As I mentioned, I went to see Michael Pollan talk about his new book, “Cooked” Monday evening. I think it would be fair to say he was preaching to the choir, but that doesn’t mean that the points he made weren’t valid, as well as being darn good advice. It was a great talk (an hour-plus) but these were the bon mots that stuck firmly in my head:

  • Most people like the idyllic image of small farms, but the reality is that small farms can’t thrive if we don’t cook. Ask yourself, “Who is cooking my food? A corporation or a person?” Industrialization of cooking drives the industrialization of agriculture. 
  • That said, not all processed food is unhealthy. One- or two- ingredient processed foods like canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables can be healthy time savers, whereas multi-ingredient “home meal replacements” (as the food industry calls them) like frozen meals, are not. 
  • Why? Because these “home meal replacements” use the cheapest ingredients possible (read: low-quality) and then doctor them up with the trifecta of salt-sugar-fat. Next time you think you don’t have time to cook, consider this: 45 minutes in the kitchen may be as important to your health and sanity as that yoga class or trip to the gym. 
  • Finally, if cooking is tedious and time-consuming and something to be delegated, why do we spend time watching it on TV? We don’t watch TV shows about people doing oil changes.
  • When you read about surveys that investigate how often people cook at home and how much time they spend cooking, “cooking” is defined as combining two or more ingredients. By that definition, putting bottled salad dressing on lettuce is defined as “cooking.” So is putting deli meat between slices of bread. Heating a microwave pizza? Not cooking.
All of this cooking talk really has me twitchy to crack one of my numerous cookbooks and spend some quality time in the kitchen. Alas, I’m stuck in a simpler food prep mode. I put together simple, tasty healthy meals, but they lack the creativity that comes from trying new recipes or revisiting old favorites. Fortunately, I won’t be in school forever!