First Recipe, Finally Cooked. Or: Why Many People Don’t Cook
Before I show you how the first recipe turned out, I would like to point out that Sarah Palin doesn’t cook at all, at least according to Levi Johnston, the ex-boyfriend of her eldest daughter, who wrote this in Vanity Fair as if it were a bad thing. Palin’s husband Todd doesn’t cook either.
Premier Wen Jiabao of the People’s Republic of China has stated candidly and publicly that he doesn’t cook.
Katie Holmes doesn’t cook, she told Glamour Magazine earlier this year, although Mrs. Tom Cruise, now 30 years old, said she plans to “eventually” and that “I do make cupcakes.”
Erica Jong doesn’t cook and doesn’t plan to, and neither do the mother or the daughter of this author of “Fear of Flying” and, most relevant, “What Do Women Want?”
Beyonce and Angelina Jolie have both said they can’t cook, Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux, is on record as hating to cook but loving to eat. Meryl Streep, ok, cooks, but she says she does not do it very well. It is admittedly hard to believe that Meryl Streep does anything poorly, but she says the cookbook on which her mother relied was Peg Bracken’s “I Hate To Cook.” “I remember when I was 10 going over to a friend’s house and she and her mom were seated at the kitchen table and they were doing something with what looked liked tennis balls, these big white things,” she told Parade Magazine. “They said, ‘We’re making mashed potatoes.’ I went, ‘What do you mean? Mashed potatoes come in a box.’ “
Celebrities and their mothers are not alone. There are almost 945,000 restaurants in the country, and food sales in restaurants have increased more than 1,300 percent over the past four decades (adjusting for inflation), according to the National Restaurant Association. The association also found that 69 percent of adults surveyed “said purchasing meals from restaurants, take-out and delivery places makes it easier for families with children to manage their day-to-day lives” — not proof that they never cook, but that they would prefer not to.
It’s not the first question on surveyors’ minds, but, if you look at the right government statistics, it seems apparent that only about half of all Americans cook regularly. According to one survey (American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), 53 percent of the “civilian population” engaged in food preparation and clean-up during an average weekday in 2007. (I am sure soldiers cook even less often.) Broken down by gender: 65 percent of women and 38 percent of men prepared food on an average day in 2007 — and the women who cook spent almost 50 percent more time doing so than the men who cook.
I eavesdropped on an interesting Twitter conversation between “MissMegRae” — who describes herself as Megan Brown of Butte County (California), “5th generation commercial cattle rancher. Grass fed. Pro-food. Pro-animal welfare. Foodie. Law student” — and “JamButter” — who describes himself as Rob Smart of Calais, Vermont, blogger of Every Kitchen Table whose aim is “creating sustainable pro food solutions offering great food experiences, while improving health, environment, and local economies.”
The conversation soon deteriorated into an embarrassing, well, food fight, but initially the debate was over whether greater consciousness of the evil practices of food corporations, as revealed in such movies as Food, Inc., and a spreading understanding of the benefits of “whole”, locally-grown, healthful foods, will result in more people cooking.
Jambutter: “As family of 6 w/ 3 kids in soccer we still cook nightly. Its routine. Its easy. Most important, we have fun doing it together.”
“I will be the norm. Things are trending toward ppl eating more real food, prepared or mostly prepared at home.”
MissMegRae: “eating habits may change, but cooking habits may not. Maybe they order salad instead of fries.
“Most Americans r gonna pick kfc if it’s $3 more rather then spending 2 hrs cooking…some people don’t think cooking is important.”
I don’t know who’s right, but it is interesting to note that the American Time Use Survey has only been around since 2003, but in that short time the percentage of Americans who cook has gone up two percent. Is that statistically significant?
It is significant if, at least for a day, like me, you’re one of the people who have started cooking.
Having taken Diane’s dare to cook the recipe for the pasta with baked cherry tomatoes from Lidia Bastianich’s new cookbook, I bought the fresh “green and brownish” cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, hunted down the rest of the ingredients (including the peperoncino, pecorino, and parchment paper) and finally entered my kitchen.
As instructed, I put the cherry tomatoes into a bowl, cut the tomatoes in half, mixed in three tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then sprinkled it with 1/3 cup bread crumbs, kosher salt and the peperoncino (or at least the red chili flakes).
I poured the tomatoes into a parchment-lined sheet pan, spreading them apart “in a single layer,” and stuck the pan in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now I was supposed to bring a large pot of water to boil, but wait to put the pasta into the pot until the tomatoes in the oven were almost done. The hardest part was figuring out how long to wait. Bastianich’s recipe said “Bake until the tomatoes are shriveled and lightly caramelized (but not dried out), about 25 minutes in all.” I kept on looking in the oven, and they didn’t look any different to me (it’s tough to see that something’s shriveled when it’s so small to begin with), so I decided just to wait 20 minutes.
As soon as I put the spaghetti in the pot, I was supposed to put 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the peeled, plump garlic cloves in a skillet, until the skillet was “sizzling” and the garlic “lightly colored,” then add some of the pasta water and chopped parsley.
I had three things going on at once. The recipe explained how to combine them, and top with the basel, then turn off the heat and sprinkle with the pecorino.
Then I was supposed to “toss” the whole thing — by which she did not mean throw it out, but mix it up. “Mound the pasta in a warmed serving bowl.” Then “shred” four ounces of ricotta over the top. I just used the mixing bowl, and didn’t warm it, and I didn’t know how to shred the cheese, so I just spooned it out.
“It looks good,” my mother said when I showed her the picture, “but what’s important was how it tasted.” (I told you I come from a long line of people who didn’t like to cook.) I tasted it, and was surprised at how good it tasted. At first. But then I wondered whether I put too much ricotta on the top — did that smother the other flavors? — and whether the bread crumbs tasted less crunchy than…soggy. Maybe I should have baked the tomatoes for longer, until I was sure they were shriveled and lightly carmelized. And then, something they don’t mention in these cookbooks,or show on the food shows, there were all these pots and pans and bowls piled up in my sink.
The Bastianich series so far:
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