family-meal-@1020

Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

 

Virginia Heffernan adds to the increasing noise about how unfair cooking is for working moms in the NYT magazine. I’m a fan of her work, but her Sunday essay, a long, shrill, monochromatic whine about not liking to cook dinner, is so sad and self-unaware I feel compelled to figure out my own thoughts on a subject I write about regularly.

I don’t disagree that there are many people who really don’t like cooking. More, I’ve argued that it’s probably important that every family includes people who don’t like to cook. But I do think cooking food where you live is important, as readers here know, and we fail to recognize just how important at our peril.

Heffernan early on calls Ruth Reichl pompous for saying that cooking food is the most important thing you can do for your family, and responds with hysterical rhetoricals, but her points overall are few and simple:

  • That the onus of making dinner too often falls on the woman of the house (probably true, but not always; for example Stay at Stove Dad; Cook Like a Dad; my pal Blake and his wife Mary, both of whom work, don’t particularly like to cook, so they alternate days).
  • To cook or not is unfairly bound up with a woman’s self-worth (to which I would paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt: “only with her own consent”).
  • And that the calls to cook for your family are unreasonably difficult. (The meal above, chicken schnitzel, spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette, and mashed potatoes, was completed in fewer than 30 minutes. Oh, and photographed by the woman of the household, at my request—I hope not a sexist one).

I’m sorry Heffernan feels so guilty and put-upon that she must spend what must be 2000 words in the world’s most important newspaper attempting to justify not cooking for her five-year-old daughter. “Virginia, please, relax. But you do need to figure out how to put nourishing food before your kids and yourself. Yes, it’s arguably more important than clothing them and hugging them.” She doesn’t say if she’s single or not; if she is, that indeed is another level of difficulty; if she’s not, then she has options. She’s a freelancer, so presumably she works from home, more reason not to complain.

I’m writing to reiterate this: cooking food for your family is a good and powerful force, and failing to cook at least one meal a week that you share with the entire household deprives all of that goodness. If you don’t do it, will the kids turn to a life of crime? Not any more than they’ll be affected by a father who’s never around. It happens. Life is hard.

Honestly, the reason most people think cooking is hard is because they don’t think ahead (perhaps because they spent four hours the day before watching television), they fail to plan. Their knives are also likely dull, which makes cooking difficult. As for Sunday’s dinner above, I cooked off the bacon while watching Cleveland trounce the Steelers, washed the spinach and seasoned the chicken thighs with salt and rosemary (we had hard-boiled eggs already). That’s how, between 6:30 and 7:00, we could make, photograph, and serve the above meal in fewer than 30 minutes. On an earlier evening, when I didn’t have this luxury, it was hotdogs on the grill (really good hot dogs), frozen corn, frozen peas, and Lay’s potato chips (ingredients: potatoes, salt, oil—don’t buy the baked Lay’s, they’re treated with corn syrup). I was going to do kale chips but forgot to turn on the oven in time.

Other reasons cooking an evening meal routinely is worth the trouble:

  • The smells of cooking, which affect our parasympathetic nervous system and do so for a reason, relax us. They are natural stress relievers. No small thing in our stressful lives.
  • Routine generally is a good thing for kids and adults, giving structure and stability to the chaos of our days.
  • Cooking our own food is better for our bodies and our waistlines.
  • Sharing food creates a time to talk with the people you care about most while you all nourish your bodies.
  • Cooking food makes the people you care about happy.

Another benefit? My daughter used to rail against the nightly meal, why did she have to sit at the table, she’d cry (which she did, even when she refused to eat what I’d cook, instead microwaving pasta in defiance). Today, at 19, she and her boyfriend routinely ask to cook for me and Donna, which makes me feel inordinately lucky. Virginia, there’s huge potential payback. Derek Clayton, a Michael Symon chef and really talented cook, volunteers to cook at a local hospice, which I recently wrote about (“Last Meal“).

I’d like to repeat his words when asked why this volunteer work, cooking for the families going through hospice, felt so satisfying: “I have a lot of associations with food and family,” he said. “I sat down with my family every day for the first 18 years of my life. I don’t know if I was always happy about it then, but I recognize now how important it is.”

A lot of associations, a lot of nourishment, a lot of love. Goes a long way, the evening meal. Laziness and failure to plan isn’t a good enough excuse to give that up. We all make our own choices. No one should judge those choices. But we should be aware of what those choices mean.

Chicken Schnitzel

  • 4 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • Panko bread crumbs as needed for coating chicken (about 1 cup)
  • Vegetable oil for pan-frying
  1. Season the chicken with salt and rosemary. Dredge in the panko.
  2. In a large skillet, heat a quarter inch of oil over high heat. When you see currents swirling in the oil, lay the chicken pieces into it, and lower the heat to medium-high. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Serves 4

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

 

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101 Wonderful responses to “What If You Hate Cooking Dinner?”

  • Michael Trippe

    Bravo… and ditto !! I especially like the last paragraph. Yes it may not be for everyone but just give ‘some’ effort once a week…

    I do all of the cooking in my household and have for the past several years… because I love to cook and because it gives me pleasure to cook for others.

    Damn straight about the smell… fill a house with home cooked awesome-ness and it’s what makes it ‘home’ to those that live there… something my kids always say (and they’re college aged.

    Not everyone needs to live the foodie life but everyone should make an effort – even if it’s just hot dogs, frozen veggies and potato chips.

    As always – thank you for a great post… and recipe.

    MT

    • Harry

      I’m going to have to disagree. (Waits for the outrage to settle down.) Please keep in mind that cooking is one of my primary hobbies, that I agree that people should know how to cook at least a few dishes, and that family togetherness is valuable.

      But all the studies that I have seen about the benefits of family dinner, indicate the benefits come from ~eating~ ~together~ rather than the cooking itself. You’ll get the same benefits from buying it as you would from making it.

      Wait – buying may have more benefits than cooking, for those who hate cooking. Because if you hate cooking, what sort of mood will you be in if you feel forced to cook dinner? Doesn’t seem like that would be good for positive family feeling.

      Also? It’s not clear if the family meal is the cause of the benefit, or merely corrolated with it.

      So as far as I’m concerned: you hate cooking? Buy something healthy and tasty and save your effort for something else.

  • aqua6

    One of the food blogs that gets mentioned several times in her rant was Dinner: a Love Story. The whole theme of the blog is cooking dinner nightly. Ms. H really misconstrues the tone and intent of the blog. It is unfortunate that it’s become “cool” to not want to cook for many people. You’ll be glad to know there are many supporters for homemade meals, as you can see here: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/friday-round-up-11/

  • Vivien

    “attempting to justify not cooking for her five-year-old daughter” So you also expect her to cook. Why did you not expect her husband to cook? How many men take paternity leave in the first year of their child’s life? How many men do the majority of the housework? How many men stay home to look after a sick child? Society expects all these jobs are women’s work and she resents their expectation when it is not also expected of men.

    • Kristina

      Literally the end of the same paragraph: “She doesn’t say if she’s single or not; if she is, that indeed is another level of difficulty; if she’s not, then she has options. She’s a freelancer, so presumably she works from home, more reason not to complain.”

      I don’t think that Ruhlman is expecting her and not her husband to cook; he simply does not know what her home situation is like.

    • Michael

      Just because these broad based “society expects” claims bother me, I feel obligated to respond. All summer, NPR did a series on the changing roles of men in America. If you look at the Pew Research presented here, Since 1954, the amount of time that women spend on home chores has decreased nearly 50% while the amount men spend has increased 250%. Has the gap completely closed? No. But is it trending in the right direction as “society” evolves? Yes.

      http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/03/14/modern-parenthood-roles-of-moms-and-dads-converge-as-they-balance-work-and-family/

      In my household, both of us work full-time, but I handle the majority of the household chores. When we have children, I will likely be staying at home to take care of a sick child and taking paternity leave. As for cooking, it’s the one time in our busy day that we can slow down and talk to each other, and we make it a point to try and sit down and eat a meal together every night. But it does take some effort, some focus, some planning, and some trying. It just seems like in this high-paced, instant gratification world we live in, not enough people make the effort to fit it in.

      • Ann Fisher

        Michael, Thanks for listening to NPR. I write this after just finishing leftovers from last night’s meal of turkey meatballs with carrots, cauliflower, spinach, artichoke hearts and a wonderfully lemony spinach pesto. I made the meatballs on Sunday. Then I made the rest of the components and assembled last night. Had a great meal and a great lunch today as well.

        Hope we can get you on the show again soon!

        Best,

        Ann Fisher

    • BJ

      As a former chef, myself I can tell you Mark is right about the “not planning ahead” part. Imagine waking into a pantry full of cobwebs, and a fridge full of…well, nothing. That would stress me out as well. Just like everything – it takes time investing to make time, or in this case, to make things easier. Thomas Keller couldn’t cook in a kitchen with scarce ingredients. People are too lazy these days. MENTAL laziness. Plan it out and it will be a breeze. Sorry you just came home and plopped on the couch after a long day, expecting MAGIC to happen. Good luck waiting!

  • Jen

    I had not read the NYT article, so thanks for pointing it out. It was really mind-blowing to think that some people are so anti-cooking that they can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the week thinking about what to make for dinner in the coming few days. That’s probably why the author is stressed out when her 5-year-old asks her to “figure out” dinner at 5pm. It really does just take a few minutes of planning and then, as you point out, maybe 30 minutes of cooking each night. I often make enough food for 2 nights and then the second night requires literally under 5 minutes from fridge to plate.

    I will agree that a lot of the home cooking rhetoric centers around moms and could be construed so as to put pressure on women to cook for their families, but only if internalized in that way. I’m a mom and I do nearly all the cooking in the household, but that’s because I genuinely like to cook and am a lot more particular about my food than my husband, who shares neither of these qualities. My 8-year old son sometimes helps with meal prep (he prefers baking!).

  • carol

    I hate to cook. That’s why I surround/ed myself with males who love to, starting with my chef father.

    I hate to cook because it is gone so quickly. On the other hand, I love to preserve/can/ferment.

    Also a single mom for a long time – my son did get nourishing meals, and I didn’t hate making him his meals, and lunches for school. Though I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that was over and done with.

  • Shelly

    If you hate cooking, there are so many shortcuts- it’s really do-able. And I say this from a position where the type of cooking that I love (idly sauteing over the course of an evening, glass of wine in hand) has become very difficult thanks to my husband’s work schedule and my infant. But seriously, I opened up a can of white beans, 2 cans of tuna in olive oil, and mixed it with capers, pepper, and parmesan last night. It took all of 5 minutes and we all had a reasonably healthy meal. If I’d had time to go to the grocery store I’d have served it over salad greens. Chicken thighs and salsa in the crockpot with store bought tortillas. A roasted chicken from the grocery store and a bagged salad (dressed w/ lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan b/c I cannot do store bought salad dressing). All of these things aren’t really cooking but are miles away from Mc-Dinner!

    • Shelly

      Oh and when I really want to take time to cook something, I do it after the baby is asleep and have it the next day for dinner.

  • Dave Simonson

    It never fails 5o surprise me that there are people who don’t cook for themselves. I understand that people are busy, but cooking can be very simple. You don’t have to be elaborate to eat well, and have a great meal with the people you love.

  • EF

    Thank you for responding to that article. Well done.

    I love the simple home cooking message. Too many are intimidated by the flames and chaos on “food” networks these days. As a result, they stay out of the kitchen. People need to realize that some shows are entertainment and designed to showcase tricked-out equipment, sophisticated techniques, beating the clock, and (gasp) foam….. Don’t confuse that with home cooking.

    Turn that off and watch a COOKING show (public tv excels here). Pepin, Lidia, Ming, the list goes on. There’s no sound effects, teams, clocks, or “battles” – only great individuals making great food with great ingredients in a home kitchen. Quality ingredients, simply prepared, often makes the best food.

  • Ryan K

    I’m really glad you wrote this reply to the Heffernan rant, and only wish your article was in the Times as well.

  • Brenda Johnson

    I love cooking. I cook on a nearly-nightly basis, nearly always from scratch, and on the nights I don’t cook it’s because we have ample leftovers. I love sunday mornings, when I break out my favorite egg skillet and make a late breakfast before heading to the office. At the same time, I can appreciate articles like Heffernan’s. Some people really do not enjoy cooking, and there really is something retrograde about the mythos of the magical power of the daily homecooked meal in family life, and the pressure directed to women in particular to make this magical thing happen.

    • Geebs

      I love cooking as well! But there is plenty of pressure directed towards women to make (healthy and wholesome) cooking happen. As a single, childless person, even I find the prospect of cooking nightly somewhat daunting. While I do o plan ahead so I can have leftovers and Real Food for dinner and lunches, some people aren’t exactly built that way, and some people’s schedules just don’t really allow for it. Heck, I have a pressure cooker and use it regularly (beans, soups, etc), but I also don’t have a five year old to plan around (frozen chicken, fresh?) and need only satisfy myself with pressure cooker Tom Kha Gai.

      I don’t think it’s tremendously helpful to refer to Ms. Heffernan’s piece as “shrill” or a “whine.” While occasionally over-the-top, the tone is much more jocular than either of those descriptors can capture.

      • Michael Ruhlman

        jocular? hmm. well, perhaps I was taking her too seriously. but her message is serious despite the tone.

  • ride&cook

    I thank my mother for teaching me about cooking and eating real food. She raised seven children and every night dinner was a protein (or occasionally not), vegetables and a salad. She made it look easy and enjoyable and processed food was seldom in the house. We all learned to eat or at least try everything so all of us are enthusiastic cooks. Even in my single days I looked forward to cooking dinner every night as a reward to myself at the end of a long day. I could also experiment and invite friends over to try things. Now my work schedule only allows me to cook three nights a week and I’m feeling deprived so on those three nights I enjoy every moment of cooking and serving a meal to my husband and friends. It is my gift to the people I love and it can be as simple as soup and a salad. Or a roast chicken and a salad. I understand that some people don’t like to cook and that’s okay there are things I don’t like to do, but to not even try is the sad part. It’s okay to screw up in the kitchen, we’ve all done that. There is so much simple pleasure that people are missing out on.

  • Sue

    I love to cook….except when I don’t love it. Tonight is one of those nights, so I defrosted a pork loin roast in the fridge overnight…added an herby marinade this morning. Will roast with some sweet potatoes and steam some broccoli on the side. Little effort, real food, which will automatically make me feel better.

  • Laura

    People are so overly concerned about defying gender roles that women often refuse to cook based on this issue alone. I happen to love to cook so maybe I don’t understand the issue fully but I do work full time and some days are exhausting I would love to not worry about it. Usually by the end of dinner I am grateful I made myself cook to feed my family. I happen to think this is actually one of my jobs as a mom/spouse. It could be my husbands but it is mine (he does the cleaning up after me and laundry so I can’t complain!) That’s not sexist that’s dividing and concurring for us.

    Our payoff- sometimes (due to the fact that I have two teenage boys) dinner only lasts 15 minutes but by far it’s the best 15 minutes of the day because we all sit down at the same time and talk.

    Thanks for the article.

    Go Browns!

  • kanani

    25 years of cooking pretty much 3 meals a day. The kitchen floor is worn down, I’ve gone through 2 stoves, and have changed out the countertops. Sure, there were meals that were LESS than stellar, but the effort was put in, if not lackadaisically at times. Some dinner times we fought, a child pouted, and sometimes I was too bushed to eat.

    But so many others, ones we’ve forgotten about, were terrific in that we were all together. Perhaps the best meals we had was when my husband, a soldier, came home from deployments. Not that anything I cooked was memorable, but all four seats were filled.

    Now, the kids are gone. I miss cooking for a crowd. But still, I cook just for me, 3 squares a day. It’s for the same reasons –the planning and shopping, the feel of chopping up kale or onions, breading or grilling the meats, that tactile sensation of sprinkling in herbs, the stirring of a small pot of soup, made with the bones of the chicken leftovers.
    Last weekend, my daughter was home from college. She and her boyfriend stood in the kitchen, making pumpkin bread. I’m sure she’ll cook too, when she pushes out into this world. And I’m happy to have passed that on.

  • Jennifer

    I am by nature, a lazy person, albeit a busy one. I work full time and have an erratic schedule (weekends, night meetings, and daytime work in the news business but I believe that feeding my family something I have cooked is one of the most important things I can do. So I plan, plan, plan, use a Crock-Pot when I can and try to prepare additional things on the weekends.

    I don’t want my middle-school son to one day look back at his childhood and not have really great meals to remember.

    When you cook for your family, no matter what the dish, you are infusing them with your love and spirit.

  • Sonja

    Thanks for the perspective! I would love to read a post by you that expands on this comment:
    “My daughter used to rail against the nightly meal, why did she have to sit at the table, she’d cry (which she did, even when she refused to eat what I’d cook, instead microwaving pasta in defiance). Today, at 19, she and her boyfriend routinely ask to cook for me and Donna, which makes me feel inordinately lucky.”
    How did you get from the railing to the asking to cook?!

  • E. Nassar

    Is she getting paid by the word? Seriously though her long winded article and arguments are silly at best and stupid at worst. Does anyone really think we are just trying to put women back in “their place”?? She hates to cook so she sees no reason to do it for her family?
    I really hate parent teacher conferences. I really do not like helping my kids with home work (argh…). I despise doing laundry. What about shopping for those kids? Hate that too. I would rather help them with homework honestly. Taking them to soccer practice after a long day at work and school? My wife really is not a fan of that either. Yet both my wife and I (and I travel a lot…every week) realize that all these are important to the kids’ and family’s well being. So we do them.
    H’s main problem is that she does not think that what her kids put in their bodies is as important as what they wear or their play time.
    I try to set aside a couple hours on the weekend and cook a couple of meals for the week (stews, beans,…). My wife who hates to cook chips in a day or so in midweek while I am away and makes a quick dinner (ground beef in taco shells, a quick chicken cutlet pan-fry,….)

  • Tags

    You could always extend an invitation to cook with her. Not so much to prove that cooking is fun as to let her see your side of the “cooking is fun” view.

  • Guy

    My story is long and involved, but my wife and I (both overweight) realized that we’d be raising overweight children if we didn’t do something to stop the cycle. It takes time, but it takes learning and talking about nutrition, giving up “convenience food” (a school showing of “Super-Size Me” killed any desire for them to eat fast food), shopping for and cooking non-processed food. AND — we’ve taught them how to cook! One of them, by choice, hasn’t eaten a school lunch since 3rd grade. The other one decided the same thing last year (both are in high school now). He now makes his own granola, which he eats for breakfast. It’s possible, and I think the secret is to inform yourself, talk about it a lot, and make gradual changes.

  • LILATOVCOCKTAIL

    Wow, your response is so surprisingly offensive and reactionary, it makes me want to rethink your entire enterprise — because this is a bitter and blameful offering. Not only does this response piece give no help to those who hate cooking (yes, they are human beings too), it relies entirely too much on insults (sad, self-unaware, hysterical rhetoricals — and by the way, Heffernenan doesn’t call Riechl pompous — it’s the statement she finds pompous, which is different). But most unforgivably, it is so thoroughly and smugly anti-feminist that it turns my stomach.

    And you entirely miss her point about working women and the cultural expectations of mothers in regard to cooking foods, which have circled back around from the dried onion flakes and jello of the ’50s-’70s to today’s “real foods” — which, though better tasting, more nutritionally sound and often more environment-friendly, really does take more time and PLANNING. You cast doubt on the assertion that the responsibility for cooking still falls primarily to women (and using Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote to suggest that it’s her fault if she’s stuck with the cooking is at best disingenuous). You call her argument “hysterical” and ascribe her motivation for writing it as “guilt” and justification for “not cooking for her five-year-old daughter,” while declaring that women’s attitudes toward cooking is an unworthy topic on which to waste “2000 words in the world’s most important newspaper.” (And then the smug aside about hoping your request that “the woman of the household” photograph your cooking is “not a sexist one”!).
    Your response to Heffernan’s personal essay brings to mind a feminist work I haven’t needed in so long I’d forgotten about it — Joanna Russ’s 1983 “How to Suppress Women’s Writing,” a satirical guide to strategies for invalidating the voices and opinions of women — you have borrowed many of them here and shouldn’t feel (because you know men who cook??) that you have any real understanding of Heffernan’s argument.
    On the contrary, you prove her point by repeating the truism that cooking for one’s family is the truest form of affection, that NOT cooking for them “puts them at peril” and is tantamount to deprivation and abuse. Naturally Heffernan feeds her 5-year-old daughter. She doesn’t say otherwise. She wishes the preparation of food were not so onerous, both literally and ideologically.
    Read through her essay again and substitute “laundry” for “cooking dinner” and “load of laundry” for “dinner.” For those of us for whom cooking is NOT a creative, satisfying, symbolically redolent labor of love, your possibly willful misunderstanding and complete excoriation of Heffernan’s article raises a question of whether you truly understand the nature of cooking as most of us know it.

    • E. Nassar

      Anti-feminist? Right. Saying that it’s important to cook food for the family whether it is working mom or working dad or both is anti-feminist. it’s so easy to brandish terms like that even if the author is obviously not “anti-feminist”. H’s article was sarcastic and flippant, responding in kind is just as appropriate.

      • Brenda Johnson

        I might not go so far as to call Ruhlman’s response anti-feminist, but it’s certainly tone deaf.

    • sandra

      I think you may be exaggerating Mark’s response to Heffernan’s article. You don’t need to love to cook, and I take your point — to me, vacuuming and washing windows is labour of the worst sort — I can’t think of anything domestic that I dislike more than routine house cleaning. But you do need to eat, and preferably to eat well. That doesn’t mean restaurant-style, gourmet meals every night (though that’s nice if you can pull it off — or even just aim and miss, just for the fun of it). There’s nothing wrong with frying up a pork chop and some potatoes, with a pre-washed and mixed salad on the side. Or with defrosting a pretty good frozen dinner (President’s Choice seafood lasagna, for instance, is way better than any home-baked effort I could pull off), or even just slapping together a respectable sandwich and a handful of good chips. I think the important part of the home-cooked meal message is that dinner is a time to sit back with the ones you love, share your day’s adventures or frustrations, and incidentally nourish your body and mind in the process. That’s the valuable part of the exercise — great food is nice, but really, just adequately nutritious food is all that’s really necessary.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      thanks for the defense above, and no, it’s not at all anti-feminist. If neither partner likes cooking, I think they should share in the labor. same with cutting the lawn and doing laundry.

      • Db Cooper

        To help the NY crowd – A lawn is an area of grass that surrounds a house. Generally, it is desirable to keep the grass short and a dark green. This requires maintenance such as cutting it with a lawn mower or watering with a sprinkler. Google either term for more details.

        Carry on with your discussion even though I believe it is pretty one-sided for Ruhlman and the cooks. And likely justfiably so.

      • delagar

        Calling her “shrill” and “hysterical” and claiming she preferred to watch TV rather than feed her child like a good mother was a bit anti-feminist, though, Michael.

    • Angela

      Yes, thank you for this response to Ruhlman’s incredibly tone-deaf piece. I love to cook, and I do so frequently. It is entirely possible to value the family meal and still be able to comprehend the reality that cooking is still wildly disproportionately done by women, many of whom do *not* enjoy it, and many of whom are juggling far too many responsibilities. The people who are saying, “oh, just toss together x an y and you have dinner!” have not only completely missed the point, they have demonstrated how pervasive this kind of ridiculous shaming has become.

    • Anne

      Slow clap. If you want to dismiss a woman’s opinion or experience, call her “shrill” and “hysterical”. FINIS!

  • ellen

    I disliked that article as well! Whine whine whine. I am a working mom who loves to cook but not at 5 pm with a ravenous 7 year old who is always STARVING by the time I get home. During weeks when I’m working later than usual or have not shopped well on weekend, family dinner can send me into spasms of anxiety as well…because I believe in a homecooked, well balanced meal every night. My solution is to cook like crazy on the weekends, including prepping veg for easy steaming. You have to learn to use your weekends wisely and to cook in large batches so you can freeze at least half of what you make. Your mac with beef & tomatoes & cheese is one of my freezer staples that bails me out of many weeknights!
    She also entirely misses the whole cultural aspect of food and the fact that it is an essential part of every world culture. Our family dinners are part of our family history and memories our children will have forever. Who cares if you don’t make all of it entirely from scratch. Just the fact that you do SOME of the prep is what counts.
    And why doesn’t she involve her kids? Get them to help. Argh, there is so much to critique in her, ahem, critique.
    The only place I agree with her is the fact that many “family” cookbooks are not designed for the 5pm working parent chef. We need more that focus on shortcuts that are healthful, and teach people how to cook for their freezers.
    I have two versions of many of my signature dishes – one that I make on a weeknight and one I would do on a weekend when I have more time. We need more recipe writing that gives people more options…

  • Jen

    I’m glad all of you like to cook. I hate it. I do it poorly, even when I try hard. I am a smart person who for whatever reason has no instinct for the dinner table. I liked the article – I heard the point that there’s a lot out there about the perfection of the home-cooked meal, and that she doesn’t get it. I microwave, I order out, I go out, and I do the best I can do. I’m tired of working hard on meals that taste horrible and don’t end up feeding my family, which is the point. So you go cook, if that’s what you enjoy – just get off your high horse in looking down on those of us who don’t cook.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      I look down on no one. Many of my own friends hate to cook. My point was that home cooked meals are not wrongly glorified, but rather are very important. It has nothing to do with whether or not you like to cook or not. Clean clothes are important too. Do you not do laundry?

      nutritious food though daily, is quite a bit more important than clean clothes in my opinion.

    • Sally

      If it were just Ms Heffernan, I wouldn’t care that she doesn’t like to cook. She can fend for herself.

      But she has a child (children?) she’s responsible for feeding nutritious food. It sounds like she resents having to put any effort or thought into feeding her child.

      I guarantee you that her daughter doesn’t care who cooks the food as long as food reliably and predictably appears. As you point out, she can microwave, eat out or order in. There are plenty of meals that are more assembly than cooking. She could hire someone to cook or she could find a meal delivery service. She has lots of.options for getting meals on the table. I’m assuming she lives in the NYC area. If she does, she probably has more options available than most of us have. All she has to do is take advantage of them. And stop complaining about being responsible for feeding her child.

  • Patricia

    After reading this blog post, I had to read the article that is was discussing. I couldn’t finish the 2000 word “HATE” essay because it made me angry. No one has time any more, we work 50 hour weeks, we have too many projects to tackle and life keeps happening. Seeing cooking dinner as a put upon idea, makes me angry. How dare this woman devalue something that I take pleasure and pride in doing.

    Oh…yeah…I work really long hours, but I go home and can every other night, on Sundays we do a family dinner, I cook just for myself at least twice a week (since the beau’s schedule changed), he cooks for me when he’s off and my sister cooks dinner at least once a week for everyone… all because WE LIKE TO COOK…actually WE LOVE TO COOK!

    Thanks for defending the family meal, though no one should ever have to do that and I think that next Sunday we are having Chicken Schnitzel because it looks flipping delightful.

  • Mike Gebert

    If anyone has time to cook, it’s a stay at home writer. Unless you’re transcribing for 8 hours straight, there’s plenty of time at the computer that could be spent more profitably chopping an onion and some carrots and making soup, while your subconscious works on it. Every writer knows this, whether they admit it or not.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Yes, I’ve got it lucky. and i find cooking relaxing. but when I’m on the road, I help donna plan the meals because she doesn’t love to cook but wants a nourishing meal for James and herself. Once she has a game plan, tonight carbonara, tomorrow bibimbap, she’s good. she even texted me a photo of the bibimbap, she was so proud of it.

      • Stacia

        Lovely for her that she has you to plan her meals for her. But no, most of the rest of us don’t. I pull together some kind of meal for myself and the two kids nearly every day of the week, but I don’t love doing it – partly because there’s almost nothing that we all enjoy eating (or will eat). For example, of the beautiful meal you prepared above, one child would eat none of them (MAYBE the chicken, if there was nothing else) and the other would eat maybe one of those items. I’d happily make the food for just myself, but making the other two meals takes up too much time. It sounds sanctimonious to sit there as a lucky man who loves to cook and eat and expound on how the rest of us should do the same. I throw my clothes in the washer, unsorted, then into the dryer, then into the laundry basket when dry, and sort them into three big piles – from which the kids take their pile and I hang up my shirts. Done. Yes, we have to have clean clothes but I don’t love laundry, don’t have time to “do laundry lovingly” and there you go. We all make do the best we can.

  • Zora Margolis

    I think that for many people, women and men both, cooking can have strong psychological strings that connect to a deep emotional ambivalence about shifting to the role of care-taker, from a possibly more satisfying position of being taken care of. Becoming a parent ups the stakes considerably. There are an awful lot of people–not just teenaged girls–who have a child, unconscious of their wish that their own emotional needs will be taken care of by the child. Resentment about having to fulfill all of the many requirements of being a caretaker–“Hey–what about MY NEEDS?”– can easily get attached to the ongoing task of meal preparation. Another more obvious example of the expectation to be cared for rather than become a caretaker is two young sisters of my acquaintance, now in their late-twenties, who grew up overseas with a houseful of servants, cooks, and drivers. Their parents didn’t arrange for them to have any responsibilities, or to learn useful living skills. As a result, though they have lived in the states since college, and their aunt did show them how to do laundry and run a vacuum cleaner when they stayed with her, neither of them can cook a meal or drive a car, or seem motivated to learn. They have both found men who are willing to cook for them and drive them around, but whether they will provide servants when children start coming will be interesting to observe.

  • Xani

    When my partner and I argue about shared responsibilities (usually me complaining that I am doing more than my share, in addition to working full-time [we both do]), and he offers to do more of the cooking, I turn him down. I LOVE cooking and I am better at it than him (he has his niches, and we cook well together, but I am better organized, more creative (finding ways to use what we have), quicker, and neater. Not only that, it’s just as important to me, and my mental health, to do the cooking as it is nourishing to him and the kiddo to eat it, and for all of us to sit down together and enjoy it. Cooking, eating together, connecting- all important and worthy of time and effort. Both of my parents worked full-time and yet somehow we sat down as a family for dinner almost every single night, which is probably one of the reasons it’s so important to me now. Every meal doesn’t have to be gourmet or perfect (plenty of nights i “punt” and we go out, order in, or “scrounge” from the fridge and cabinets) but most of the time, I will find the time and energy to make a home-cooked dinner happen (but the laundry can wait another day!)

  • Gail

    I happened to think Heffernan’s article was funny, and knew it would draw a huge reaction (the comments on the NYT site that were especially irritating offered her meal suggestions, as if she was just waiting for someone to tell her to buy frozen broccoli!) I enjoyed your response here, but like the earlier poster, my hackles were up when you described the piece as “shrill”. You must know that that word is really fraught, and laden with a bunch of sexist baggage I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply.

  • Mandy

    From my point of view, using the words “shrill” and “hysterical” are deeply troubling, since they have a long and documented history of being used pejoratively where women are concerned who raise issues that are not comfortable. I appreciate what you are saying and agree with you, for the most part, but wish you would have chosen different words than those two, which I feel weaken your argument.

  • Andrew

    Bravo, another great essay. For background, I’m the cook in our family of five and have been since the early days of my 20+ year marriage.

  • Maria

    This is another good one. Right now, i am reading your book, “Soul of a Chef”. A good friend, also a chef like me, gave it to me. Now, i am searching for more books that you authored. Reading what you wrote makes me love this profession more and passionately. Thanks so much for being an inspiration! Keep it up.

  • Annie

    I do like to cook, i’m good at it and I think it’s important but her essay drove me crazy because I was like “ok, you hate cooking. Nothing wrong with that but either do it or not and move on.” And for heaven’s sake share the burden. If she has a husband then he should be cooking too. It’s not her job because she’s female… It doesn’t matter if blogs or cookbooks or whoever tell her it is her highest calling. That’s sexist nonsense and it’s not worth listening too.

  • J

    I am a single mom. I buy a precooked chicken and microwave a healthy veggie side dish every night. I am no less a parent and no more “lazy” than anyone else posting on here. I pull together a meal that I have not personally cooked and feed my family well. I care for them and they care for me, whether we are having chicken or yogurt for dinner. We are eating together, and I think it’s important to clarify that this should be the focus of a “family meal,” rather than the (sometimes highfalutin) act of cooking.

  • kakaty

    I think this is very interesting because 8 years ago when my daughter was born, the internet and bookstores were full of 30 minute recipe ideas. Every “mommy blog” and most Food TV shoes shared their favorite quick meal, shortcut and hack on how to get food on the table quickly. The masses celebrated this movement and magazines and publishers pumped out shortcut recipes for everything under the sun.

    At the time many foodies bemoaned the death of “real cooking” … that quick and easy was a waste of time because it couldn’t be good. As both a foodie and new mom with a full-time job, I was juggling new time constraints and priorities and I felt judged for having a Rachel Ray cookbook. It was so passé! I and my family “deserved more” from our food. The message that started to gain some traction was that you could have 2 of the 3: fast, easy, good – if it was fast and easy there was no way it could be good (in taste or for your wellbeing).

    Then Pinterest happened.

    The message that quick meals were somehow lesser was amplified. All of a sudden photo-perfect, elaborate meals were a thing of great pride and bragging (aka social-media sharing). Cookbooks like Ad Hoc at Home started popping up with bloggers trying to cook like Thomas Keller in their home kitchen. Pioneer Woman took off and slow-roasted cuts of meat and preparations that dirty every dish in your kitchen became the buzz. There are dozens of blogs that took up this mantra and then got cookbook published. The pendulum had swung back… many people, especially moms, feel like if they can’t keep up (or are just too exhausted to do so) that they shouldn’t even try.

    And yes, Michael, there are anomalies but studies show that in two-parent, opposite sex households women are still the ones doing the majority of cooking/feeding the family (73% of those households polled) .

    Today I’m the mom of 2, older and a bit wiser. I know that the times I get “Pinterest-worthy” meals on the table are rare. But I do try to cook a few times a week (and plan to have enough leftovers for the days I don’t feel like cooking). I have (and LOVE) Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 (which, it could be argued, is a new, hip version of 30 Minute Meals circa 2001), and whenever you post a recipe like this one I immediately print it out.

    I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen, but I can follow a recipe. I enjoy cooking when I don’t feel pressured or hurried or have hungry kids underfoot. Most of the time cooking for me is like exercise – I dread it before it starts and kind of hate it while it’s happening but when it’s over I’m glad I did it. I work hard (with my husband’s help) to do prep work on weekends to be ready to make quick meals all week. I put food on the table – most of the time it’s prepared by me. But I feel zero guilt about the times it isn’t.

    While I don’t agree with Heffernan I can fully see her point and I have felt her frustration. The high-brow expectation of the moment (thanks to what is marketed to women) is a full family meal around the table most nights of the week, featuring food lovingly cooked by mom (and hopefully purchased at your farmer’s market or at least the local grocer, never at [GASP!] a chain grocery). It’s enough to throw up your hands and just say “i quit” and order take-out.

  • Susan Boiko

    My sister and her husband, both busy doctors, figured out a great strategy when kids are hungry “right now.” She’d always had on hand what her kids called “appetizers” which were anything from pretzel sticks stuck in cheese cubes which her kids could assemble themselves as they got older, to more elaborate bits of leftovers. We would often wish when we dined out that appetizers of a healthy sort could be brought to the table in restaurants almost immediately on seating, a kid’s plate or a diabetics plate of sorts.
    If there is a blender at hand a smoothie can be assembled right away even if the later plan is to dine out. And as others have expressed above, let the kids help you shop! My late father did the weekly grocery shopping and prepared the meals. He indulged my taste for frozen trout at 59 cents a box and I learned how to cook them myself at age 10.

  • Allen

    Bibimbap. I’m always learning something new here.

    I’m trying to get my 80 year old recent widower father to cook, he hates it and would prefer to drink Ensure or go to Denny’s.

    I did not get my love to cook from him. Must be my Mom, and a past generation.

    I’m trying porcupine meat for the first time.
    Good flavor, but extremely lean, so it’s tough meat.
    I tried braising, next will be roast with added fat. No friggin recipes online except for meatballs, which I did not even click on.
    Am I alone on this quest?

    • Carolyn Z

      Have you tried to marinate and then pan fry? Think of it like preparing flank steak. Good luck!

      • Allen

        Thank you Carolyn, bless your heart!
        I will try this next time, if I am ever lucky enough to come across it again.

  • Rebecca

    Michael, I am a huge fan of yours, and I agree with your main points. In fact, I return to your writing when I need that kick in the pants to just cook, dammit. Reluctantly, I have to sat that I have noticed a disturbing tone in some of your responses to theses articles. You use the terns “shrill,” “whin[e],” and “hysterical” to refer to the writing of Ms. Heffernan. Whether your use of these specific terms is intentional or not (and I don’t believe they are, at least not in the manner I am describing), these ARE loaded terms that are often used to trivialize women’s voices and arguments. I don’t believe for one second that you are sexist, but if I hadn’t been a long time reader, I would be quite put off by this. You make cogent points, and I think your arguments are just as strong without reducing Virginia Heffernan to a ranting harpy.

    Now, I am going to go take heed of those points and plan meals for the rest of the week. I somehow always do end up making it take way too long–and you are right, it doesn’t have to be so hard!

  • Boat Drinker

    Apologies in advance: long, annoying comment.

    40 year old parent of 2. I commute 30 miles each way to work – and yes, that is my choice, I don’t have to do that – so save the snarky response. I leave the house at 6 a.m. and usually get home between 4:30-5:00 p.m., luckily. I then work out/shower 3-5x per week, call it an hour. Then I make dinner – the real food kind, that takes a little thought and planning. I like to cook, and over time, have read quite a lot and practiced, especially prior to children, so it is not as difficult as it once was. Like most everything, having some fundamental knowledge makes whatever you are trying to do much easier and less intimidating. My spouse cooks occasionally, maybe 25% of the time. We share the shopping. Dinner usually ends around 7p.m., then we bathe and put the kids to bed. Once we are done, downstairs on the sofa to exhale, it is usually 830p.m.-ish. Day after day, it adds up. It is a grind. There is approximately zero chance we cut out the dinner part. Food just matters to us. I think it should matter to everyone, but that is their choice. To each their own…

    I’m not talking “AT” anyone. This is just what I do, doesn’t make me special or better than anyone else. I’m just a dude. I like to cook, so that makes that particular task less onerous. You know what I don’t like? Traffic. Crappy diapers. Being vomited on (especially my face). Working for a corporation. I could go on, but this comment is ridiculous, already. I still deal with all of the above, and more. As do most, if not all, of you. Everyone just needs to chill the F out. Can everyone just try to say “that’s not for me”, or something similar. Don’t cook dinner, fine. I don’t really care. But don’t get all sanctimonious and offended when someone challenges you on your “stance”.

    And for the record, Ruth Riechl is pompous. I’m a total food nerd, and she makes me ill. She’s likely a lovely person, but she comes off in a sickening sort of fashion.

    Lastly, under the “when all you have is a hammer/everything is a nail” ideal, everyone lay off Ruhlman on the sexist/anti-feminist bullshit. Maybe you have good intentions, but your tactics are laughable. I’ve never met Ruhlman, but I’ve read/watched a fair amount and would lay pretty good odds his opinions on food are not some nefarious cover for a sexist agenda. On this front, I have a daughter, so let me ask: am I supposed to fight for her equal right to toil away 100 hours a week (for peanuts) as a restaurant chef, but discourage her from finding usefulness or joy in cooking at home? Just curious.

    Hell, was her article even serious?

    Lastly, drink more wine. Helps everything.

  • Ronnie Campbell

    I’d say this is a much better attitude. I’m not quite sure what there is about cooking to dislike – except when time is mis-managed or you feel pressured to cook, or resentful about having to. And even if that’s the case, cooking inevitably it leads to something good for everyone. Unless you are a terrible cook. But then again, you just might inspire someone on the receiving end to be a great one!

  • WB

    This is an interesting question because I really enjoy cooking as a creative outlet when I have time but don’t find much joy in the day to day production of it. For that reason, I’m sitting down to hummus or take out more than many who can enjoy cooking every night. I think that would change substantially based on food availability and time. I think the natural course will be less and less cooking as prepared food becomes tastier and healthier (you should see the lines for the salad places in DC). I’ll still enjoy it but more as a dabbler.

  • Elizabeth

    Awesome awesome awesome article. Oh my god. I could hug you. Oh my god.

  • Victoria

    Luisa, The Wednesday Chef, alerted me to yet another article, Why Cooking Sucks by Sarah Miller. By the time I read that, along with the article you linked to in Slate and the one here, I was so sad.

    I kept trying to figure it out and wondered if the common denominator is that these writers don’t themselves have good memories of family dinner.

    I happen to really love to cook, and it is with reluctance that I ever face a day that I won’t be cooking at least one meal, and I agree totally with you about all the reasons that cooking is good for you. At the same time I know that there are people who not only see cooking as a chore, but also a real burden. This is where the issue divides for me. Even if you don’t like TO COOK the family meal, does that necessarily mean you don’t like to sit down with your family TO SHARE that meal? I know this will make everyone crazy, but we are not here talking about people living in extreme poverty; we are addressing an issue raised by working women, and by women (forgive me) I presume to be successful enough to be part of the American middle class. If they hate doing laundry, do they wear dirty clothes? If they hate doing housework, do they live in dirty houses? Probably not. So I suggest the problem is different from not liking to cook dinner but more of devaluing the benefits of the family meal.

    And that’s why I am relieved to read your response here. Thank you, MR, for, again, hitting the nail on the head.

  • Victoria

    P.S. Maybe everyone should read the book you have recommended in the past, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.

    If we hadn’t started cooking, we wouldn’t even be having this discourse.

  • Craigkite

    To the people that disagree with the words hysterical and shrill…you got it half right. Hysteria is a feminine word. Shrill can apply to both genders, annoying as hell, but if the shoe fits…

  • derek

    I cook all the time, and I like to cook and eat my food. However, I have to say that I roll my eyes every time someone says how they prepared a meal in 30 minutes. I’m efficient, and I can also totally prepare a meal in 30 minutes, but the example meal of this post is a highly dishes intensive meal! Bacon is a pain to cook, which can be made easier by throwing it in the over, but you still have to deal with the large pan full of grease. Lardons or just cook a few strips for your meal sucks even more; not only do you have to clean the pan, you also have to worry about food safety on your cutting board. Chicken thighs are wonderful to eat; I adore them. However again, they are the kings of spatter on your stove top! And mashed potatoes, though easy, get whatever big, difficult to wash and too big to not feel guilty putting in the dishwasher bowl all messy. Cooking’s fine, dishwashing sucks (this is the real reason grilling is good). I hope that the next time someone shares a 30 minute meal, they include cleanup!

  • Coyote

    I have to fall in the Lilatovcocktail/Mandy/Anne and especially Boatdrinker’s camp that you, while defending your own point aggressively, have missed the bigger point. Ms. Heffernan’s column was a deliciously funny skewering of the current orthodoxy. Unfortunately in missing the satire you used language that other current orthodoxy finds inappropriate. Makes me suspicious of any orthodoxy.

    • Boat Drinker

      Not that it matters, much, but I’m not in their camp(s). At all, really. But thanks for the shout out!

      • Coyote

        Actually I think the family meal is very important in maintaining society, and bemoan the poisoning of America by “industrial food like substances”
        I just think MR overreacted to simple satire.
        And you’re welcome

  • Michael Smith

    Great response (as usual) and worth reiterating a couple of the commenters above:
    a) some families want traditional gender roles and some do not – Both are OK and when you add the cultural element…well
    b) cooking for family is important for the parents, the kids, the friends that wander over after school, special holidays and events, regardless who does it – period.
    c) I am a single dad and have been cooking for my kids for 8 years – it is possible
    d) it DOES take some of the tinge of the fast paced day/society out – great for reducing stress
    e) it simply takes a plan – mine starts on Sunday night
    f) When you cook at home, you buy/grow/cure/ferment better food – HEALTHIER
    g) I find the bashing of one of my other fave blogs (DALS) really lame, borderline offensive. Everyone wants everyone else to accept every kind of lifestyle, but when it comes to cooking…I guess not

  • jeni

    hi michael! what surprised me was your last paragraph. “we all make our own choices. no one should judge those choices.” why not? judging is a necessary act that often intends to guide behavior toward common interests. isn’t that what your post is all about? for example, judging the choice to watch too much tv and eschew the labor of cooking (“laziness”) as less beneficial and less nourishing – i.e. Lesser in your opinion – than the choice to figure out *some* way to eat *some* form of home-cooked meal. judging choices doesn’t necessarily imply looking down on the people who make them (though we often equate these). i think you make it clear you’re not looking down on people who hate to cook.

    weeknight dinners are still a struggle for me despite loving to cook and not having kids to feed. i appreciated your comment about the hot dog dinner with frozen veggies, which i think most readers overlooked because your chicken schnitzel dinner looks so lovely and tantalizing (thanks Donna!) that it makes us jealous. i looked at that and thought, 30 minutes?! sure, if the ingredients were prepped for me! that prep time should count toward total time required 😉

  • Kevin

    Michael,
    I think what might be bugging you about this article is:
    1. Ignorance about cooking and planning – neither are difficult with a little education and practice.
    2. It really isn’t good writing.
    3. It’s widely distributed perpetuation of a myth that cooking is some overwhelming project.
    Maybe this woman should try raising her kids solely on Cliff Bars – I wonder what that would look like?

  • Mz

    Heffernan has jumped on the bandwagon with this anti-cooking rant, which you rightly describe as ‘noise’, just like all the column inches devoted to pickiness, training children to eat everything, the sport-or-family dinner conundrum, etc, etc. And yet the myriad blogs, books and TV cookery shows would suggest that Americans inhabit a culinary world of dizzying variety (Paleo, vegan B4 6, gluten free, grass fed meat, cronuts, cupcakes, cake pops, coconut oil…), one where families gather for the evening dinner ritual, and where it’s normal for 7th graders to critique $220 tasting menus at a swanky restaurant. So, which is the ‘real’ America? And whatever happened to simplicity? Why do people not cook like their parents or grandparents did, having to constantly reinvent or repackage culinary traditions in order to make them fashionably palatable? It’s quite bewildering for this outsider looking in.

  • Mz

    By the way, I love to cook, and do so every day. But I am not in the least apologetic about the fact that I cook old fashioned, simple, very plain food, as taught to me by my mother and mother-in-law.

    • Sally

      I started to dread meals and cooking when my kids were young. They were picky and complained about almost everything. Others told me I was a good cook, but my kids didn’t like much of anything I cooked.

      They’re adults now. While they each have a couple of things they won’t eat, they’re much easier to cook for. I recently asked them what they did when they were kids and ate at the home of friends.”Oh, we ate whatever they served.”

      As they grew up and left home I started to enjoy cooking again. Now I cook just for myself most of the time. I can’t say I love it, but I don’t dread it. I have a couple of strategies I use to have cooked from scratch meals without spending too much time in the kitchen.

  • JW

    For those who have responded so harshly…#1. This is Mr. Ruhlman’s website…he is able to satirize and express opinions as he so chooses, as he is not writing for “the most important newspaper in the World.” #2. I have followed his work for years (thank you Michael), and when has he ever come across as sexist? #3. The family dinner is essential if we are ever to rediscover “family” in this country.

  • DJK

    My wife & I both really enjoy cooking, so I think of us as lucky in that way. Conflating a necessity with a hobby makes for a nice practical bonus, too.

    It also helps that we’re happily childless, so when we invest the time into cooking two really nice 6-serving dinners on Saturday & Sunday, it pays dividends all week long, and we never have to worry about fitting a meal into the squeezed window of our worknights.

    Why we’re the only two people in either of our families who live this way is often difficult for me to understand. Whether they half-ass it themselves or get it ready-made, they eat crap. All of them. Always. I don’t know if it’s their incapacity for appreciation or maybe a feeling that they’re overwhelmed by what it would mean to do it right–or if it might simply be a different and (arguably, I suppose) equally legitimate perspective.

    I’m sure their cars and lawns are better cared-for than ours. And if that’s too obviously shallow, I’m sure they could match your family-friendly rhetoric with some of their own regarding how much better their homes are defended than ours (OK, maybe stretching) and how wholesomely-spent their hours of helicoptering over their children are.

    At some point, it’s just different strokes, no?

  • bgould78

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the retort in your thoughtfully blunt style, but then made the mistake of reading the comments.

    I’m so very tired of people taking any chance they can to take the angry feminist stance. Taking a piece that talks about family values and calling it an anti feminist rant is exactly where you lose an audience for your jaded rhetoric.

  • BeckyKaty

    We cook because it’s cheaper, tastes better, has only ingredients we put in it, and we can get exactly what we want. Our kids never thought of themselves as cooks, but when they moved out into the world and discovered that their friends ate out of cans and boxes, realized they knew more than they thought. My mom and I watched Julia Child’s tv show in the 70s and attempted her recipes. Some of my fondest memories are from the kitchen. We all have 24 hrs in our day. What is your priority?

  • Gina

    Why Mr. Ruhlman, methinks you intentionally started a controversy!
    Boat Drinker, I like you. I commute, work 50 hrs a week, and cook good food every day. Why? Because I live 20 miles from town and if I want good food, I have to know how to cook it. We find time for those things that really matter to us.

  • Curtis24

    I’m not working right now, and even so some days I can barely summon the energy to cook dinner, so can certainly understand how, say, a single mom with kids wouldn’t be looking forward to cooking dinner after working all day. That said, if you plan ahead it is much easier. Do shopping and make stuff on your days off. Making chili or lasagna; make tortilla pizzas with the leftover chili? Double the recipe and freeze half. Use ingredients like steamer bags of frozen vegetables, instant rice, and frozen fries. You don’t have to be a hero and come home and make a stew with 27 ingredients from scratch.

  • Mz

    I don’t think that genuine food poverty, access to fresh produce or decent cooking facilities are issues for the likes of Heffernan, or most of those chattering about her piece for the NYT. Could it be that too much CHOICE can be paralysing? It’s rather frustrating that,as usual, loudest voices, both for and against ‘family dinner’, have drowned out those who truly lack the means and wherewithal to feed their families well.

  • Mz

    What happened to the conversation about decent school meals, free meals for low income kids, parents’ working hours, affordable healthy produce, food labelling, restriction of vending machines that dispense junk in schools, fast food outlets sited near schools, etc, etc? Unfortunately, the conversation has been hijacked by people like Heffernan shouting “Poor me, read my book”, promoting blogs and pushing merchandise and cookery books.

  • Allen

    I have cooked a porcupine this week. I asked for a suggestion earlier in this blog and did not get any response.
    I typed it in the search bar, and an Italian wine showed up. It was cute, but did not help me in my search for a recipe.

    I can tell you it’s good meat, if you could buy it, it would be very costly.

    Ironically, it would also become trendy and popular.

    I quartered it, cooked it four different ways.
    I will submit to you that it is quite complimentary to a martini and a single malt scotch.

    Cheers, happy Friday all!

    • Carolyn Z

      I replied to you, Allen. Treat it like a flank steak. Marinate and cook quickly. Oh and cut across the grain. Yum.

      • Allen

        Bless your heart again Carolyn!
        I smoked some of it.
        It was surprisingly good smoked. I made a hash with poached eggs.
        and a pasta with arugula, lemon juice and zest with salted capers and parmesean, egg white sauce like traditional carbonara topped with a raw egg yolk.
        Both very good.
        Next time I’ll try marinated like flank steak.
        Cheers!

  • former butcher

    On cooking and Intelligence : I know some brilliant, educated people, to whom cooking is a mysterious art, wherein alchemy and quantum physics meet. Some just don’t have the cooking “gene”, for lack of a better word. And I have known some quasi neanderthal line cooks, who could turn out an awesome dish with little apparent effort. “How the hell did you do that?”
    Aside from the obvious and truly screeching troll that posted above (way above), it seems that there are some raw nerves that Michael trod on when reacting to the Heffernan article. I’ll just say a little perspective should be applied, and leave it at that.
    I work long days, and I always cook. Having a wife who lacks that “cooking gene” has made it a thirty year learning experience. Being involved closely in food production helped also.
    My mother cooked for me, and whatever failings she may have had in parenting fade in comparison to the memories of those home cooked meals.

  • FoodJunkie

    I think Michael could have staked out the high ground on how enjoyable it can be cook and the benefits of good, well prepared food. While I am sure (well pretty sure) he didn’t intend to he instead staked out the 1950’s chauvinist view of the home. The research shows that overwhelmingly the task of shopping for and preparing meals falls to women. This is not offset by a few males who cook (I’m one) or bubba firing up the BBQ once in a while. Your post ends up taking a bit of a sanctimonious tone and appears to disregard the research and the incredible pressure it can add to a woman’s life who in this modern day is also generally expected to add in a career that was not a factor in days gone by. I am also really surprised so few comments took you to task for calling her shrill – the use of which is considered very derogatory to women and some will rip you a new one for using it (me, I know). Anyway I don’t think you will get converts to the joy of dinner by belittling their arguments and telling them to suck it up.

  • Emmy

    Michael, I really do love your writing, and that schnitzel looks amazing (and I will totally try making it). But, I think your response here is tone-deaf. Look, I LOVE cooking, and I feel gross if I have takeout or packaged food too often, but I simply do not have the time, energy, money and moral strength to have all areas of my life in order at all times. None of us do. And I don’t even have kids! So my guilt when I don’t cook is limited only to my own desire to have a healthy, fresh, environmentally sustainable and budget-friendly meal.

    Further, anyone who has spent at least a tiny bit of time talking to middle and lower-class women will hear constant tales of domestic grievances. Sadly, many many women still feel the pressure to take primary responsibility for household chores. Sometimes it’s explicit, like my friend whose ex-boyfriend was such a baby that he expected her to refill his beverage, or the husband who would throw a fit if his wife didn’t make beans and rice every single night. Sometimes it’s implicit, as in the many, many friends and coworkers I have who feel like they need to be the regulators of health in their households since their husbands or boyfriends are fine with ordering a pizza every night and “don’t see” a messy kitchen. Like, what are you supposed to do in situations like this? Get a divorce?

    The original study that sparked this whole discussion made a good point in that the barriers to cooking are not JUST budget, or time, or knowledge. They’re also cultural. I mean, who wants to get home from a long, exhausting day of work to a messy house, only to spend an hour making some meal that your stupid family isn’t gonna like anyway? Look, we all know that we SHOULD be cooking regularly, but the notion that it is a moral obligation seems to ignore the fact that this falls disproportionately on women. Put that way, it sounds a lot like “get back in the kitchen.” Women aren’t saying that they’re about to throw down their aprons and flock to fast food restaurants in revolt. They’re just looking for a little respect. To dismiss this pressure to “have it all” as self-imposed ignores the reality that this is very conflicted cultural territory.

    And sidenote, criticizing Heffernan’s piece for being a “shrill, monochromatic whine” is just the sort of infuriating comment that keeps women’s voices and experiences from being taken seriously. Focus on the argument, not the tone.

  • Mage Bailey

    I’m just burned out on cooking. I’ve been cooking dinner for folks since I was a small kid then I got beaten if I didn’t get the kitchen clean enough. Worked my way through college as a cook in the 60’s. I’m still cooking as I am the retired person here. I’ll try that chicken tho. It does look good.

  • Dee

    I read the article. I didn’t see anything shrill in it. It was not hysterical. It was really humorous actually. There is a sort of holier than thou, food is the method to conversion thing going on right now in the cookbook world. Everything seems to be purely good or evil. Real food is good, processed is evil, the end. There is something to be said for the fact that processed foods, evil as they may be, had a lot to do with liberating women from kitchen drudgery. Also…some people just hate to cook. They hate it. No amount of conversion, holy water, or blessings included will stop them from hating it. I happen to love cooking, but I don’t fault anyone else for hating it. I hate folding laundry. I usually enjoy your blog but there was an edge of sexism and just plain old devaluing a woman’s opinion in your description of her article.

  • Mhornbeam

    Another point that seems to have been overlooked in the whole hate/love to cook argument is how few people really know how to cook. Corporations and their shills have been telling us for years that cooking is too hard, buy this box of their processed food, it just like Mother used to make! I walk by the grocery store frozen food aisle and am seeing frozen pasta and rice, because I guess boiling water and throwing stuff in for a certain amount of time is too hard?

    However, I was brought up on Hamburger Helper, my father loved one store brand version so much that, I kid you not, we ate it every single Thursday night for years. After a few years, I didn’t eat dinner on Thursdays at all.

    Another thing I rarely see addressed is how people eat has changed. I love to cook, I do it most every night. But we eat our dinners in front of the TV, just like I grew up doing. Now eating at a table with just the two of us feels like too much pressure, like going out to dinner and having nothing to talk about.

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