I really don’t mean to offend anyone. I very much value the technique and education that culinary schools are said to offer. These schools have been training some truly amazing chefs for centuries (well one full century and portions of others), and particularly some individuals I very much admire today. But this article is not about bashing culinary schools, its about how every chef, cooking show, and the Food Network constantly give average home cooks (and converted non cooks) the notion that cooking takes zero time, and presents able bodied busy house wives and husbands with a recipe that really takes a minimum of 90-minutes (not 30).
Most of the general home cooking public is way too busy to spend two hours making a meal. Really, by the time you chop your vegetables, you’re 30 minutes in and you have yet to cook anything. Not to mention the list making and the store visit associated with that ONE meal. It is the reality of home cooking, and a point that editors and executives fail to understand, that at home, most people don’t know how to use a knife “properly,” or can cut an onion in less than a minute, or know exactly how to season perfectly. The reason why “30 Minute Meals” truly doesn’t exist.
Most of the cooking personalities we know (if not all of them) are culinary trained graduates. In classes, they spend hours chopping onions, which likely makes them immune to the piercing and painful spray they omit. It takes me 10 minutes to chop an onion. Primarily because I’m in the bathroom for 8 of those minutes washing my eyes frantically to just have the ability to see. Yes, I have learned in random cooking classes how to cut an onion to help limit that painful problem, but most of you have not, and I have a feeling a good portion of you don’t really care about cooking enough to learn.
This is your first step. Start caring.
If you want to help yourself, a friend, a family member, or even a neighbor to shed pounds or generally help to reduce the obesity rate in our country, start by caring about food. To commend the Food Network (and associates), they have brought an interest to food and cooking I have not seen before the last 10 years. This is what will help get us in the kitchen and focusing on our health and lifestyles. You don’t have to start taking fancy classes to start caring. All you need to do is pay attention. Read recipes completely, consider using a vegetable you have never eaten before, and listen to your body when it tells you to stop giving it processed food.
Step two. Depending on how much you know about cooking, add at least 30 – 60 minutes on the “hands on” timing most recipes give you.
Gordon Ramsay and Giada DeLaurentis are two of my most favorite chefs. As much as I can claim to be a good cook, in my reality, I will not be able to prepare a meal as quickly as they can. Yes, faster than most home cooks, but not nearly culinary-lightning-speed. And honestly, I don’t want to. ENJOY what you do when you cook. Use the time to relax and meditate. Put the kids to work with the safe task of cleaning green beans or opening the bag of cleaned lettuce, and they’ll actually WANT to eat what they helped to cook. Don’t rush making the meal to fit into the 30 minute time slot. You will get frustrated, you will mess it up, and you will end up calling in for pizza. HAVE PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF IN THE KITCHEN.
Step 3. Plan ahead.
Know what you are cooking all week. Set up a list on your refrigerator of the meals for that week and start preparing on the weekends. Take a little time out of your social schedule to clean vegetables, precook certain items that may take longer, or just to make your list. You’ll know ahead what you need and how much time it will take you every night so you’re not stressed out about making dinner (you have enough to stress about). You will start noticing a difference in your lifestyle sooner than you can imagine. I’m willing to bet you’ll find yourself just a little happier.
If you just can’t give up that fast food, then present it to yourself as a weekly treat. If its too challenging to start cooking every single day, then start with one day, then add another, and another, every week until you are cooking 7 nights per week. It is not easy, but if you accept that and continue watching your favorite Food Network shows with the mindset of “its just a show,” then you’ll be on your way to cooking the way real home cooks do. Honesty, patience, and a lot of fun are the keys to becoming a great cook. Good luck!