Not unlike fellow blogger and member of the ranks of the unemployed, Dave Drucker, I’m also spending a lot more of my time cooking at home, rather than going out.
This isn’t a huge change, as Neil and I both really enjoy cooking – we generally argue over who gets to make dinner – but being home all day means I’m a) watching a lot more food network and b) constructing some awfully elaborate dishes because I have the time, so why not?
Favourites over the last little while include Slow Roasted Moroccan Lamb, Lasagna Rio Grande, BBQ’d Ribs – slow roasted in homemade bbq sauce, and a succulent, falling apart Pork Roast in Teriyaki Pinapple marinade.
And I tell you, nothing has upped my food snob factor like having the time to spend closely examining the origins and quality of the things I eat and how they’re prepared.
I found myself watching Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller (warning: flashy talking video awaits…) and just getting irate at the TV about the choices she’s making.
The premise of the show is fine – make a meal plan, and purchase the ingredients for three quick and easy weeknight meals, using the same staples. Prep as much as you can ahead of time, and assemble the day you want to eat.
But then she starts off the cooking bit by washing her hands… and drying them with paper towels! She creates a lot of waste on the show in general – from paper towels, through convenience packaging, and storing prepped food in disposable (and disposed of) plastic baggies. I don’t honestly know whether she just strikes me as environmentally non-conscious, or because I’ve been paying more and more attention to living green and sustainability lately. But whatever it is, it irks me.
But maybe the food’s ok? Meh.
Keep in mind she’s targeting her show to busy women who need to feed their families quickly. But every single week, she makes a pasta dish with plain, white pasta. Now I’m sure someday I’ll be rewarded with kids who will eat nothing but one plain spaghetti noodle for dinner (except on Tuesdays after 8:00pm in months that begin with “J”, when they’ll demand a plate of deep-fried chicken strips instead) but where’s the variety???
What about polenta, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, whole what pasta, whole grain rice, other ancient grains? In a brief spark of irony, now that I rant I notice she’s using soba noodles in her recipe this week – but it’s the first non-white food I’ve seen in at least half-a-dozen episodes.
The meals are nutritionally sound if you don’t look too closely: a bit of protein, some starch and plenty of veggies – but convenience is the major focus.
Contrast this with the new Jamie Oliver show, Jamie at Home, where Oliver has taken his trillions of Pounds, and upon returning from Italy has purchased acres of land in the English countryside to devote to a massive vegetable garden. Of course, Mr. Celebrity doesn’t actually do the gardening, he has a gardener for that – but he uses his garden’s spoils to create his dishes. Throughout the show he reminds the viewer (who can’t always grow it all) to “pull your finger out” and make some effort to find a good market, fishmonger, butcher and create wonderful dishes with quality ingredients.
There’s no shortage of people encouraging the Food Network audience to do the same thing.
On his show Good Deal with Dave Lieberman, Dave brings fresh ingredients from Whole Foods back to his tiny New York loft kitchen, and encourages cooking with quality ingredients on a budget.
I even caught an episode of 30-minute meals with Rachel Ray that had to be at least 2-3 years old, where her first instruction was to “Buy Organic Spinach. It’s far and away better than the other stuff, just make sure you get all the dirt off.”
Blogger Rebecca Blood just spent the past month proving that it’s possible to feed your family organic food on a food stamp budget.
And of course our own local 100-mile-diet initiators Alisa Smith and James McKinnon have started a movement that reduces impact on the earth, supports local farms, and results in some darned tasty food at the end of the day.
So what’s up Robin?
Other TV hosts and food influencers have shown that convenience, local eating consciousness and affordability can work in tandem with nutrition and organic ingredients. One shouldn’t come at the expense of the other, and I’d like to see more of a focus on both, because I certainly don’t plan on giving up the awesome meals to which I’ve become accustomed once I’m working again.