it’s worth taking the time to cook
We have all done our time in the kitchen. Whether it is re-heating a prepared food item, making a sandwich, or cooking a large meal for friends and family. Some of us love to cook because we love to eat, some of us love to eat, but really don’t enjoy the time that’s needed to prepare good food, and others, who may love neither, do what is necessary just to get both acts over with.
Cooking is a necessity, and today, we are offered many convenient ways to cook or not cook the foods we eat. The average person today, spends approximately 30 minutes in the kitchen per day ‘cooking’. It’s hard to imagine what 30 minutes per day can produce that’s fresh and wholesome. Before food became a ‘product’, it was something that had to be gathered, grown, or hunted. It would take a considerable amount of time to produce food that would sustain for a day, week, or even a year. Many traditional recipes require a multitude of steps before achieving the end-result: sitting down to eat the dish. Of course, technology has helped to shorten much of the time it takes to prepare a traditional dish today: we don’t have to grind our own wheat, we don’t have to make our own cheese, we don’t have to grow our own tomatoes, and we don’t have to butcher a cow to whip up a dish of spaghetti with meatballs. We do, however, have the choice of making the dish from fresh ingredients or processed, and it gets back to how much time we want to spend in the kitchen to achieve the end-result.
I was recently complimented on a dinner I prepared for a group of people. The comment made to me was ‘the flavors of this dish are all very well-balanced, and each ingredient is good, but is delicious when eaten together’. My reply was ‘my job as a chef, is 30% technique, and 70% quality ingredients; as long as you use quality ingredients, and prepare the dish simply to amplify the quality, you will always be successful’. This is a truth that goes well beyond food, but we will save that conversation for another post.
Let’s return back to the earlier example: spaghetti with meatballs. You have dozens of options on the ingredients and they all boil down to how much time do you want to spend in the kitchen? In 30 minutes, you can re-heat frozen meatballs in the microwave, open a jar of marinara sauce, boil some generic spaghetti noodles and call it good. You can take a step further and make your own meatballs and still use the prepared jar of marinara sauce, or you can make your own meatballs from a nice quality ground beef, make your own marinara sauce from canned tomatoes, and cook some nice quality spaghetti noodles. There will be a noticeable difference between the first example and the third in flavor. The factors affecting the flavor are time, the ingredients used, and the quality of those ingredients.
You might be thinking, gee Pati, I already know this….so what? Well, it’s amazing to me just how many people out there do not know this. I have run into people before and after my career change that are really not that familiar with the fact that if you spend the time making food from scratch and you spend a little more money for quality, you will actually get good flavor. I made a comment in a previous post about a client that asked me if I had grown the carrots I used in salad I served. No, I didn’t, but I got them from the farmers’ market and gee, they really tasted like carrot because they were real carrots! How hard is it to buy a bunch of nice carrots (that still have the tops), peel them, and slice them to add to a salad instead of buying those machine cut ‘baby’ carrots that are really carrots that have outlived their usefulness and have been shaved down to look like cute little baby carrots. In reality, they are old and should have been thrown out, but the company that sells them has ingeniously used a machine to cut away all the old, bad, & tasteless parts, repackaged them, and re-priced them (at a higher price by the way over a bunch of fresh carrots) to sell to you, the consumer, so all you have to do is open the bag and dump them in to your salad. No washing, peeling or chopping is necessary—-CONVENIENCE OVER QUALITY.
And, gee, they don’t taste like carrot do they? Also, don’t kid yourself and buy the organic version of this atrocity; they are still bad carrots.
OK, so I am getting off my soapbox now and will give you two really great recipes: one for homemade meatballs (my family’s recipe) and one for fresh roasted tomato sauce (my recipe) , so you can make your own spaghetti and meatballs. Neither of these recipes requires too many hours spent in the kitchen, but they do require commitment: to quality and to the technique. You will be glad you took the TIME to make both…..buon appetito e a presto!