Saturday, July 3, 2010


After what I wrote yesterday about consumption vs. making things myself, especially with regard to cooking, it was interesting to read James Beard's introduction to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

The decades following Miss Farmer's death in 1915 were not a particularly distinguished  period in American cooking.  Perhaps it was because the average American woman suddenly found herself with no help at all and, instead of wanting to learn cooking, she was interested in liberating herself from the kitchen.  Perhaps Prohibition had its depressing influence.  Whatever the reason, for a long time, the emphasis was on oversimplification, shortcut methods, bastardization of traditional recipes and, as more convenience foods came on the market, there was more reliance on them.  The magazines were full of casseroles covered with a condensed soup or packaged sauce and ersatz products like flavored salts dulled the palate.  It seemed that the spirit and influence of that great woman was drowned in a sea of jellied salad.
One thing that strikes me about that is that James Beard's idea of too much reliance on shortcut measures is still more elaborate cooking than I want to do.  If I cooked according to his idea of shortcut methods, I would feel I was doing my own cooking and did not have to feel guilty.  Which goes to show how much such views of how much to rely on convenience is a result of the time and the culture.

I think for my own life, I should not feel guilty for not being a more elaborate cook.  Compared to many people around me, I buy less.  I re-use more.  I bring my own lunches to work, sandwiches made at home.  But it's not about comparing myself to other people.  There is a part of me that values reducing consumption.  I need to explore that part of me, and make my own choices about what I actually want to do.  Maybe I never will get into cooking, but maybe I'll find other ways to put that value into practice.

Right now I'm happy to have just had a simple lunch made at home, consisting of salad, tofu, and bread with hummus.  The salad ingredients and bread were from the farmer's market.  The tofu and hummus were organic.

Sometimes though, I feel I don't have the time or energy to prepare food.  That's okay.  It's up to me to decide how I want to allocate my finite time and energy. I don't seem to be entirely happy with my allocations now, so it's something to think about.  However, I will never be entirely happy with my allocations, because the amount I want to do always exceeds the available time and energy, so I will always be frustrated about the things I'm not doing.

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