Saturday, April 18, 2009

McDonald's eaters probably have kitchens in their houses

I have to disagree with Mark Bittman. I've lately been considering ponying up and getting cable because I'd like to be able to switch on the TV and see a cooking show once in a while. My appetite has been M.I.A. for months, so eating and cooking have become a major chore. For someone who spends almost all of her time at home or the grocery store, I really don't cook or eat much. I was very often inspired by the Food Network's cooking shows when I watched them. I think I could crack this mild anorexia by pushing more ideas about food into my head so asparagus on the brain turns into asparagus on my plate.

In actuality, the reduced appetite is probably related to some of the medication I take, but not every one of my problems comes from a pill or can be solved by one.

Bittman sez:
When you watch most celebrity chefs go to work on TV it is a) baffling and intimidating, and b) a charade. Baffling and intimidating because nearly every ingredient is usually prepared in advance, and what isn’t is selected so that the chef can show off his (almost never “her”) knife skills, which are bound to intimidate nearly all of us who can never aspire (and why would we, really?) to chopping an onion with our eyes closed; his ability to make food fly in the air while cooking it; and/or his skill at presentation, which has absolutely nothing to do with taste.
Watching cooking shows has always activated my "I could do that" desire to meet a challenge. I am never going to forget when I realized that you can make macaroons instead of buying them at a store. Learning to cook is very empowering. I don't believe people when they say they can't cook - all it is is taking foods that taste good, putting them together and making it warm.

I don't actually believe that, but I say it because it's kind of funny and true enough to actually encourage people not to be intimidated. I think the reason I am good at cooking is that I turn food-related principles over in my mind long enough to be creative with them. What's sort of funny about that is how my thinking converges with classic recipes seemingly only influenced by my brilliance at combining flavors. I also really enjoy eating, and have long wondered whether my body rewards me with more/better endorphins than most people get for eating delicious things. I think this for a couple of reasons: when I am sick and eat a good meal, most of my symptoms abate for a little while immediately afterward. Also, my sense of satiety is not very keen so I frequently overeat. Now that my appetite has taken a dive, neither of these things are true and I eat a lot of convenience food so I can get the chore done as quickly as possible.

(Ironically enough, I had to step away here to eat a beautiful dinner my husband made - salad nicoise - when I was feeling too lazy to cook myself.)

Bittman writes from a perspective that appears to assume that most Americans do not cook basically any of the food they eat or have any familiarity with a kitchen or basic cooking techniques. I imagine that this editorial voice overstates the ignorance of American eaters, but stats I've seen on the subject aren't very complimentary. Fast and other prepared foods make up a large portion of the American diet, but everyone has had to dice an onion now and then, so they can judge the relative real labor that goes into one of Rachael Ray's putatively 30-minute meals.

In other words, I'm just not buying that most people are shocked and horrified to find that cooking works differently in their kitchen than in a television studio. I also think that most food writing is appallingly condescending (so it's not just Mark Bittman who's on notice here).

Back on the personal note - if anyone is concerned, I'd like to say that I've had a shakeup (no pun intended) in my medication routine and am seeing my appetite return.

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