How long does it take to prepare an instant meal?
Posted by kathryn in Uncategorized
Earlier in the week I was reading an article on meals based around four storecupboard ingredients.
There were some great suggestions; imaginative, tasty and beautiful food. The article made me think about new ways to use some basics and I found myself scribbling down ideas.
However reading through I was also struck by the number of times the words “quick”, “instant” and “easy” were used.
Some of the ideas were simple and some used minimal ingredients. But they would take even the most experienced of cooks some time to prepare. It wasn’t slow food, but everything took 20, maybe 30 minutes.
Which isn’t instant.
Modern healthy eating
It seems the holy grail of modern healthy eating has become a perfectly nutritionally balanced meal, using in-season ingredients which takes only minutes to prepare. The more instant the better.
Nutritionists, cooks and healthy food writers want you to eat good quality, healthy food. And this means eating largely home-made food.
However everyone is busy and already doing too much. So the time given over to shopping, preparing and cooking is being squeezed, into narrower and narrower time slots.
The call of take-away, ready meals and fast food is strong; and we know people are cooking less and less. Many people have only basic cooking knowledge and little confidence. It seems as our lives have changed those basic home economics strategies our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used have gone out of date and gradually disappeared
In the urgency to get you cooking we’ve started emphasising the immediacy and instant-ness of cooking. Speed has become a defining and desirable characteristic. Recipes are described by how many minutes they take. We talk about “quick” food. About “whizzing” ingredients up, adding a “dash” of this and that. We use the word "just’ a lot – as in “just add this” or “it takes just 10 minutes”. The language of healthy food has changed to one of speed, haste, rush.
I’ve been wondering more and more whether we nutritionists and cooks are not shooting ourselves in the foot. And under-valuing, even conning, our readers.
I’m as guilty of this as the next nutritionist. I find myself over emphasising speed and ease. Minimising the effort involved. Worrying if something takes longer than 20 minutes.
Telling the truth about food prep
We seem to have backed ourselves into a corner. As though we believe if we tell the truth about how long food takes to prepare you’ll just give up, in horror.
And you’ll stop cooking.
However really and truthfully there is no such thing as an instant home-made meal.
Sure there are dishes which are simpler and less time consuming than others, but even the simplest of salads involves some washing, chopping and dirtying of utensils. Even the simplest of dishes takes some time and effort.
I wonder if all this talk of ease and simplicity is actually having the opposite affect. Rather than encouraging and motivating people to try something out – does it instead leave people feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, maybe even inadequate. If something is described as “easy and quick” and you struggle to make it in 40 minutes – where does that leave you?
And I’m also wondering if it isn’t a bit arrogant. Oh yes, with the best intentions – but we’re not giving you the full information. Not trusting you. Not enabling you to make the best decisions about what you eat.
Changing the discussion
We should own up to how long something takes to prepare. And instead of glossing over that time, we should be changing the discussion. Subverting the argument to why it’s worth your while to spend that time. Why and how to make this more of a priority.
Because the hard truth is, if you want to eat well. If you want to have the best diet you can – then you need to start making more of your own meals. It is the only way. And that’s going to take some time and effort.
However it’s time and effort that is absolutely worth it. It’s time and effort that will directly improve your health, energy levels, wellbeing and life.