Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's for supper? (Mama Squirrel muses on sweet potatoes)

The Deputy Headmistress noted today that the subtitle of Martha Rose Shulman's 1982 cookbook Fast Vegetarian Feasts says something more about today's fast-fast-fast culture than was intended at the time: "Delicious, Healthful Meals in Under 45 Minutes!"

Wow, have things changed that much? I spent an hour puttering on tonight's supper and didn't think a lot about it, especially because I was doing other things as well while things cooked...but then we wash dishes by hand here too. To me that's just how long dinners take, unless you're having scrambled eggs or it's already in the slow cooker. I mean, even waiting for a pizza to come takes forty minutes.

What was tonight's supper? Kind of a smorgasbord, more food than we needed but some of it needed to be cooked and used up, so I cooked it.

Baked salmon fillets (the only thing that went in the oven, and that was the toaster oven)
Leftover sweet and sour turkey meatballs
Sliced sweet potatoes cooked on the stove top and with some chard leaves added at the end
The last bit of yesterday's bread (first time I've used the bread machine in awhile)
Fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumbers
"Steamed Pudding," made with frozen raspberries, fresh rhubarb, and a couple of peaches (it's not really steamed like Christmas pudding--you heat the fruit in a pot and then drop a pancake-like mixture on top, cover the pot and simmer for twenty minutes)

We like to eat, okay? And if it takes awhile--that's fine too. That's what at-home time's about. How hard is it to peel a couple of sweet potatoes, slice them and put them in a pot? It's not like you have to flambe them. How hard is it to slice a cucumber and arrange it on a plate around a bowlful of baby tomatoes? (Total time about two minutes?) How hard is it to put some fruit in a pot, mix about five batter ingredients, plop them on top, and then let the magic of electricity do its thing?

I don't think it's just that people are lazy these days, that cooking has become a thing that comes out of a package. I think it's partly that cooking is presented as too hard by people who are too snobby, who make you worry too much about what goes in the pot with the sweet potatoes, exactly how you're supposed to cut them, exactly how done is done and all that, especially if your mother never showed you how to cook sweet potatoes. People cooked food before they had critics to tell them they were doing it wrong. Unless you burn them black because you forget to add any liquid, you cannot do it wrong, as long as they're the way you like to eat them when they're done. If you like mushy sweet potatoes (I don't), cook them to mush. If you like them cut very thin, cut them very thin. You're the boss of how you want to cook your food--now isn't that more empowering than opening a jar?

Just saying.

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