Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rachel Ray, Terrorism, and the Sins of Omission

Okay, so we've long established that Rachel Ray is not a terrorist. Old news. Further, I cringe every time I hear the word terrorist these days as well. I no longer cringe so much when I hear "Rachel Ray." I barely bristle if I stumble across the occasional y-word. You know the one. I can't bring myself to even type it and have it found on my blog by a search engine. And I have moved beyond any Rachel Ray-bashing. It's just not worth the key punching. Done.


What I will rant a bit about is the Great Sin that is perpetuated to excess in our culture at large and the very thing that made Rachel Ray a success in the first place. What I am referring to here is The Sin of Omission.

Roll tape. Rachel Ray is doing her "big carry" from the fridge to the counter. She is preparing the recipes, just setting things out and starting to chop. As she does this, she tosses off a quick "Oh, I do all the clean and prep when I bring everything home from the store." And then launches into the rest of the 20-minute meal segment, making three dishes that magically arrive on the table in record time. Wasn't that easy, folks?

Wait. Stop. Rewind. What was that bit about clean and prep? Uh huh. So, the 20-minute meal is only a 20-minute meal if you've already done part of the work? So, do 20 minute meals really exist?

I would hazard a generality here and say, no, not 20-minute meals that have any fresh ingredients. We eat a lot (LOT) of produce around here. I decided to time my own efforts at clean and prep when I arrive home from the market. Ready? TWO HOURS. Give or take depending on the types and how much produce you buy. Averaged out over the few cooking sessions I do in a week (I DON'T cook every night. Leftovers, baby.). That time adds from 10-30 minutes to each meal.

Thus, 20-minute meals with fresh produce do not really exist. But, 20 or 30-minute meals with some advance prep certainly do.

This whole "20-minute meal," "Ten Easy Steps," "Top Five Quick Tips," phenomenon is like a rampant disease in our culture, as discussed in this excellent post by environmentalist Simran Sethi. (It's a great read.)

You know what? It's not easy. It takes effort to slow your life down in order to make room for lost arts like real food and family meals. Sustainable is not a marketing label. It's a state of balance that requires constant effort.

If I lie to you, if I tell you it's easy to fix real food every day with a full time job and a small child, well, rightfully you would be pissed. Because I would be lying. Because it takes time to change your approach in order to make it manageable.

Here are a couple posts where I tried to share strategy on making this whole real food for dinner thing possible:
The Myth of the Super Kitchen Goddess
Do 30-Minute Meals Really Exist?


Rachel said...

Golly, I got scared when I saw the first word of the post! My childhood nickname was Rae-rae (from my sister)!

But excellent ranty point about the non-existant 20 minute recipe. Ain't no such thing, unless you're drinking a liquid lunch. Stolly, Edina, Stolly!

Also, I quibble with "cooking time" guides as ovens/stovetops vary in size, power, state of repair and cleanliness and general age. It can seriously throw off cooking time and preparation budgeting!

Jenna said...

While I will confess to owning a few of the perky one's books (she's easier to take in a written format - mostly due to the simple fact her recipes feel little of her desperate need to explain what EVOO :shudder: is or to give us yet another discussion of the meaning of "stewp") I also have to confess a tendency to rant at the screen when she is on.

What really drives my irritation even BEYOND her time sense is her throw-away lines to the camera of "taking a little help from the store" in her meals. Yup, my store offers prepped veggies... for a 150%+ markup. Yes, I can buy premade pizza dough, a can of sauce and some blended cheeses... but by that point it costs more then simply ordering a pie from the shop down the road. Pre trimmed chicken breasts? Again with the huge markup.

You can't "save time". No matter what, there are 60 minutes in a hour - so why not use them to make good food, teach your family some joy in the preperation, and perhaps put a few cents back for REAL food later?

Sorry for the epic, can you tell Miss Perky makes me chaffe?

Mara from Motherofalltrips said...

This is a truly awesome post. To eat local, fresh, well-prepared food takes time. Period. I've never sctually timed myself, but between menu planning, shopping, prep/cleaning, and cooking (DH does most of the cleanup, although I do some) I'm guessing that feeding my family of four takes between 15 and 20 hours a week (note that I also make all of our bread).

I'm definitely at the far end of the sliding scale, but I really don't think it would be possible to feed us all on 3 hours of work time a week. No way.

Stephanie Wells said...

Yeah I agree. In fact, I find myself thinking in my career as a dietitian, everyone will hate my meal ideas because what I really believe in are meals that just don't fit the schedules of most people living in today's society. There is a major component to health and digestion that lies in mindful cooking and mindful eating. That is a lost art in this culture. So the real success story will be the person who stumbles into a hit tv show, talk show, and book deal for the "Slow down and take as much time as needed to make a real meal-minute meal". But do we need to change society first-- the long workdays and short days off? The center aisles filled with processed food at the grocery store beckoning those who need to nuke it and shovel it down? The disconnect between food as fuel and food as nourishment?

Expatriate Chef said...

Fantastic comments. Stephanie, thanks, the feedback from someone like yourself who is a dietitian means a lot.

Stephanie Wells said...

I'm actually not quite a dietitian yet... I have a Master's degree in Nutrition and will have my Registered Dietitian credentials after a 9-month internship and board exam. Just thought I should clarify :)