Posts Tagged ‘Grist’

Not So Convenient, Actually

I’ve said it before, but it looks like I don’t need to say it again.

Someone has finally gone and done a study to prove that convenience food isn’t actually all that convenient (nevermind the long term effects some of it will have on your health).

As it is so succinctly put in this Grist article, just because something is pre-packaged doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any easier in the end.  For example, if you use canned vegetables instead of fresh ones in a casserole dinner, you may save a few moments between opening the can vs washing and preparing a whole food, but it becomes pretty moot once you realize that the food still takes the same amount of time to cook, anyway.  Essentially, it will take you a comparable amount of time to prepare something wretched like Hamburger Helper as it would to cook fresh pasta and toss it with a quick veggie sauce.  So where’s the disconnect?  Is that extra 10 minutes or so of prep time really that hard to come by?

Food prep is relatively minimal unless you’re trying to create elaborate, multi-course meals, anyway.  This is part of the reason why I don’t understand the appeal behind the glut of prep kitchen centres that are popping up all over the burbs, lately.  Why would I want to drive there (or in my case, walk), figure out what I want to make, then pay a premium to assemble a small armies’ worth of dinners in little ziploc baggies amidst a room full of frenetic soccer moms, instead of just being mindful and planning my menus in advance?  There’s no doubt that life has become increasingly hectic, but at a certain point one has to draw the line and make time for the things that are important to them.  Health, would ideally be one such priority.

Meal planning in and of itself is a lost art that could help people save so much time in the kitchen if they bothered or knew how to use it.  Planning a week’s worth of meals and then shopping for the ingredients to prepare them is simply…smart.  You can purchase foods that might be more time-consuming to prepare, and then cook them in bulk so that they are ready for you to use several times over.  An excellent example of this would be cooking with dried beans.  Yes, they usually take 12 hours to soak, but if you soak several portions’ worth and cook them, you can save leftovers to use in other dishes.  A surprisingly small outlay of time on the front end can drastically reduce the time spent further down the road, if you have a plan.  It’s not rocket science; just another version of mise en place.

This article, published back in 2000 provides insight into the declining nature of time spent on food preparation in North America.  Looking back to the 1900’s, food prep and clean up amounted to an expenditure of 44 hours a week, which is understandable since everything was manual.  Advances in household technology throughout the 1920’s helped that number dip below 30 hours a week, and by 1975, it had plummeted to 10 hours per week, what with more women working outside the home or running single parent households.  Extrapolating from the Grist article an average of 52 minutes spent on meals today would put our modern total around the 6 hour mark, a pretty dismal amount when you think about it.  At that rate, some people probably spend more time watching TV in one day than they spend cooking over the course of 7 days!?