The Time it Takes to Cook
Scenario: Imagine that everyday of your life, you had to take 3 magical injections to survive (stay with me here). You go to the doctor for these and pay a small fee. You get to pick between a number of different shots. Maybe one makes you a bit stronger or maybe there is one that gives you a lot of energy but makes you gain weight. You can pick whatever you want depending on your mood. When you pick a shot though, you never know exactly what is in these shots. They may have other effects that you don’t know about. Regardless, you have to get them everyday.
Imagine now, one day your friendly doctor gives you access to his medicine cabinet. He says that he’ll give you lessons on how to make these shots yourself! That way you could fashion your own mixtures and mix and match them to fit your lifestyle. These shots are not hard to make. He says it’ll take 40 hours to learn the basics and then thirty minutes a day to mix the shots after that.
Would you do it?
It would not be an easy question for many people. Some people, like myself, would say hell yea I want to learn how to make these things. If I have to take them everyday I would rather be able to make them myself so I know what goes into them and so I can play around. A fair number of people may be fine with taking the prepackaged ones.
This little story is obviously my attempt to look at cooking in a different way. We have to have food everyday. We can either buy it from someone else which maybe saves some time but probably costs more and we never know for sure what we are getting, or we can take the time to make it. People are busy though and a lot of people say they don’t have time to cook more.
Right now in my life I have a stable job with stable hours, I don’t have a long commute to work, and I don’t have any kids or any major responsibilities outside of work. If I want to take two hours and make a large dinner, I can. I realize that this is definitely a luxury that not everyone has and, in fact, I probably won’t have for my entire life.
I try to put myself in the other position though. I try to imagine that I have an hour commute to work everyday, two kids, and maybe I own a home that I have to maintain. I can see how it would be damn hard to find the time in the day to cook a full rib roast. I’m sure it would be near impossible to find those hours.
The time it takes.
One problem with my little example is that cooking doesn’t require a 40 hour investment to get started. If you know absolutely nothing about the kitchen, it may take 10 hours (at the absolute max) to learn how to cut something, boil something, mix something etc. At the same time, some recipes take longer than 30 minutes to make so you might lose some time there.
Luckily, cooking doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. If you never cook at all (and I know I have some readers that fall into this category), then maybe pick one day a week and start cooking on that day. Give yourself enough time to not feel rushed. Start by making simple recipes until you get your confidence levels up.
I do believe that if you think cooking is important, you’ll find time to do it. And I’ve written before about why I think cooking is important and helpful. But if you honestly don’t have time to cook in a day, here are a few quick tips that can maybe free up the half hour to hour that you might need to make it happen.
Do the do-aheads. Don’t think of cooking as something that has to happen all at once. You can marinate your chicken the night before, chop your veggies while your kids get ready for school, and then throw it all together in a few minutes at dinner time.
Get the kids involved. Get some helpers in the kitchen! Not only does this maybe help on the prep time, but your kids might learn enough about cooking that they can just start banging out dinner for you every night.
Love the leftovers. Leftovers are definitely your friend when you are strapped for time. They can really cut down your hours/day devoted to cooking. I make a lot of meals on Macheesmo that make awesome leftovers. Check out the roasted lemon chicken, chorizo and yam tacos, the technicolor bean salad, or even the meatloaf I made yesterday.
I think a lot of my readers cook at least occasionally, but if there are any brave souls who want to speak up as to why they don’t cook that would be interesting to hear.
Also, all you cooking regulars should comment on how you save time in the kitchen.