ColumnWhat is the modern kitchen all about? Anything but cooking.
Take a look at any set of television ads, an interior design magazine or a home appliance store these days and you’ll notice one thing: everything that’s sold for the modern kitchen is made to make time spent in the kitchen more efficient. And if it’s not something that’s sold for the modern kitchen, it’s how to make your kitchen even better than it already is.
But you know what? Everything that’s sold is sold because we treat cooking food like the dullest of chores. Everything is sold to take the artistry out of making food. I have heard one too many times, “I don’t have a [insert fancy kitchen appliance here] so I can’t make a [insert basic food item here].” Sure, a bread machine reduces the amount of time that you have to spend making bread, but just because you don’t have one doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make bread. Don’t have an electric mixer? You can still make meringues and whipped cream and all that good stuff. Kitchen appliances and gadgets give us something to blame for our own lack of food skills. And food skills are what keep us healthy. But now computerized kitchens are coming our way, so watch out.
Kitchen gadgets incorrectly believe us to believe that we can have everything and we can have it in a short period of time. A triple layer cake? Yeah, that’s going to take some planning to make. A fresh loaf of bread made with sourdough starter? No, you cannot have that in one hour.
Did you know that the average cost of reported kitchen remodels in the United States is almost $20,000? And people say they don’t have enough money to eat well. I know people who can cook a gourmet meal on a camp stove. You don’t need a fancy kitchen to make good food. Not to mention the fact that when we’re spending time in the kitchen, we’re spending it making completely useless food like rainbow colored unicorn cookies filled with sprinkles.
Let’s get one thing straight: this is about priorities. Good food takes time, anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. It doesn’t take all the time in the world, but it does take time. But you have to ask yourself: what will you be doing with all the time you have gained from your ten new kitchen gadgets? Will you read a book? Will you work on that startup business plan? Will you spend time with your family? I am going to guess, no. You’re going to spend it on a screen. Checking your bank account to make sure that loan for your kitchen remodel went through.
We are so consumed with being “busy,” and having things look good, that we don’t even have time for the essentials anymore: put a roof over our heads, put food on the table, find water to drink and love each other. It really isn’t more complicated than that.
So what if we spent 30 less minutes everyday being online and put that time into making food instead? We’d be better off for it.
Because when we focus on looks before function, efficiency over time well spent, we lose something in the process. In fact, we lose a lot. We lose nutrition; choose microwave dinners over handmade ones. We lose tradition; we think birthday cakes come from the store. We lose knowledge; when resources were few, all food had to be put to use instead of wasted, nowadays few of us know how to use up vegetable scraps to make a broth. We lose quality time spent together: a family meal at the fast food joint isn’t the same as standing together in the kitchen preparing a meal.
Even if you enjoy cooking, it is in fact a chore. There is no way of getting around that. We have to eat three times a day. That means that you need to come up with something to stuff in your mouth three times a day. That might mean buying something at a restaurant, it might mean reheating last night’s leftovers, and it might mean cooking a meal from scratch.
But while cooking is a chore, we don’t always have to treat it like that, because it’s in treating it like a boring chore that we take all the fun out of it. And the fun is what gets people into the kitchen in the first place.
Gadgets won’t make us healthier. Cooking will. Learn how to do things from scratch, not because it’s the hip thing to do, but because it’s the healthy thing to do. Once you know the basics, you can cut corners. You can speed things up. You can whip together a pesto without a PestoMatic 5000. You can thinly slice vegetables into strips without a Spiralizer.
The beauty of finding pleasure in cooking is that it’s an activity that not only gives us pleasure, but also nourishes us all at the same time. It’s like going to a therapy session, except that therapy comes with dinner.
Don’t let any gadget or new kitchen take that away from you.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Steve Larkin