30 Minute Cookbooks

I just got hold of a cookbook that promises put food on the table within 30 minutes. And then I realised that I hate it.


It is not a lousy book per se. It came from my favourite cookbook producers, America's Test Kitchen.

So what's the problem with it then?

2 things that get on my nerve.

First off, such books mocks at anyone who claims that they can't spare time to do cooking. I read from another good book (The End of Food) that as it stands now, the average family in US spends about 30 minutes a day cooking. So you can see why there are so many of such quick-fix cookbooks in the market. But over here, the economics are slightly different. When one can feed a family of four at an average cost of $3.50 (a decent plate of rice with 2 vegetable dishes and a meat dish) per head, we are looking at $14 a meal. So now tell me if your per hour rate is worth $28, assuming that you can produce the same meal in 30 minutes? The per hour rate gets worse when the family only consist of two persons. Some might say they are only paid $6 an hour, so the above hourly rate is expensive and, therefore, they would be unwilling to pay. But I would bet that these are usually the people who eat out. Why? Cos they need to work longer hours to make up for the lower per hour rate and after that do you think they would want to spend time cooking in the kitchen? So where do such quick-fix books leave them?

Secondly, it doesn't tell other parts of the equation: grocery shopping and cleaning up. Although one would dispute that grocery shopping and cleaning up is part of any cooking, be it the 30-minutes cooking or not, I feel that it is misleading. If I apply the above calculations of per hour rate to include grocery shopping and cleaning up, how much is your time worth? Let's just say that one would spend another 30 minutes doing grocery shopping and cleaning and another 30 minutes cooking a meal which would otherwise cost $14 to eat outside. So can you see now that the per hour rate is getting lower?

If you are lost at my quirky calculations, let me just summise to say that time is a very percious commodity these days and everyone welcomes quick-fixes. But despite that, cooking shouldn't be made to be one of those quick-fixes. To me, cooking is about preparing nourishing food for your loved ones, so if such preparation takes a long time so be it and if it takes only a few minutes to throw together it would be a bonus. Nothing can be compared to a meal prepared at home, and no compelling per hour rate is going to deter me from cooking at home.

Now, please excuse me while I dash off to the laundry to pick up my jackets and then after sit in a car wash. As you can see, I am not against sub-contracting. Just certain departments.