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?