by Honolulu Mother
A food writer who now has a one year old wrote an Atlantic article on The Myth of Easy Cooking. Her basic complaint is that although lots of books and articles promise easy dishes, they mostly are not quick or easy enough to meet the needs of someone with a toddler to feed and less than 15 minutes to get dinner on the table.
My main response was to think, “That kid won’t be a toddler forever.” And my second response, regarding the fish sauce, was that if you want to cook with fish sauce on the regular, you already have a bottle on hand. It lasts. But her broader point, I think, is that for a truly novice cook these “easy” recipes really aren’t “easy” in the same way as learning how to salt and pepper pork chops and put them under the broiler, or how to make a white sauce to be used for creamed everything on toast. Bittman-style recipes are “easy” for someone like me (or the people writing them) who has a stocked pantry and cooking skills already, but if we gave recipes skill ratings what’s usually called “quick and easy” now might be quick in the hands of an experienced cook but is not really “easy” for an inexperienced cook.
Recipes that use canned soup concentrate or cake mixes are obviously anathema to the Bittman crowd, and even the linked article didn’t mention them, but I do think they serve a useful role in getting kids and other new cooks started. Even if a recipe is basically ‘dump a box of cake mix, a box of jello, and a can of soda together and then bake,” it’s a step toward baking.
I know some Totebaggers have wrestled with getting family dinners on the table after work, especially those in that special time of life when you have little people hanging off you whining who will move on to full-stage tantrums if not fed within the next ten minutes. Any cookbook suggestions for new cooks still trying to learn their way around the kitchen? Or 15 minute dinner suggestions?