About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Real Reason People Don't Cook

My kitchen never rests.  There's always something cooking.  I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that my husband and I eat 3 meals a day there.  We entertain often and only eat out once a week.  It doesn't bother me if my sink has dirty dishes in it or something has to be hand washed like my sharp knives.  That comes with the territory if you enjoy cooking like I do.  I can wreck the kitchen just making a hard boiled egg.  The first time I watched Rachel Ray, I knew she needed to expanded her program title from "30 Minute Meals" to: "and Two Days to Clean Up".  The truth is, you can only make a bowl of cereal if you don't want much clean up. 

Food preparation leads to the inevitable consequence of dirty dishes and the expanded time commitment for cleaning them.  Many recipes now include the stop watch bonus of prep time, active cooking time, etc. so you can plan just how much time you need to allow in your busy day to make the recipe. Never, ever have I seen clean up time noted.  It's likely to be twice what it took to make the dish.  Can you imagine: Hands in soapsuds time; 15 mins. and loading dishwasher time; 8 mins.  That bit of reality is a turn off for sure.

I heard Alex Hitz of My Beverly Hills Kitchen and House Beautiful speak last summer about entertaining and noted his sublime and elegant standard was higher than a single person could manage without help.  I asked him, did he do dishes?  Oh no, there where "people" to do that.  I heard Ina Garten speak last Fall and someone asked from the audience if she did the clean up from her shows, "Oh no, there are dishwashers for that" she tittered.  She didn't mean a dishwashing machine either.  I took a cooking class several years ago and watched with interest as a large man quietly entered the kitchen and put on heavy rubber gloves and attacked the mass of roasting pans and mixing bowls laid waste by dozens of students and instructors in a single day.  He was a professional dishwasher.  The grease and goo didn't faze him. Bring it on!

I do have a nice lady who comes once a week and puts my kitchen back in order momentarily.  If she didn't, I'd eventually sink below some health department standard.  Every time she arrives, we exchange greetings and then she asks me anxiously, "How much cooking did you do this week?"  I have to be sure and leave the house while she works so I don't interfere with her progress.  By noon, the kitchen venue is back to the starting line, wiped down and everything back in place.  I know I'm fortunate to have a large well equipped kitchen and a little help but I also remember making fine meals in a small galley with counter space the size of a postage stamp.  It can be done, check out Rachel Khoo in The Little Paris Kitchen or Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen

My mother let me help her stir a cake batter when I was little but I sloshed it out to the bowl so much I was dismissed to the backyard to make my messy mud pies in foil pans with the garden hose and an old spoon.  I was only allowed to "cook" under her guidelines of minimal mess.  It was very frustrating to me.  She and most of my friends would say they prefer to use their time otherwise.  Who wants to cook and wash dishes when you've worked all day.  They'd rather go to yoga class after work and pick up some carry out on the way home.  That's OK, but home cooking is back in vogue, thanks to Martha Stewart and all those TV chefs and I've cast my lot with them. 

I'm always amused by people who have beautiful kitchens but never use them.  One husband quipped, he would swear the owner's manual was still in the oven at his house because his wife had never turned it on. Another friend and her husband where building a new home and mulling over the costs.  She said her mother-in-law had suggested they omit a kitchen to reign in the budget since they never used it. Ouch!

I try to clean up my kitchen daily, but it's not easy, I've made peace with my sink full of dirty dishes. I have my own rules.  The sink must be emptied and the dishwasher run once a day.  All ingredients must be put away after the recipe is completed. Leftovers must be stored promptly. It's the hand washing that gets me.  Its the knives and wooden cutting board and nonstick pans that lag behind. Lots of people don't bother and throw them in the dishwasher to be ruined. Anyone who puts my knives in the dishwasher is severely rebuked even if they are trying to help.  Some times it's a shared arrangement; you cook and the other cleans up.  I like that idea but it doesn't happen often.

Not to belabor the point but food preparation leaves behind a fair amount of dirty dishes that someone has to deal with.  I'm guessing it's 50% prep and 50% clean up, most of the time.  I wondered when I wrote my preceding post on Fluffy French Omelets, how many of you would try something that required seven items that had to be washed in addition to the plates and eating utensils.  I find even a little daily cooking adds to the quality of my life just like exercise does, even if it's just making a salad dressing, so there will always be dirty dishes in my sink.  Now, excuse me, I have to go clean up my kitchen.  It's a mess.

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