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"Semi-Homemade Food"


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At our recent e-Gullet potluck, I had several discussions about friends who cannot or will not cook.

Tighe and I have friends who actually think that heating up a "pot roast in a bag" qualifies as cooking a homemade meal. I understand that we are all busy working and cannot always find the time to prepare an elaborate, from scratch dinner. We have friends that are afraid to use their gas grill and/or feel that it is too much work! I think our friends had no training from their parents on how to cook. Maybe their parents' parents didn't teach them either. How many of your friends can cook a roast chicken? Ours = none.

I think our friends are afraid to try new things - what's the worst thing that can happen? The food tastes awful and you call for take out pizza. The best thing that could happen - a great homemade meal that is a lot healthier than consuming sodium laden frozen entreés night after night.

Jamie Oliver recently had an episode where he took pre-made foods and showed how to make a homemade meal that tasted better and took less time. I just watched an Alton Brown episode where he threw out (GASP!!!! from my friends) the Kraft box and made a delicious looking homemade mac and cheese.

Hsiao-Ching Chou's article in the Seattle P.I. today sums it all up. We need more people like Chou and more articles like these!! :biggrin:

"Semi-Homemade Food"

Let me know what you think!

pat

"Unleash the sheep!" mamster

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Hi, Pat! There's already a discussion about the book here.

I feel sorry for people who can't/won't cook, but then again, I can't do a lot of the things that give other people pleasure. If something like that at least calms some of their fears and gets them started, there is still hope, brother. :smile:

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I found the tone of his/her article to be incredibly condescending.

It's been my experience that if you wish to educate people, it is never a good idea to begin that process by insulting them.

Edit: Want to add that I agree with the points - it DOES only take a couple seconds to grate carrots.

But I repeat that insulting people has never, in my experience, led to any kind of epiphany on their part.

I believe this food writer could have made many more points by discussing the ease with which one can turn out "real" food, not to mention how satisfying it is.

But instead, the entire tone of the review was insulting. And I suspect those exact same readers he/she was trying to reach, just read that condescending crack about blindly following trends and bristled.

And learned nothing.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Before I came to egullet this morning I was going through my e-mails and in a mailing from Jessica Biscuit Cookbooks was info about this book, which I had never heard of until then.

My first thought was that this could become a very popular book, since the majority of people I know hate cooking and to them homemade is a box of pasta, a jar of sauce, a green bottle of cheese. The thing that does scare me it that this could lead to a slew of new cookbooks that take the emphasis off "real " food and put in on the convenience foods.

If convenience foods are things like dried pasta, canned beans, and frozen veggies than count me as a convenience food freak, but you will never find bottled salad dressings, bottled sauces, boxes of "helper's", pre-made frozen meals in my house. I love food too much to settle for these things that don't even come in a close second.

I have one friend that absolutely hates cooking and makes the same things over and over. Monday is always pasta with meat and frozen veggie sauce, Tuesday is chicken and spinach curry, thursday is sauteed salmon with brown rice and simmered pumpkin, etc. They are not bad foods but I really feel for her family that has been eating these 7 meals for the past 4 years. I have another friend whose special dish is mixing a block of cream cheese witha jar of salsa and she brings this to every potluck gathering she attends.

I don't want to come across as a food "snob" but i like good food and this book will never find its way to my shelves, but i have a feeling my sister will be raving about it when I visit in December. But honestly if cooking from it can get her husband and 3 kids to eat anything other than pizza than maybe it has done something good.

I realy liked the article and would love to see more honest reviews like that!

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I personally think this type of cooking is a really sad reflection on the type of society we live in.

"Her recipe for success in the kitchen includes using disposables, which "provide quick preparation and cleanup -- you'll minimize your work while maximizing your leisure time."

You will also pollute the planet more .. should we all eat of paper plates on a daily basis - sure would save time.

Time spent preparing a meal and eating it with family or friends is time well spent. I always see cooking a nice meal for people as a gift.

Cooking is a wonderful skill and is sometimes elevated to an art by those that excel at it.

It saddens me greatly that many people seem to be willing to throw this skill away.

My two older children are both competant cooks and enjoy pottering about in the kitchen with me. At 14 and 12 I would say they have all the basic cooking skills they need to whip up a fabulous meal. Once a week they are the house " chefs " and have to make a meal for all of us from scratch, including the shopping within a budget for the meal.

I hate seeing packages of cake mix and instant pancakes and ready made cookie dough on the supermarket shelves. You certainly will never find any in my kitchen pantry.

As for speed.. so many meals can be made in a matter of moments using fresh ingredients. It's just an excuse for culinary lack of knowledge to say that convience foods are faster.

And as for better ..

lemme just say that kraft Mac 'n' cheese .. is SCARY. The colour of that stuff alone should tell you that it should not be eaten. It looks more like toxic waste than food!!!

Yes I am a slow food advocate, I like my food GE material free, preferably organic and I like to know exactly what went into the things I am eating. Call me old fashioned.. but I like my food REAL

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I'm going to defend Hsiao-Ching (who is a woman) by saying that she's held herself out for a lot of criticism by being the only local food writer willing to challenge her readers instead of pandering to them. It's hard to do that without coming off as condescending (which the piece was) sometimes. She also had the guts to look at press release in the mouth.

Saffy, hearing about eGullet kids who cook is always a pleasure and a good omen. Congrats.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Saffy, good for you for showing your kids how to cook! I wish my mom had spent more time with me in the kitchen, but as a working mom with three kids (and all hugely involved in school activities), I'm sure she just didn't have the time. I'm glad she did show me how to make her gravy (a secret recipe). It's the perfect staple for anyone who likes guilty food :)

I plan on eventually teaching my son -- who is almost 2 now -- everything I know about cooking (which isn't much, I'm merely a competent cook). But what I hope he will take away from me is the discovery of how fulfilling it can be to make your own meals with your own hands.

On a disclaimer note, I have to admit to cheating on dinners now and again when life has gotten really hectic (hey, I'm a working mom with a lot of hobbies, give me a break). There have been days when I've used a prepared tomato sauce with some boring pasta thrown together with some parmesan. Sound boring? Well, yeah, it is boring. And usually those are the meals that hubby never finishes :) I've found with careful planning, though, even busy working moms like me really do not have to use cheater food to get their families fed.

Something I've learned that maybe someone else already has said, but I think is worth mentioning: Shop for meals every 3 days (on your lunch hour, it's easier without lugging along the baby!!). Instead of making a shopping list, make a list of the meals you'll be serving and then buy the ingredients for those meals. If you shop randomly, you'll just have spoiled stuff in your veggie bin. This might be really really really basic advice, but maybe it'll help one more working mama out there who never thought about shopping for meals rather than shopping for groceries.

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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I'm going to defend Hsiao-Ching (who is a woman) by saying that she's held herself out for a lot of criticism by being the only local food writer willing to challenge her readers instead of pandering to them.  It's hard to do that without coming off as condescending (which the piece was) sometimes.  She also had the guts to look at press release in the mouth.

I don't think you'll find anyone on eGullet that isn't on Hsiao-Ching's side in this. To me, that's not the issue.

I think of so many things I wanted to try when I was young - the game of bridge, art lessons, tap dancing (ain't that a mental picture?) - that I was hesitant to attempt because I was a little intimidated that the "experts" might look down their noses at me. Cooking can be that way to those who feel unskilled, ignorant, and inept in the kitchen. So, now we want them to appreciate and learn the joys of preparing their own food.

And along comes Ching to write an article decrying the use of prepared foods. But, sadly, the tone of her article was not oozing with the warmth of a hospitable, open, generous kitchen.

She called everyone who might find some value in Sandra Lee's methods a herd of sheep mindlessly following trends, unable to determine their own needs or make up their own minds.

I wish that her article had taken more the tone of the posts on this thread... i.e., it's a sad trend to dispense with homemade dinners, that a productive kitchen is the soul and heart of the home and family, that good cooking does not necessarily take more time than bad, that disposables are bad for the environment (which Northwesterners take very seriously), and offering alternatives.

One that I use is Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals. Ms. Ray does sometimes use prepared foods, but she invariably mixes them with items fresh from the market.

Ms. Ching could have commented on how unfortunate it is to lose the traditions in the kitchen, to rear children who think Kraft invented Mac & Cheese, and to decide that the only thing one must wield in order to be a good cook is a can opener.

I also believe that it would have been helpful and enlightening to have selected several recipes from the book, and given quick and easy alternatives for their preparation.

I repeat. When you insult people, you rarely put them in a mood to learn anything from you.

And I strongly doubt that the people she should be trying to reach in that piece felt moved toward anything but intimidation, annoyance, and an inclination to defend themselves.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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i feel bad for people who don't cook.

I cook for people who don't feel bad.

And, especially, for those who do.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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i feel bad for people who don't cook.

I cook for people who don't feel bad.

And, especially, for those who do.

i pity those who don't cook for people who feel bad.

I feel for people who cook for bad people.

I feel people who cook and aren't bad people.

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I'm not surprised to hear about all of the people out there who basically don't cook and just go for the prepared food. Cooking is a wonderful art and it's something that you can work on for the rest of your life. Yes I understand most people just don't have the time and that's why there are so many prepared foods out there. But what does surprise me is that most people in my circle of friends (eGullet folks excluded) love to cook or cook on a regular basis. I have a hard time thinking of folks who don't cook.

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It's hard to tell whether this is a book review or a rant. As the former, it would be greatly improved by deleting the first ten words and omitting the last 13 paragraphs. Do the opposite to obtain the latter, though it ends up a little shrill. In any case, one should not mix the two without more warning than an obscure headline. This is journalistic sin of the mortal variety.

But she does have a point, even if she is not properly edited. People are sheep. Yes, even eGulleters--otherwise, why are we here? I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that--humans are social animals.

So then, you have to wonder if Hsiao-Ching is angry simply because she thinks people are in the wrong flock (meaning not hers), and that she know better than they do what is good for them. If that's the case, Jaymes is right: you won't have much luck getting people to move if you start off by criticizing their sense of direction. You suggest, you cajole--you provide a better example (Jaymes again).

And you remember Mark Twain (I think), who pointed out that "nothing needs improving so much as other people's manners." It cuts both ways.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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One that I use is Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals.  Ms. Ray does sometimes use prepared foods, but she invariably mixes them with items fresh from the market.

My favorite of this genre is Donna Hay's 'New Food Fast'. Snapper with pine nut brown butter sauce in 20 minutes, can't beat it with a stick. The book is organized into chapters of 10-minute (or so), 20-minute and 30-minute dishes, and almost exclusively uses fresh ingredients.

I agree that the tone of the article was not conducive to encouraging people to try cooking themselves, but I agree with her basic premise. What irks me is that TV chefs/cooks such as Jamie Oliver and Emeril who really try to make cooking accessible get completely ripped by some on this site as being sell-outs or worse.

I think its important to distinguish between 'convenience' items and 'pre-prepared' items as well. I don't see any problem with using frozen veggies when fresh are out of season or dried pasta, but sprinking some fresh cut parsley over a Hungry-Man dinner just doesn't cut it. A lot of people also don't realize how easy it is to make your own convenience food to freeze such as stock, soups, pasta sauce, etc. I agree with everything that's been said here about the enjoyment cooking a meal can bring and would add that a weekend afternoon spent making a big pot of stock is another thing I love.

edit: uh duh....that would be Jamie Oliver, not Jamie Martin (who is the quarterback for the Rams)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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One that I use is Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals.  Ms. Ray does sometimes use prepared foods, but she invariably mixes them with items fresh from the market.

My favorite of this genre is Donna Hay's 'New Food Fast'. Snapper with pine nut brown butter sauce in 20 minutes, can't beat it with a stick. The book is organized into chapters of 10-minute (or so), 20-minute and 30-minute dishes, and almost exclusively uses fresh ingredients.

Was not familiar with Donna Hay's book, but it sounds absolutely wonderful, even if just for that snapper recipe alone!! I am going to look for it this afternoon.

Too bad Ching didn't take the opportunity to do a comparison between the Sandra Lee book, and those of Hay & Ray..... (sounds like a comedy team).

Ching could have done a great deal of good with her overall premise.... By demonstrating a better way. She could have taken that opportunity to make a real difference - and sent people scurrying for better options like Hay & Ray, instead of the Sandra Lee book.

Edit: Tighe - I've decided to buy several of the Hay book to give as gifts for my kids. My daughter is 24, a teacher, lives alone, is trying to get "into" cooking, but has a very busy work and social life. I know she is not yet ready to tackle big long projects, but that sounds just like something she'd use. Ditto, my son, who is 27, and always looking for something non-intimidating to whip up in the kitchen in his bachelor pad.

Thanks again so much for telling me about them!!

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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i feel bad for people who don't cook.

I cook for people who don't feel bad.

And, especially, for those who do.

i pity those who don't cook for people who feel bad.

I feel for people who cook for bad people.

I feel people who cook and aren't bad people.

For I cook people who don't feel bad.

-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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I just bought Donna Hay's New Food Fast, last week and think it looks great! To me this is the kind of book anyone can use to make really (10 minutes!) quick meals using REAL food.

I haven't used it yet because my friend borrowed it the day after I got it and I haven't seen her since! :wink::shock:

As a busy mom of 3 litttle ones, I am always looking for shortcuts and I think that Jamie Oliver and soon Donna Hay are life savers for me. They make gorgeous food that tastes great and you rarely spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen.

I also like the fact that their recipes are so unlike regular recipes in that they don't call for measured ingredients, rather handfuls of this, a lug of that, etc. You don't even feel like you are using a cookbook! and the best thing is when you go to make it again you don't even need to bring the cookbook into the kitchen with you.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I don't think you'll find anyone on eGullet that isn't on Hsiao-Ching's side in this.

I agree with pretty much everything in your response, Jaymes--you catch more flies with honey. But I'd argue that you have to put this column into a context. And the P-I web site doesn't make clear that this is a column: it's Chou's weekly opinion piece. It's devoted nearly every week to the kind of cooking that she (crankily) defends this week. In that context, a bit of a "haven't you people learned anything?" rant is more forgivable.

Furthermore, I think you'll find a lot of people writing for daily papers who are not on Hsiao-Ching's side, who continue to offer convenience food cooking and repeat culinary myths instead of testing them.

Rachel, thanks for moving the thread.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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i feel bad for people who don't cook.

I cook for people who don't feel bad.

And, especially, for those who do.

i pity those who don't cook for people who feel bad.

I feel for people who cook for bad people.

I feel people who cook and aren't bad people.

For I cook people who don't feel bad.

I don't cook for bad people. :biggrin:

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I feel sorry for people who can't/won't cook, but then again, I can't do a lot of the things that give other people pleasure.  If something like that at least calms some of their fears and gets them started, there is still hope, brother.    :smile:

Well Said. I fell the same way.

Anyway...I find it funny that Campbells market their soups as ingredients (as opposed to just as soups.) :)

There are different levels of the phenomena i guess. i have a friend who adds (sauteed ground) meat and a variety of herbs to (good) prepared tomato sauces...and that's close enough to cooking since work and thought goes into it.

I don't feel sorry for those who can't cook, but I feel sorry for those who can't cook but think they can. :)

-Jason

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i feel bad for people who don't cook.

I cook for people who don't feel bad.

And, especially, for those who do.

i pity those who don't cook for people who feel bad.

I feel for people who cook for bad people.

I feel people who cook and aren't bad people.

For I cook people who don't feel bad.

I don't cook for bad people. :biggrin:

Don't feel bad, for I cook people.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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