Monday, May 6, 2013


Michael Pollan has suggested that as we watch more cooking shows on television we cook less. I don't know; I don't watch cooking shows, and cook about as much today as I did 30 years ago. Yet the occasional look at cookbooks suggests to me why this might be so.

I have, I think, enough patience, particularly in the service of dinner. I don't mind peeling ginger, mincing garlic, or stirring broth into a risotto. Still there are cookbook recipes that try my patience, and lead me to think that they are fine for chefs with assistance or home cooks with servants, but not for those of us who are cook, scullion, and washer up all together. I would like to see a number of guidelines remembered:

  1. The word "meanwhile" does not belong in any recipe where it means "while you are doing task x which requires close attention." So "meanwhile" is fine for stews requiring the occasional stir or for roasts needing a look every half hour. It does not belong in recipes for sauteed food or for risottos.
  2. There needs to be a ratio between time and attention expended and the results. The two-hour dish had better be about three times as good as the 40-minute dish.
  3. As a special case of this: zesting citrus fruit will sooner or later bring on a sense of futility. If the recipe is not for a lemon meringue or lemon sponge pie, you had best leave it out.

1 comment: