kitchens across Canada.

Here's one based at the University of Toronto. It's a single event, but others happen there. Sure, there's a cost involved, but it looks like all the food is provided--plus they're paying for guest speakers etc.

(PDF link) A breakdown of community kitchens in Toronto Community Housing (the city's housing agency), with listings of lots of other community kitchens in the city. Many have a specific cultural focus, some have food provided, some--e.g. Scadding Court (a community centre) involves participants shopping together. There are also resources noted for other food security programs in the city.

It's also possible to rent kitchen space; putting together a small charitable organization to cover rental and insurance costs would be easy as, ahem, pie. Or a co-op.

Point being, community kitchens aren't some new weird thing that nobody knows how to do, it's not reinventing the wheel, and they can be state--in this case, city government--supported or run on donations.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:50 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not saying that food allergies shouldn't be respected, at all, in 2014. But it's an amazing luxury that we have the ability to respect them. Even if "nobody has to eat something they might be allergic to" is the only thing we're concerned about, that's still so much better than the world my grandmother grew up in, where if somebody went into anaphylactic shock they would just die.

Traditionally, if you're lactose intolerant, you just can't eat some things sometimes. In 2014, because we are no longer chained to traditional ways of eating, I will send you a text message to see whether I should use butter or oil in my roux.
posted by Sara C. at 11:53 AM on October 10, 2014


Frozen section = food basically already cooked for you, only needs reheating.
Middle aisles Michael Pollan wants you to stay away from = packaged food that, at most, needs water and/or heat added.
Dairy/meat/refrigerated sections = tons of no-cooking-required options


Making a meal out of this stuff is work -- less work than Cornish game hen or whatever, but work nonetheless. You don't reheat frozen food, boil water for your instant noodles, or make Kraft Dinner or canned soup in the supermarket (at least not in any supermarket I've ever been in). You do that work in a kitchen.
posted by twirlip at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is the community kitchen thing more Canadian than American? It wasn't until I moved up here that I have seen the difference they can make for low-income families and others. My old vegetarian association was big on getting together to make huge batches of chili and other things because it made doing so more affordable for a lot of members.
posted by Kitteh at 11:56 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Re: luxury, I mean, sure, I guess I'm just not seeing your point. By that standard it's a luxury that I could afford a trip to the eye doctor and to get eyeglasses so I could read the board in elementary and middle school, a luxury my mom (for example) didn't have growing up; it's a luxury that we have antibiotics and people don't have to die from minor skin infections anymore; etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think the community kitchen idea is an interesting one, but missing the point of the article. It is not about not having the time, or the support structure, to cook meals from scratch for your family. It is about the fact that if you don't every day cook a 'good' meal by current ridiculous standards- if you are happy with restaurant/bistro meals and/or pasta sauce from a jar and/or frozen veg from the microwave rather than hand-prepped from the farmers market sometimes- you are somehow not a good parent, not a good woman, not a good person. That even if your kid is getting a nutritionally balanced diet, knows where food comes from*, has seen you make food**, unless you are cooking them great meals all the time, you are a failure.

* My kid has seen a live pig and the next day seen the pig hanging in a cold room. We have grown vegetables in our backyard. We were a vegan household for years, and are now vegetarian, and he has plenty of understanding about where his food comes from and what went in to getting it to him.
** Sometimes we will come together and cook interesting food, even from scratch. Just the other night after watching a show about sumo we made chanko-nabe, and he gave me a critique about what he thinks I should put in the broth next time to improve it.
posted by Megami at 12:10 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


It would be cool if we could use school kitchens and cafeterias for this somehow, if we went with at least a partial public funding route, but then you have all kinds of issues with security at the school with the way they are locked down nowadays.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2014


Re: luxury, I mean, sure, I guess I'm just not seeing your point.

My point is that the cult of Traditional Foodways is kind of bullshitty. You seem to be taking the opposite from what I'm writing.
posted by Sara C. at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2014


Gotcha, my fault, I think we agree then - I was reading what you were saying as more of a "we did X and I turned out fine" and not "the amount of work it takes to feed a family safely and healthily, for both good and bad reasons, has gone way up since the Bad Old Days."
posted by en forme de poire at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2014


and in the last food thread there were stories about kids being forced to eat things that were giving them daily explosive diarrhea.

Or, in my kid's case, the fruits and vegetables I was cramming her full of were making her so constipated that she eventually threw up poop.

So, add that to the list. My kid can't eat fruits or vegetables; when she's in a bad place and we have to pull her back to her baseline diet (as we will next week, to accommodate the inevitable inflammation caused by the slice of cake she will eat at her own birthday party) that includes no onions or garlic. I, on the other hand, am desperately trying to avoid a type II diabetes diagnosis, which means no refined carbs or starches for me. So all those "easy peasy" casseroles and soups and stir fries and one pot meals? Out. I have to do a three-piece meat/veg/starch meal every night so everyone can customize. Plus, I am gone two or three nights a week, because I'm a singer and that is when I rehearse or perform. As a result, I have to have meals that I can start cooking at 5:30 that will be ready when my husband gets home at 6:45, after a one-hour bike ride that leaves him starving. And on top of all that, we don't have infinite money, so I have to be careful how I shop and what i spend money on.

All that combined means that yeah, sometimes our meals are Stouffer's frozen mac and cheese (the only kind that doesn't have "modified food starch" that gives my kid tummy fits) for the kids, canned chili for my husband, and salami and carrot sticks for me. I think tonight I'm doing some "Microwaves in minutes!" chicken and rice and peas and carrots casserole, and my husband is going to have to individually pick the peas and carrots out for my daughter. Either that or fish sticks and tater tots, left in the oven on a cook timer so that they will start heating up at 6:15, an hour after I leave.

I have to make so much food individually for my daughter. I make ersatz maple syrup by flavoring corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring. I make fake hot apple cider with apple flavoring, cinnamon roll flavoring, citric acid, and dextrose. I make our own BUBBLE GUM for crying out loud. If there's a frozen meal that fits anybody's dietary requirements, so I only have to make one meal from scratch instead of three? I'm taking it, and anyone who wants to shame me over it is cordially invited to come personal chef for me for a month and see how they like it.
posted by KathrynT at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


My point with the "we did X and turned out fine" stuff was that, at this point, in 2014, if you're feeding your kid pasta with jarred pesto, there's going to be someone judging you as if you were basically giving your child poison. CARBS! PROCESSED! MICHAEL POLLAN SEES ALL!

Whereas, in the "traditional" times people romanticize, people were really not concerned with any of the things we're concerned about today. You were lucky if there were three square meals per day and none of them gave you botulism.
posted by Sara C. at 12:49 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Point being, community kitchens aren't some new weird thing that nobody knows how to do, it's not reinventing the wheel, and they can be state--in this case, city government--supported or run on donations.

Maybe in Canada they can. And more power to you.

In the US, in 2014? On a wider scale, not as some one-off run in some college town by some goody-good church, until NIMBYists decide that they don't want that in their neighborhoods? Not a chance.
posted by blucevalo at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gay marriage? In the US? In 2014. Not a ch... waitasecond.

I could easily see community kitchens taking off in places like Oregon and Washington, the Bay Area. The latter being somewhere they would be really needed and have a huge impact. Then export the model to other cities.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:30 PM on October 10, 2014


imma chime in here and say that I've seen a bunch of these discussions recently on MeFi and as someone who's a decent cook and a lifetime foodie, I say in all seriousness, please for the love of all that's holy just stop already with the judgey mcjudgerson attitudes. Just. Stop.

I have a lot of empathy for the I-hate-cooking clan these days because my job has upped the suck factor immensely and my husband (never a strong cook himself) developed a (legitimate, before you start) gluten intolerance a couple years ago that makes everything just so much more fraught when it comes to meal planning. And the worst part about that is he's one of those maddeningly picky people who won't eat the same thing twice in a row, whereas I would happily subscribe to an Amazon Prime subscription for Human Chow or a food replicator that churns out nutritionally complete smoothies 3 times a day, and maybe go out for sushi once in a great while if it were up to me.

So yeah I'm with SaraC. Actually more so, there are a lot of nights we just nosh or fend for ourselves, because I've told my husband point blank that if he bitches one more time about having the same (x) leftovers the third time in a row that were the only thing I could pull together on Sunday after 2 days of bike racing when everyone was too exhausted to make it to the store, he can suck it up and make his own meals because I'm done.

seriously. why the fuck is it always my job to waste mental bandwidth and physical labor on all this shit? The mister has gotten a lot better about fixing his own stuff, but a maddening side effect is that he just keeps ordering various cookbooks and then... sticking them on the shelf and not reading them, and then whining to me when there's "no food in the house" (and tbh, we're both entirely guilty of that, mea culpa).

I fucking give up. Thank god we don't have kids. And anyhow, there's just so much guilt and shame attached to food; thanks to a combo of evolution and modern economics it's far too easy in Western society to constantly overeat anyhow, and especially in a foodie household (ask me about the 30 pounds I gained before we went mostly paleo and I was diligently making elaborate meal plans all the time!) So a bonus side effect of me throwing up my hands in defeat is both of us getting down to our proper target racing weights. Mostly because there are just no more fucks to be given and the whole topic of food for both of us seems to have lost some of its psychological gravitas, and good riddance.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


My point with the "we did X and turned out fine" stuff was that, at this point, in 2014, if you're feeding your kid pasta with jarred pesto, there's going to be someone judging you as if you were basically giving your child poison. CARBS! PROCESSED! MICHAEL POLLAN SEES ALL!

Yeah, this I totally agree with. It's gotten to the point where feeding yourself or your child a piece of hundred-percent whole grain toast is Evil because Wheat Flour is a Processed Food and therefore Of The Devil.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:53 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The especially weird/funny/interesting thing if you are into thinking about food, class, and branding, is that Ina Garten is doing basically the same thing, just in the Hamptons. But Ina Garten never gets eyerolls and mocking youtube videos, because crudite and goat cheese is the classy kind of "semi homemade".

Nah. I watched both shows for months during depression and/or paternity leave, and while Ina does often assemble ingredients in that cool-foodie-shopping-at-10 markets way, she actually does prepare a lot of straightforward cuisine, and you can learn a lot about simple things like roasting vegetables, preparing chicken for the week, etc by watching her show. It is not at all comparable in any way except for the "table scape" decorative crap. The food is not.
posted by aydeejones at 1:58 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ina gets mostly fat-shaming and class-shaming BTW. People call her shirts "shents" as in "shirt-tents."

I do find her pretentious and her laugh is mock-worthy, but her show is somewhere on the Good Eats / America's Test Kitchen side of the spectrum, punctuated with a Martha-Stewart-Wannabe problem and the silly guests and such. But there's usually a good 10 minute core of technique in each show and her books are good.
posted by aydeejones at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


It really does come down to a whole lot of dismissal of women and their traditional domains. Not only do we push unreasonable expectations onto moms, but at the same time, we devalue and underestimate the time, energy, and skill that goes into home cooking because it's always been considered 'women's work'.

I see women feeling pressured to create delicious, enticing, nutritious, totally home cooked meals every single day and being shamed and feeling guilty when they can't, but I've never met a dad who felt guilty that he went to Ikea instead of building safe, non-toxic, environmentally responsible bedroom furniture for his kids.

Because we understand that building furniture is work that requires tools, training, specialized skills, time, and energy. But the fact is that building safe, simple, functional furniture would require less time, skill, and commitment than cooking safe, simple, nutritous meals every day. *

So I make a really great pasta sauce that is far superior and probably healthier than that jarred stuff. All it takes is about $20 of ingredients plus my well-appointed spice cupboard, somewhere between 6 and 8 hours cooking time, and 25 years of experience and concerted effort learning how to cook, and voila! I have a giant batch of homemade, slow cooked pasta sauce for freezing.

All busy moms of young children should feel exactly as guilty about not doing that as dads of young children feel about not becoming master carpenters and custom designing and building all the furniture in their house.

* And I have built several pieces of basic, functional furniture for my house, so I am not just talking out of my ass about it being easier. The stuff I've made is not fancy, but it's not all screws and butt joints either.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


honestly I'm also completely over the expectations for the 3-meal-a-day paradigm too, and the whole bizarre family of guilty clean-your-plate ethics that goes along with it. But then I'm the sort who could happily exist on an assortment of 100g tupperware boxes of nuts and bite-sized charcuterie and crudite' until the end of time so YMMV.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:20 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've never met a dad who felt guilty that he went to Ikea instead of building safe, non-toxic, environmentally responsible bedroom furniture for his kids

I think a fair number of men are ashamed of that, but what you don't have is any public shaming of men for not building the kids' furniture or hand-building a low-VOC house or whatever. The lack of public judgment is huge, and to my eyes is the biggest component of this kind of gendered division of shame.

honestly I'm also completely over the expectations for the 3-meal-a-day paradigm too, and the whole bizarre family of guilty clean-your-plate ethics that goes along with it. But then I'm the sort who could happily exist on an assortment of 100g tupperware boxes of nuts and bite-sized charcuterie and crudite' until the end of time so YMMV.

I don't have any kids and I'm not taking care of any ailing family members or working three jobs or any of those other limitations that so many people are dealing with. And even so, there are plenty of evenings (including tonight, as a matter of fact) where I will announce that it is "tapas night" which is just our goofy shorthand for a catch-as-can dinner made up of leftovers, olives, cheese, maybe some fruit or chocolate, plus a bottle of wine if there is one handy -- things that are in the kitchen anyway and don't require anything more than at most a minute in the microwave. I have a job and a social life and a long list of household projects to do; there's no way I'm going to cook that many meals from scratch, and I'm someone who likes cooking.

The pressure and judginess we place on food is just ridiculous, and the way we use it as a proxy for someone's qualities as a mother goes beyond ridiculous into offensive.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:44 PM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


So, my kids both refused to participate in the making of the stew, and instead pulled all my husband's paperwork off his desk while I chopped things. When I presented the stew for dinner, which has been a favorite with both since toddlerhood, the five-year-old immediately shoved the bowl away and announced, "I HATE THIS. THIS IS GROSS." The three-year-old said, "I don't want any more. I'm all done," after approximately two bites. They both asked to be excused from the table and after reminding them it is their favorite and that it was the last food on offer tonight and trying to coax them into another bite or two, we excused them.

Two minutes later the five-year-old came back in the kitchen and asked, "Can I have a cinnamon roll now?"

MORE OR LESS AS PREDICTED.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:11 PM on October 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


The entire history of human civilization has been in some ways about making food more convenient so you can get on doing other stuff with your life, from agriculture to canning to Soylent, so not really wanting to deal with food is a deeply human thing.
posted by Small Dollar at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


> I think the social structure implied there is more multi-generational homes. Taking care of kids can be so much easier when other adults are around in the same house to help out.

You say "other adults," I think "other women." More unpaid work, but now you don't ever get to retire.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:13 PM on October 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


Or, to put it another way: are you volunteering to move in with your parents and help raise your nieces and nephews? Do you live with your grandparents and look after them during the day, while you also look after your children? Do you want your mother- and father-in-law to come live with you permanently and give you child-rearing advice?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:23 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I live pretty close to a lot of family members, like minutes away. I do things like loaning my car when it's needed, babysitting my nephew, cooking family dinners occasionally, and other things that make the lives of my family members easier through mutual support. A lot of times I think it would save everybody a lot of money and work (For instance, one cable bill instead of many, the need for fewer cars and less lawns to manage) if we all just lived together in one big McMansion. That's the sort of thing I'm thinking of.

I've never seen living with family members and taking advice to be much of the nightmare other people sometimes seem to describe it as, but I have a large family where everyone generally gets along. The grandparents I've known have been pretty happy to move in and help with grandkids. It's not an experience everybody will have. Every family is different and needs to figure life out for themselves as best they can. I'm not suggesting otherwise.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:49 PM on October 10, 2014


(But I will say we should definitely stop shaming people for living with their parents, not that I see you as doing that. Whatever works for people, works. Widen out the options is the way to go.)
posted by Drinky Die at 7:52 PM on October 10, 2014


ugh Eyebrows I'm sorry. And the shit part is when you do the only not-insanity-making thing and send them to bed without dinner and then at school the next day the teacher or someone else asks "so what did you have for dinner last night " and the kid (being a kid) goes NOTHING and then you get a call from the school or something and ARGH...
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:16 PM on October 10, 2014


I think you're meaning well, but...

So I make a really great pasta sauce that is far superior and probably healthier than that jarred stuff. All it takes is about $20 of ingredients plus my well-appointed spice cupboard, somewhere between 6 and 8 hours cooking time, and 25 years of experience and concerted effort learning how to cook, and voila! I have a giant batch of homemade, slow cooked pasta sauce for freezing.


Please stop doing things like this in these threads. I think you think you're being a Shining Example of How It's Done Right, but you keep proving the point of shaming, but not shaming, I'm just telling you guys it's possible, dammit, why aren't you heeding me.

Your other points were amazingly made without this bit. I dug that. This sidebar was gross.
posted by Kitteh at 9:48 PM on October 10, 2014


Wow, I didn't read it that way at all. I don't think saying it's possible but requires 25 years of training is encouraging shaming people for not doing it.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:10 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, you're likely right, Drinky Die. I think that this is very close to home for me in terms of family, I should probably excuse myself for a while.

Apologies to anyone who was offended or hurt by my last comments.
posted by Kitteh at 10:28 PM on October 10, 2014


Make a skirt in a half hour?! Who does that? I'm an experienced sewer and the last time I made a "one hour" sheath dress, it took me four hours. Two of those hours were spent ironing the fabric and pinning and cutting out the damn pattern. And probably a good 45 minutes of that was pinning and ironing the hem (not sewing it). And I only had one minor fuckup during the whole four hours, too. Sewing is not a fast thing.

Okay, now that that rant's over with...I am also in the "hates cooking" camp. I don't know how to cook much beyond finger foods and I don't WANT to know how to make A Proper Dinner For A Family Of Four. Because if I knew how, by god, people would make me do it. My family knows better than to make me make anything for Thanksgiving, thank god--but I am also single and that is how I get away with that. One of the many reasons why I feel that I am unsuited for marriage is that I don't wanna make the damn dinner. I've had healthy lunches all week and pretty much ramen for dinner every night because I got home and didn't fucking care very much. I have to do a weekly potluck for my volunteer job (which is during the dinner hour, hence why it's mandatory) and I hated that at first, but the standards for it are pretty low and most of the time I just dig out a bag of cookies or chips or order takeout, huzzah.

What I want is a cookbook for those who really hate cooking. Much as that Peg Bracken book sounds promising, I saw that strogonoff recipe and thought, "way too many fucking ingredients." I want a cookbook that only has 4-5 ingredients per dish and doesn't take all that long to make--something designed by someone who hates to cook too. Except if you hate to cook, you don't want to do a cookbook, so...yeah, don't think that'll happen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:46 PM on October 10, 2014


Honestly, and I can't believe I am recommending her, that's more or less the concept behind Rachael Ray's old show, 30 Minute Meals. There was also a show (different host) called 5 Ingredient Fix, and there was one in the 90s called How To Boil Water.

Also, based on this thread and the virtually identical one last week, I'm thinking that such a cookbook could be a project for me. One pot and/or one pan, five ingredients (not including salt, pepper, oil). Nothing taking more than twenty minutes of actual hands-on-food time. Is that something that would fit your needs, or at least come close?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Please stop doing things like this in these threads. I think you think you're being a Shining Example of How It's Done Right, but you keep proving the point of shaming, but not shaming, I'm just telling you guys it's possible, dammit, why aren't you heeding me.

That's a key part of my point, though. Cooking is hard. It takes time, patience, skills, and a whole lot of other things. My ability to do that hinges partly on a whole lot of privileges--I have the time, the money, the necessary equipment and supplies, and adult family members to clean up all of my giant messes--and it also requires actual, learned skills. I spent about 25 years acquiring foundational cooking skills that I have explicitly and intentionally worked on. On top of that, I will make a single dish at least five or ten times, adjusting the ingredients and techniques as I go along, before I really feel like I have it down. I've probably spent as much time and effort learning to cook as I have learning the work-related technical skills that I've made my living on.

If I had spent that amount of time studying and practicing just about any other skill that wasn't associated with 'women's work,' I can't fathom people thinking that they should be ashamed of not doing it. People can recognize painting or carpentry or anything else as something that requires a lot of work and training and practice, but the skills and experience required for a lot of cooking is treated dismissively, as though anyone can just step in and do it. A key element of the culture of mom-shaming involves taking skills like this for granted, and pretending that they're not work. They are work, and it's insulting and dismissive to treat them as though they're not.

And pasta sauce is a funny example, because I know people feel bad about that. But the most common jarred pasta sauces are those complicated, slow cooked types that can take an entire day to make. Nobody--especially a mom with small children--should ever feel guilty for one second about opting to buy a jar instead. As Eyebrows McGee just illustrated so painfully up there, sometimes, even after you've busted your butt making something for them, little kids will just decide they're not going to eat it anyway.

So I would never, ever seriously tell someone that they should do that, even if they could set aside that 6-8 hour block of the day it requires. It is a ridiculous amount of work, especially when you can just buy a jar instead.

(I never used jarred pasta sauce when my kid was little, though. The kind I bought came in cans.)
posted by ernielundquist at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


> Nobody--especially a mom with small children--should ever feel guilty for one second about opting to buy a jar instead

Jesus, no. You should feel a warm glow of pride that your children are eating something tomato-based.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:19 AM on October 11, 2014


Also, based on this thread and the virtually identical one last week, I'm thinking that such a cookbook could be a project for me. One pot and/or one pan, five ingredients (not including salt, pepper, oil). Nothing taking more than twenty minutes of actual hands-on-food time. Is that something that would fit your needs, or at least come close?

Yes, please!
posted by Dip Flash at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2014


Oh, wait. Dang. I can't believe I just now remembered this story:

A couple of years ago, I had a bunch of people over for dinner, and I had made a little salad that I came up with that everyone so far really enjoyed, consisting of neatly julienned vegetables tossed with a custom homemade dressing designed to complement the flavors. It took me about a thousand years to make, but it had always been a hit before.

One of the children there took one bite, SPIT IT OUT and then CRIED. He sat there screaming and sobbing for a good thirty seconds before his long-suffering mother removed him to another room.

I love cooking, but I HATE cooking for kids. Hate it.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


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