During this week's On Being episode, Krista Tippett interviewed chef Dan Barber. She asked what he would say to someone who has children and a job and who sees pre-packaged food as a salvation of sorts because there is no time to cook and the pre-packaged food is cheaper anyway.
He replied, " . . .if I said to you that 25 years ago, you know, with all the time spent on TV, we're going to spend another four hours a day on average on the Internet, and you would say, 'Wow, I can't believe we'd fine four hours in the day.' I'd say, not only people are going to find four hours, but 95 percent penetration of Internet use for 4.5 hours a day or whatever it's up to today average, you would say that's absolutely crazy. Nobody will spend that time, nobody has that time in the day. Well, we figured out how to do it. So the question comes down to priorities. To what extent is cooking and eating and all the rest of the things that are attached to that, to what extent does that become a priority? And if it is a priority, you make the time.
It goes hand in hand with the amount of money you spend because what we're talking about — and I don't want to skirt around it; I think it's a big issue. It's more expensive. There's no question about it. You're paying the real cost of growing food. Locally, it's usually more expensive. So the question is, again back to the Internet example or cellphone use, 25 years ago, if I said there'd be 95 percent penetration in cable television, you all would have said, 'That's nuts. We have free television. Who is going to be able to find $125 a month extra?' You all would have agreed with Krista, right? I would say, not only that, you're going to find another $125 for cellphone use in disposable income. Everyone would say, 'Oh, $250 extra? Nobody has that money.' Well, of course, we found it because we found it indispensable without those things. So can we excite this issue around food and pleasure to the extent that people feel the same way about dinner?"
But let's remind ourselves that it doesn't have to cost a lot in terms of time or money to cook at home. It's fairly easy to roast a chicken, and much cheaper than that rotisserie chicken would be. It only takes about 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Throw some cut up potatoes and carrots in the pan with the roasting chicken, and soon, you'll have a delicious meal.
I could write a whole cookbook of recipes that only take 30-45 minutes to cook, and not much time to assemble beforehand. But until I get around to that project, there are plenty of cookbooks and websites with those kind of ideas already in existence.
If you need additional reasons to cook, it's good to remind ourselves of how subversive an activity cooking can be. We're surrounded by a variety of corporations who would like us to become increasingly unable to feed ourselves, and thus, increasingly reliant on their products they desperately want us to buy. When we cook lower on the production chain, we subvert that process.
If we want to be truly subversive, we can grow more of our own food, or if we're lucky enough to live near them, we can support smaller-scale farmers.
And if we want to be subversive to the ninth power, we can turn off our televisions and electronic devices. We can set the table. We can talk to each other.
We could even invite others to our table. Now that could be a culture changing, culture challenging act!
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