You don't have a moral obligation to cook

I have found myself frustrated with Michael Pollan lately. In the course of promoting his new book about cooking, he's taken to spouting some opinions that I'll frankly call claptrap. He's mocked women who felt trapped by the kitchen drudgery that they got stuck with simply because they owned a vagina. He's implied that it's easy (if you're not lazy) for everyone to make every meal an ideologically sound slow-food meal. In general, he's disparaged the very idea that some people don't like to cook.

Thankfully, my personal food guru, Lynn Rosetto Kasper, is here to call shenanigans on all this nonsense. She gave a fantastic interview on MPR this afternoon, shooting down the idea that everyone would love to cook if they only tried it. In fact, says Kasper, you don't have a moral obligation to cook at all. The world needs eaters, too.

Tom Crann: What are some of the pressures, and why? Where do they come from, for people who feel pressured to cook if they're not very good at it?

Lynne Rosetto Kasper: The new food awareness that we've seen over the past decade. Here's the flip side. We cook if we are smart. We're supposed to cook to save our families and ourselves from dysfunctional, unhealthy lives. We cook to fight the obesity epidemic. We cook to save our identities, culturally, our traditions. We cook to strike out against the forces we feel are evil -- you name them. We cook because it shows how cool we are. ... the pressure today is we all should be doing this thing. And yeah, it's great to cook, it's wonderful to cook. But this is not something you take on if you really think you're going to hate it.

I think we should - if we possibly have an option -- do what we really enjoy doing. Because no matter what it is, that's what we're going to be good at.

You can read a transcript online, but it leaves out some of the discussion and I recommend listening to the audio. It's an interview of beauty. And I say that as somebody who loves to cook. The key, though, is that cooking every meal is not something I alone am solely responsible for, no matter how I'm feeling or what day it is. It's not something that takes up a large portion of my life. And it is something that I just happen to find relaxing and fun. If any of those facts weren't true, my thoughts on cooking might be very different. And it's silly to expect otherwise.


  1. I don’t like to cook. I do love to design circuit boards. Perhaps since I love to design circuit boards, this Michael Pollan fellow should also love to design circuit boards. After all, that activity would save him from having to buy ready-made circuit boards.

    1. Apparently, Mr. Pollan is too lazy to design circuit boards, and prefers to exploit Chinese children and weaken America’s balance of trade, all when he could easily be enjoying artisinal circuitry in just a few minutes a day.

      Not to worry. Once the NYT ‘discovers’ this exciting new trend, they can have a reporter follow you down to a real, ordinary, Radio Shack, and prove that(even with such limited ingredients, that anyone could get) a fulfilling circuit can be designed…

      1. No, but if the idea is that everyone should cook (rather than buy food cooked by others) because everyone eats, the equivalent would be that everyone who chooses to use a circuit board should make their own (rather than buy one made by others). After all, if you don’t want to make circuit boards, you’re free to just never use anything with circuits ever again!

        1. one step at a time! first: learn to cook your own meals, THEN learn to make your own circuit board! the DIY movement can’t go all lightning speed, ya know. ; )

        2. If you don’t cook, your food is not likely to be fresh. It takes a long time for a circuit board to get stale.

          Comment threads, on the other hand, are as bad as unrefrigerated potato salad.

          1. Potato salad has to be warm and fresh. Not cold and refrigerated.
            Seems as if somebody doesn’t love cooking as much as they should!

        3.  Pollan says that feminism caused women to lose the moral imperative to cook.  So while he sort of says “everyone should cook,” it’s clear he’s not really talking to *everyone* everyone.  Not in a country where 78% of dinners in heterosexually-headed families are still cooked by women, and 93% of grocery store trips are made by women.

  2. “By the way, what are we engaged in now?” Mr. Pollan deadpanned, as he tended to the pot. “This supposedly impossible drudgery that is just soul-crushing?” Yeah, fuck you, you smug asshole. You’re not working one soul-killing, backbreaking, low-paying job, let alone two. You’re not trying to feed a bunch of kids and a husband. You don’t have to lug groceries around on the bus. You don’t have to find ways to stretch your dollars.

    1. What you said.  His privilege is hanging out.  He might want to check that by, say, working in a school cafeteria for a few months.  We’ll see what he thinks of the drudgery aspect — not to mention the soul-crushingly impossible task of trying to feed growing kids on so little — after that.

        1. That’s on a par with “Well, my wife doesn’t think it’s sexist; therefore, it’s not sexist!”

          1. Ann Cooper’s qualifications have NOTHING to do with her gender.

            You are having a completely different conversation from everyone else.

    2. Hell, by his own admission, he only recently learned to cook, so it’s still a novelty for him.  Dude has some big brass balls, considering he was engaging in this rhetoric before he even was doing any cooking himself.

      1.  Converts often tend to be the most severe and dogmatic practitioners of their chosen discipline. It feeds into their sense of superiority. I happen to love to cook but I think the fearless love to eat is of equal importance.

        1. Given that he was spouting this rhetoric and being critical of others before he himself was cooking, that just made him a big ol’ hypocrite.  I could just about forgive him being a zealous convert, even considering the problems with that (privileged) position, otherwise.

    3. So that specific quote doesn’t address your points, but I think the central argument does. The whole point is that cooking your own meals will improve your health, and also, as secondary points, it doesn’t have to be as labor- or time-intensive as you might think it’ll be and it will save you money. The fact that it could potentially be enjoyable is, if anything, a tertiary point. Maybe you will hate it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

      Also, Michael Pollan does have a wife and child.

      1. So he has a wife and child. Big fucking deal. He’s not the gender that’s pressured to cook for his family.

    4. Quit yer whining. You made your choices, so there’s no sense in complaining that someone else is trying to encourage people to take control of what they eat. If it doesn’t apply to you, then ignore him.

  3. Cooking, kids,  and various others, have become a symbol of how wealthy you are by way of how leisure time you can afford.

    1. I missed the first comma when I read your comment for the first time. It put quite a different spin on it.

    2.  Also how much healthy food you can afford. Have you been down the produce and meat aisles lately? Eating healthy is expensive.

        1. Seriously, I find that produce is frequently more expensive than meat the last few years.  Apples and bananas are cheap, but venture beyond them, and it’s appalling.  And I live in California where most of it’s grown.

          1. Climate change has wreaked havoc on plant growing seasons.  The hardier prairie grasses (which can feed livestock) might end up being the cheapest way to feed humans if this keeps up.

      1. Part of the problem is that we as a society have reduced the percentage of our income we put towards food.  We have been trained to get more food for less money.  The problem is that the food that we are getting more of is not that good for you.    A lot of over processed cheap corn.  Corn is cheap because of government subsidies.  And blah blah blah, this can go on, but I will stop here.

        The point that I take away from Pollan is the we should try to eat fresher food.  One of the easiest, cheapest ways to do that is by cooking it yourself.  You don’t need to enjoy it, you might thoiugh.  I don’t enjoy doing laundry, but I do it myself because it is cheaper.

      2. I saved allot of money when I began cooking instead of grabbing a burger or chicken at the local fast food joint. I feel better too.

        I don’t think you ‘should’ cook if it’s not your bag, but the benefits to my health and my wallet are a definite plus.

    3. So apparently all the unpaid labor women have performed in their traditional roles is “leisure”? This is my big beef with Pollan. In whichever-book-of-his-I-hated-and-can’t-remember, he attempts to glibly bat down people’s protests of “Hey, I don’t have time to prepare food that way” with the argument that Americans watch a ton more TV than they used to, so you could find that time somewhere. As if those things were interchangeable.

  4. In other news, women who neglect their spinning and weaving might as well have crushed Bangladeshi sweatshop workers to death…

    Come to think of it, there are really quite a few product categories that exist as market goods because the DIY equivalents aren’t as heavily subsidized by gendered division of labor as they used to be(some of them formerly The Man’s Work, as well; but outsourcing your plumbing and carpentry just doesn’t attract the same amount of flack as takeout and day-care)… 

    This isn’t to say that it is impossible; but anyone who wants to go after the present economic order would do well to remember that disrupting what gets produced outside the home more or less obliges you to impose changes(that often default to ‘reactionary’) on what gets produced internally.

    1. Ah, but because plumbing and carpentry count as Work, people are still willing to pay to get that done. Whereas because women were once willing to labor at childcare and cooking, people think those are things that you ought to be able to fit in the margins. You know. For fun. And as a result, nutrition and education suffer and everyone acts surprised…

    2. My take on the difference is that carpentry and plumbing are activities we need only infrequently; eating is something we need to do a few times a day.

      In business, you outsource your occasional needs, especially ones that require uncommon skills and/or equipment. You don’t outsource your core competencies.

  5. I hate cooking, and was until recently limited to microwaving, and perhaps boiling water.

    I only began cooking because my Mom’s health and weight have declined and I have to cook to provide her with dishes and especially vegetables that she will eat.

  6. It all depends on HOW you cook. I don’t want to cook every single meal, so I make big pots of stuff (like bean and veggie soups) and freeze them in smaller containers. I supplement that with cheap, healthy, not-too-processed stuff. A sliced apple, a chunk of cheddar, and some wholegrain crackers make a fine meal. Or cheese melted on bread, in the microwave,  sprinkled with salt and pepper. Since I got poor, I’ve been living on $200 a month in food stamps, in an expensive city, and eating OK.  My cholesterol has dropped precipitously!

    1. I make a crock pot full of stew every week. Prep time maybe 20 minutes. It doesn’t really take any longer than opening packages of pre-made food and sorting all that trash and recycling from the packaging.

      1. +1 for stews. Easy, quick (at least in terms of prep time), delicious.

        Do people really buy pre-made pizza dough? It’s so easy and fun to make.

        1. Stop and Shop’s pizza dough is actually quite good – comparable to what I can make myself, actually. YMMV

        2. Pre-made dough is readily available in a lot of places, and though it’s easy enough to make, it’s IMO difficult to make *well.*

          1.  If you want to keep pre made dough that you’ve made in the fridge for a few days, try the Jim Lahey “no knead” recipe and follow what they say for keeping it for a while.  We do that quite often and it comes out pretty much perfect every time.

            On the subject of cooking, I don’t like Pollen’s attitude sometimes, but I will call BS on people for a couple things –
            One, “I don’t like cooking” is different than “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t know how to cook”.
            If you don’t like to cook, you’re weird.
            If you don’t TRULY have time to cook, that sucks.  But tons of people say that because they are lazy and just don’t want to.
            Everyone can learn how to cook food.  If you can read and look at pictures, you can cook a meal.
            So saying that you don’t know how is horseshit as well because you could learn very easily.
            Goes back usually to being lazy.

      2. Another way to do this is to have a prep day. Cook a few lbs of protein. Cut up veggies and shock them if necessary. Throw all of this in containers in your fridge and then when you need a meal throw the ingredients together and add flavorings. You can have a meal on the table in minutes. This is essentially what restaurants do.

      3. This is one of the things that baffles me.  When I read the ingredients and instructions on the side of processed food packaging, it always seems like they’ve put together only the easiest ingredients (is it really that hard to mix baking powder and salt into your flour?) and then the microwave instructions involve multiple steps with only a few minutes between each one so you’d be leashed to your microwave for a good 10 minutes….having something simmering on the stove is just so much easier.

        When I see recipes with a page of ingredients, at least half of which have to be bought special and will probably never be used again before they go bad, I know to ignore them.  There’s a lot of cooking that can be done with only a reasonable amount of effort and yet be fresh and homemade.  It’s about efficient use of time and energy without losing sight of the need for good nutrition.

      4.  I’ve tried doing that. The problem is that then I have to eat the same stew over and over and over and over all week. After a couple of days I get so bored with it that I literally cannot force it down anymore.

        It works really well if you’re the kind of person who is happy to eat the same thing repeatedly, but not all that well otherwise. No negative judgment intended there — it’s just a personal preference thing.

        1. The problem is that then I have to eat the same stew over and over and over and over all week.

          I could eat the same thing every day for the rest of my life. I think that I’ve got two copies of the British leftover-loving gene. But you can always freeze half until you have a library of stews in your freezer.

          I know quite a few people who never manage to eat their leftovers. And they’re all chronically broke.

  7. I think we should – if we possibly have an option — do what we really enjoy doing. Because no matter what it is, that’s what we’re going to be good at.

    While it’s true that you should generally do the things you enjoy doing, it’s not true that this is any guarantee that you’ll be good at them.  I am fantastically bad at most of the things that I truly enjoy, and that hasn’t stopped me.  Furthermore, there are a few things I’ve found out that I’m quite good at in spite of the fact that I find them to be dreadful.  Not all satisfaction comes from success.

    1. “Not all satisfaction comes from success.”

      Has anybody recommended Dwarf Fortress to you yet?

      1. This isn’t even the first time I have reminded someone of Dwarf Fortress in the course of a conversation about cooking.

  8. Certainly nobody should be derided if they don’t like to cook but most meals in general require very little effort. I cook, not because I have to, but because it’s hard to get the proper nutrition you need when eating out.

    1. Cooking meals takes effort. Cooking for people with delicate consitutions or cooking for annoying teenagers who complain about everything takes much more effort.

      I used to enjoy cooking when my wife was able to help, but I don’t enjoy it very much when I am basically cooking for one.

      1. cooking for annoying teenagers who complain about everything

        “What, you don’t like this awesome Chicken Parmigiana?  Huh.  Well, that’s what I made.  If you don’t want to eat it, I guess you can fix yourself a bowl of cereal or something…”

          1. Aye, especially when they smell the marinara sauce and garlic bread.  Pure torture if you’re not eating it.

      2. Get your teenagers to cook. Simples.  They need to learn how to, it’s pretty high up there on the “essential life skills” list, together with being able to do your washing, make your bed, iron your clothes etc.

        Buy yes, cooking for one can be a bit meh.

      3. My kids fix themselves food if they’re hungry at off-meal times or after eating the main meal provided for them.

        Teenagers who are unable to feed themselves are going to find early adulthood hard.

        1. Being the last child, my mother retired from ‘mothering’ when her older (and more important) children were teenagers. I became her unpaid and overworked kitchen bitch. The movie ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ actually gave me a nightmare after I saw it. But I digress…

          When I moved out on my own, the only hobby I could afford was cooking from scratch. Yes, cooking from scratch does save you a little, tiny amount of money – but it eats time like a Wendigo. The whole point of cooking as a hobby was to kill time – giant, yawning, blocks of time, which it certainly did. None of my friends could cook at all – some of them wouldn’t even buy bagels that hadn’t been sliced, and wouldn’t believe me when I told them that you could buy cream cheese in blocks and instant oatmeal in cartons instead of individual serving sizes.

          But where did all that money I saved go? My friends who NEVER cooked for themselves always had spending money that I didn’t –  and I still feel that way. I do everything DIY and I’m still broke – shouldn’t I have piles of cash from all this money I’m saving? Decades later, my college friends aren’t exactly dropping like flies from their processed, factory-made diets. We’re all about equally healthy.
          Cooking eats away all of my ‘leisure’ time, time that I should be using to do yard work or household repairs. I can see the TV from my kitchen, and always cook while half-watching TV, so the argument that TV time should be used as cooking time dies right there. 

          If I had picky eating teenagers in my house, yeah – they’d be interned in an DIY re-education camp. “Let’s see how peckish you feel after helping our neighbors pour and float a concrete driveway.” Even better would be to ship them off to some relatives in ‘not-America’ for a couple of weeks…

          1. I became her unpaid and overworked kitchen bitch. The movie ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ actually gave me a nightmare after I saw it.

            Welcome to Crap Childhood Club. You probably won’t think that Muriel’s Wedding and Mrs. Doubtfire are comedies.

            My friends who NEVER cooked for themselves always had spending money that I didn’t

            The grease/ starch/ HFCS/ preservative products industry gets the subsidies. Junk food is cheaper than real food.

      4. So much of this.  Everyone in my house wants to eat something different.  Mr. Bells is gluten-free but supposed to be on the Mediterranean diet – oh, and hates fish.  The teenager wants to be a vegetarian.  The boy hates anything that resembles a vegetable.  And all I want is a rare steak.  

        Maybe one night a week I manage to come up with a meal everyone will eat.  It’s not fun for me to chop and mix things for an hour only to have half the table promptly reject it and go make a box of macaroni.

    2.  Cooking is a nice, pleasant endeavor. I would do it more often if I had a prep cook and a dish washer.

      1. Seriously this right here.

        I can handle the prep work, but washing and cleaning up….I spend an hour making something, 10-20 minutes eating it, and then I gotta spend another 45 minutes cleaning up the disaster that I created…   That’s not how I want to spend every night when I get home from working 10 hours.

        1. Hello? Crock pot. You throw everything in it, cook in it, stick it in the refrigerator, clean it once when you’re done with your gallon o’ stew.

          1. I would totally do the once-a-week-crock-pot-of-stew thing but I am almost physically incapable of eating the same thing more than about three days in a row.  I’ve learned that leftovers are great but if I have them Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday I better be prepared to make something on Thursday or eat out because no matter how much is left I won’t have any part of it.  Also, in my opinion proper crock-potted meals require at least a skillet as well, you need to saute and brown stuff before you toss it in.

          2.  Yup, my boyfriend’s the same way – if we make too much in the crock pot, and I don’t eat it all up myself in a few days, it’ll go bad. (And I tend to forget about stews in the freezer until they, too, go bad.)

            We do, however, make this amazing mushroom risotto in the crockpot about once a month, but that always disappears within 2 days. So good.

          3. There’s this other appliance that’s time and money saving… the freezer.  If you have room, a small chest freezer is ideal. 

            If you’re going to go to the effort of cooking, and the food is likely to freeze well — double the ingredients and make twice as much.   On the day you cook, after the meal, put several portions away, label the dish and date it.  I write on freezer tape.  I leave only as much in the pot as I’m willing to eat in the next few days.  This way you don’t get the chance to get tired of it, and the memory of how tasty it was is the one that lingers. 

            The availability of a freezer also lets you take advantage of prices when perishable food goes on sale (or when it’s freshest and in season) and can buy in quantity.

            My favorite recipe for a crockpot is entirely loaded into the pot — no cooking.  I double the sausage.  This freezes very well.


          4. ½ bottle of 2½ Buck Chuck Merlot
            1 package of chicken andouille sausage, sliced
            ½ dozen little yellow potatoes, cut up
            1 onion, chopped
            1 bottle roasted red peppers, chopped
            2 bags baby spinach, microwaved for 4 minutes to soften, then chopped
            1 cup water
            1 tsp salt
            Simmer in the crock pot for four hours
            Prep time: 15 – 20 minutes

          5. Also, in my opinion proper crock-potted meals require at least a skillet as well, you need to saute and brown stuff before you toss it in.

            The Perfect, Enemy of the Good.

        2. Stroke of midnight on a full moon:  “Rinse and stack as you go.  Rinse and stack as you go.  Rinse and stack as you go.”

          *ding* the tidy fairy appears

          I have someone like you in my life.  Cooks for an hour, we eat, I clean for two hours.

          Rinse and stack as you go.

          1. I do that.

            But when you have two or three pots cooking and something in the oven it’s not like I can rinse and stack any of that – not to mention the dinnerware.

        3. Wow, you must make yourself a five course classic French dinner every night if it takes an hour to prepare and 45 minutes to wash up the 17 pots you used.

          I’d hardly use more than one or two saucepans, chopping board, bit of cutlery – 5 minutes washing up.

        4. Clean as you go.  Knives are to be rinsed off, dried, and put away IMMEDIATELY.  Anything that can be rinsed off and left in the dish rack to dry should be.  Everything else, stack and soak in the sink (not glassware, obviously).  Pots/pans too big for the sink can still be partly filled with water and left out of the way until clean-up time.  Every time you have a minute — for example, waiting for something to boil — do something to make the clean-up easier.

        5. Not to put too fine a point upon it but it sounds like you need some kitchen training. An hour spent cooking is a very long time. Try some quicker recipes  You also shouldn’t wait until done to begin cleaning. Rinse your cooking equipment immediately after using it. If you cook for more than yourself, anyone who wants to eat should be cleaning up their own dishes.

          Life can be a long and arduous thing and food is the universal comfort. Look around your area for a cooking/kitchen course you can take advantage of. Your life will be richer for it.

          1. Since you were the last to reply I’ll just respond here…

            An hour spent in the kitchen isn’t really that long for me, but perhaps I do make things that aren’t the fastest.

            And I don’t know why everyone thinks I’m piling everything into the sink to be washed when I’m done.  Everything I can wash, gets washed.  But when you are cooking two vegetables and something in the oven I’m not going to plate all my food (and I do cook for more than myself here) and THEN go and wash/rinse/soak everything.  I’m going to eat my food while it’s still hot.  I mean if I make fried chicken with green beans and rice that’s three pots, a cutting board, at least two plates, and two bowls…and frying chicken isn’t a quick process.   I mean sure if I make something like a chicken bake it’s fairly easy, one dish in the oven and done, but I’d say only half of my meals are like that.

            But you kind of hit the nail on the head here:
            If you cook for more than yourself, anyone who wants to eat should be cleaning up their own dishes.

      2.  Ditto. I cook when I have a lot of energy to spend cleaning up. My boyfriend cooks and doesn’t clean up after himself. I’d much rather we order take-out (when I can afford it) then follow him around the kitchen cleaning up. I work a full week, I care for my elderly widower diabetic father when I’m not working, I have a sleep disorder, and my energy is limited. Cooking takes energy. People who say “it doesn’t take that much energy” have more spoons than I.

  9. I cook a couple meals for my family, daily.  I have for well over a decade.  And I am pretty good at it.  And I generally enjoy it.  And my family is healthy, in no small part, as a result.

    However, it is an incredible time sink.  Hours daily.  
    And, like most households, the real reason that I cook is primarily financial.If there was a neighborhood cafeteria, or some such, which offered generally healthy food, say, within walking distance, that could save us money — we’d eat there every day.  Every single day.

    And I would rarely, if ever, look back.

    1. However, it is an incredible time sink.  Hours daily.  

      What on Earth are you making?  

      Seems to me that unless you’re turning out a porcini risotto or some complex Indian dish for every lunch and dinner, there’s no earthly reason to spend hours every single day on cooking.  

      And I say this as a guy who makes a majority of the meals I serve from scratch.  I am not afraid to use pre-packaged ingredients, though, like stock (if I run out of the homemade stuff) or the occasional starch like mac & cheese or noodle sides.  

      Unless you’re suffering with, like, a NYC-studio-apartment level of storage space, there’s no reason to torture yourself so.

      1. Actually, I have a risotto recipe that people rave about and it takes so little time it’s kind of embarrassing.  No standing at the stove and stirring, either.

        But when I lived in NYC, it was hard not to take advantage of the fact that restaurants delivered for free and unless you were close to a D’Ag’s you basically had to grocery shop in a ma-and-pa store, which does not always provide the best selection or freshness.  End result: home-cooked meals cost more than ordering delivery from a different ethnic restaurant every night (to say nothing of the convenience factor).

        1. Yeah, when I lived in NYC I got a *lot* of delivery.  Like, whoa, a lot.  BUT at the same point I also was able to go to the grocery on the way home and get just what I was planning to make for dinner that night.  Get a fresh avocado, have something with avocado, etc.  What it was really about for me was time, if I’m already not getting home until 8pm stopping at the store and cooking dinner means I’m not eating until 9pm, so it couldn’t be an every-night thing.

          1. When I lived in NYC I worked wit a guy who had never turned on his stove. Not once in the 12 years he owned his apartment. Imagine that.

            I recall there was also a decent farmer’s market twice a week there too. Might still be there at Union Square.

          2. There are actually a few farmer’s markets in NYC, Union Square is the biggest though (IIRC).  I almost never made it out there though because the best produce goes early and we had to wake up early enough on a Saturday to get to Union Square from Astoria in time to beat the rush.  I actually used to cook quite a bit and because I either lived really far Uptown or in an outer borough I usually had a fairly decent sized kitchen (most were larger than what I had in apartments in North Carolina or New Orleans).

      2.  What on Earth are you making? 

        I want to know what all the quick and easy people are making.  Is it all bakes and crock pot dishes?  If I was a stay at home dad lets say, and I made all the meals daily I could easily see how it’d total more than 3 hours of work daily.  (More like 4 if you throw in shopping.)

        And if your making homemade stock you are already spending an hour in the kitchen (and hours at home waiting for it to reduce and cook…or again crock potting it and reducing it later?)

        1. A few things:  Remember that most vegetables don’t take long at all to cook.  Hell, if you use those steam-in-the-bag frozen veggies, you don’t even have to mess w/ cleaning them.

          Another thing you can do is batch cooking – especially effective with things like pasta sauce, chili and other soups/stews.  Make a big batch (for whatever value of “big” suits you), eat some right then and freeze the rest.   It sounds like a PITA, but it’s not really that much more marginal effort to make the extra.

          Last year when our tomatoes came in, I made and froze a huge batch of tomato-onion-garlic base.  The most work was blanching and peeling the tomatoes.  (You could always use canned to save time.)  With that I can make chili, spaghetti sauce, minestrone (w/ added beef stock), etc.

          STOCK: Unless you’re making beef stock, most of the time is cooking time.   I mean, it takes 10 minutes to actually start a batch of chicken stock.  Toss carcass in pot, rinse/add veg, add herbs if desired (a tea ball is great for this).  Bring to simmer, turn heat to low, cover, and walk away for 4-6 hours.   Go to the park.  Take a nap.  Make love to your SO.  Watch a movie.  Whatever.  

          Or yeah, you can even make it in a crockpot.

          I readily admit there are certain things I possess that make it easier for me to do these sorts of things – I have a large suburban yard that yields produce.  I have a house with good storage space and a large freezer.  I have a big kitchen that allows me to cook and process (i.e. can or containerize for freezing) large quantities of food.  I am self-employed and work at home.  

          But I did a lot of this stuff – albeit in smaller amounts – when I lived in a much smaller space with a much smaller yard and no chest freezer, and worked a regular full-time job.

        2. Back on July 18, 2007, I was flying some place and picked up a copy of The New York Times at the airport for the flight.  It was a Wednesday, so the food section was there.  A full page list of 101 simple meals was listed inside and I tore it out and brought it home; I’ve had it ever since.  I’ve used several of these very easy combinations.

          1. I remember that….I printed it out for myself at the time.  Simple guides like that are so helpful when you’re feeling stuck.

  10. I don’t mind cooking. But I cook to eat. That means throw a chicken breast in a pan and nuke a bag of frozen vegetables. Pollan should try shopping for a weeks worth of meals, like most people do. 

    1. I recently gave up chicken breasts. I got a little freaked out one day thinking about where the rest of the chick is… So now I buy whole organic chickens and cut it up myself. Two wings, two legs, two breasts, two fillets, and enough meat pickins’ for a stir fry, and I make gravy with the rest. :) One whole chicken is good for two people for a week.  

      1. You might already do this, but if not…

        Just make sure to save all them bones, esp. the wing and leg bits.  Simmer ’em up for several hours with a carrot, an onion, and a stalk of celery.  Strain and cool – if it gels up, you’ve got it spot-on.  Freeze in pint or quart containers.  

        Now you can make homemade soup or gravies or pan sauces.  Or substitute it for water when cooking rice.  Or whatever else.

  11. As with just about everything else, the task that you choose to do (and could choose *not* to do) is far more enjoyable than the task you are obligated to do, even if, mechanically speaking, the two tasks are the same.

    1. “He would now have comprehended that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whaterver a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why construcing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill, is work, whilst rolling nine-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them consideralbe money; but if they were offered wages for the service that would turn it into work, then they would resign”

      Mark Twain

  12. I LOVE cooking but I agree that elaborate cooking isn’t necessary to eat healthy and lead a satisfying life.

    For a couple of years, I lived in a crappy bachelor apartment in which cooking was simply not a practical option. I lived on fresh fruit/veggies, nuts, yogourt, cheeses, whole grain breads, simple cooked items like boiled eggs and plain steaks/fish, etc. It was delicious, balanced and healthy, even without any fancy recipes. And very little dirty dishes, to boot (I love cooking but loathe cleaning the kitchen).

  13. One of the definitions of the mindset variously known as “hacker”, “tool”, “gnurd” (by various spellings), etc. — all the way down to “hobbyist” or “collector” — is “Someone who does for fun something that other folks consider uninteresting work.” That’s an extreme, but it illustrates the point: The fact that some people enjoy doing something is in no way an obligation for everyone to find the same joy in it.

    A human _can_ do many things. A human should also take responsibility for deciding which are and aren’t worth doing when compared to the costs of not doing them, and to what degree and how often. (And for negotiating that with anyone sharing the household.)

    Capability is not aptitude is not interest, and none of them are all-or-nothing.

  14. I cook because I love flavors. I love the  creative time at the end of the day.  I love the chopping, the mise en place, the orderliness, the smells, the sounds, the results.  I even like most of the cleaning up, to get the kitchen back to how it was before I started. I love my family’s faces when I bring out something they weren’t expecting.  I love seeing them chow down.  I wouldn’t hold anyone else to this.  That just wouldn’t be right.  Some people get the same kind of pleasure out of knitting, or countless other ways.  It’s not right to judge people based on what they don’t like to do.  If there weren’t eaters in the world, I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun as the cook.

  15. A lot less Americans cook now than in past years. I dont mean like 30+ years ago I mean 2-3. Marketers have made a big business around MREs and restaurants increasingly try to provide daily sustenance and not just event meals. I know this because I was in the business. 

    I doubt very much that Mr. Pollan is judging anyone in the way you all seem to be thinking. He makes a good point. Reminding people that cooking is an option is not a bad thing. Class consciousness comes into this issue but the idea that only the rich have time to cook and “own” it culturally feels a lot like bashing the educated for being eggheads. 


    1. Thank you for being the first person to even suggest an alternate to “Michael Pollan is an effete snob.”  Having read both “In Defense of Food,” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” I can say that he generally seems not only very open to the many different ways we can all experience food, but also deeply aware that no diet and no person is perfect when it comes to food.  In fact, he tells the story about buying his children sugary cereal at the grocery store because it’s what they love.

      What I do think he’s trying to show people is that cooking shouldn’t be some lost bygone art, or even just the hobby of the elite, but something we all can and should engage in.
      Not only is cooking a survival habit of the most basic variety, but having some knowledge of what goes into making a meal can help you appreciate it more.  If you’re not aware of the effort that can go into something then sometimes the magic is lost, in both directions.  Some wonderful dishes are wickedly simple but seem like they should be crazy complex, guacamole for example, and others look maddeningly simple, but are devilishly hard to pull off well, like Coq au Vin.

      Regardless, I hope people stop being offended long enough to at least consider what he’s saying without immediately jumping on the defensive.

      1. I haven’t read either book but have seen commentary and other stuff on the subject and his messaging of it.

        I assumed he was promoting an ideal, which I assumed no one would reach. 

        I know many who do view cooking as drudgery from a standpoint of having been raised on processed foods, maybe that outlook is what he targets, or some variance of it.

        I’m down to eating processed foods maybe once or twice a week and I have kids. They get none of that stuff, but will when they get older because duh, life.

        I cook, eat healthy and try to keep the processed foods to a minimum (Road food rocks when you keep it to the road)

        But other people make other choices. I’m cool with it, except I’d rather the processed foods be the second choice for my family, who live in the world with the people who eat nothing but. SO an over-powered or stupidly worded message promoting slow-food isn’t too offensive to me. Slow-food doesn’t have near the marketing budget that processed food does.

        1. After making sure that you have enough oxygen and clean water, obtaining good food would seem like a natural third priority. Not really sure what could reasonably supersede it.

          1. Shelter?  Crap food and a warm house is a better combination than a gourmet dinner outside in the winter.

            Facetiousness aside:  I agree completely, we need to focus much more on the quantity of the food we eat. 

            Which is a pretty good reason to cook yourself. IMHO.


      I doubt very much that Mr. Pollan is judging anyone in the way you all seem to be thinking.

      I love it when men tell me I’m imagining sexism.

      1. I’m told that real experts prefer to say that “it’s all in your pretty little head”.

      2. So pointing out that cooking isn’t necessarily soulless drudgery is now sexist?  Particularly given that just before it’s claimed that “both men cook for their families”.

        1.  Again, read my comment upthread. Those two men don’t have economic or gender pressures on them to cook.

      3. In this particular case, I’d like to see some evidence that there’s any promotion of “get back in the kitchen, woman”.

        Because otherwise….yeah.

        1. So, unless he says it literally, rather than just belittles the idea that anyone might feel oppressed by the demand to cook, you’re not buying it? Why should I waste my time?

          1. What I’m not buying is that it’s specifically aimed at women.  

            Call me crazy, but I believe that unless someone actually says something, they shouldn’t have words put in their mouth.

          2. What I’m not buying is that it’s specifically aimed at women.

            It doesn’t matter whether or not Mr. Pollan is aiming it at women; society will take care of that quite nicely because women are still widely expected to do the cooking and cleaning and laundry and child care.

          3. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus 

            Well, I don’t disagree about that bit.  

            However, I think Pollan’s approach can constitute one solution: Get more people  interested in cooking as a daily endeavor (i.e. not just Dad grilling on Saturday), partly by reframing it as something other than taxing, excessively complicated drudgery.

            It might be backing into a solution, I guess, but whatever works.  If men think it’s their idea to share more of the household chores, maybe it’d produce results more quickly.

  16. It’s funny — Maggie loves cooking and finds Pollen annoying. I hate cooking and don’t find his opinions annoying at all (at least the ones I know about. Not sure about the vagina references).

    I do think that real cooked meals are good, though. I’m fortunate enough to be married to someone who cooks. Spouse cooks, I clean…match made in heaven.

  17. I agree with David Murphy’s post above.   The tedium that Pollan seems to be referring to in this article is one that has been appropriated by the advertising industry and amplified to artificially intimidate people.   I really don’t see this as a moral issue and honest don’t get the sense that Pollan is so bad.  

    Honestly there’s this crazy mob mentality, once some blood is shed everyone seems to get all excited.  I’ve still yet to see some convincing arguments that Pollan is a ‘sexist pig.’  I”m happy to read it if you have it.  No doubt these are important issues, I’m just not convinced that Pollan is your villain.

  18.  I haven’t read a lot of Pollan, but I think he has some points.  I understand he does find fault with a lot of prepared food, and I think being aware of problems with prepared food can cause people to eat healthier, and may make the industry change for the better.
    It would be bad to shame people into cooking if it’s not what floats their boat.Lynne Rosetta Kasper does a great show, The Splendid Table, and it’s worth listening to if you’ve any interested in cooking or eating.  She’s well traveled and knowledgeable, but very welcoming and not at all snobbish, and is happy to help anyone, no matter their level of kitchen skills.

    1. Seconded with an emphasis on not-at-all-snobbish–when people talk about the idea of God being a woman, it is Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s voice in which I imagine she speaks… Seriously, though–no matter what your level of cooking ability,she knows things that can vastly improve what you’re getting out of it. Specific things. And she shares them.

  19. My hobbies include reading books ABOUT domestic history (most recent reads: “Consider the Fork” and “If Walls Could Talk”).

    Even in the Good Old Days of Medieval and Renaissance Europe, certain foods are still more economical to be manufactured in bulk and purchased, rather than cooked at home. 

    Specifically, bread generally came from professional bakers. 

    On the other side of the world, we owe the popularity of sushi to early food vendors who were prohibited from selling hot foods due to the fire hazard.

    The tedium may have been appropriated by the advertising industry, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The rise of advertising in the 1920s coincides with the end of easy availability of household servants (post WWI), when all but the wealthiest families were finally forced to do their own cooking.

    I’d go on, but it’s late, and I don’t feel like summarizing entire books.

  20. I think it’s funny how the current majority are beating up on Pollan for calling him preachy and judgmental when in the quoted article there’s this:

    “I’ll go vegetarian,” Mr. Pollan said. “Or fish. I’m willing to risk the weird tilapia they put in a taco. But I really make a point of not eating meat that I don’t know where it comes from.”

    But, he said, he doesn’t judge.

    “I don’t get invited out to eat as much as I used to, or to people’s houses, because they think I’m going to be critical,” Mr. Pollan said. “I’m cast in this role of dietary superego, and I really don’t feel that way at all.”

    He has even begun to receive confessions, as if he had ascended to a sort of food priesthood. “You don’t have to tell me if you like your Cheetos,” he said. “That’s between you and your cardiologist.”

    He really is not this overarching food snob you’re all perceiving him to be.

    1. How is making a point of not eating something *not* snobbish? Normal people eat things or not depending on whether they like them; they don’t “make points” and demonstrate their moral superiority or whatever. It’s not a game that win by having the most points.

        1. If someone has to say they are doing it to make a point, then yes, it *is* rubbish. If it really is part of your ethics, then it just is part of your personal preference, not something that you need to make a point about.

          1.  But if you think something is unethical, then it’s unethical for everyone. Should we just shrug at someone who beats his wife as a “personal preference”?

          2. I think you’re confusing “making a point” and “making a point of”. He’s just saying that endeavors consciously to eat certain kinds of meat. 

    2. “I don’t get invited out to eat as much as I used to, or to people’s houses, because they think I’m going to be critical,” Mr. Pollan said. “I’m cast in this role of dietary superego, and I really don’t feel that way at all.”

      Just inexplicable, isn’t it?

  21. Hmmm… I LOVE cooking for other people. I mean elaborate things too. Fancy cakes, big dinners, used to make my own bread until the whole gluten thing happened and got good enough at it that it was in demand (I sooo miss my little yeast pets). 

    Alone though I really don’t see the point. I get no pleasure out of cooking for myself, and none out of eating. I’m just as happy eating an apple and a spoonful of cashew butter, washing it down with vodka, and calling it a night. I don’t really eat meat anymore because, honestly, it doesn’t seem worth the effort to cook.

    So I find what he’s saying quite odd. Do women, specifically have to like to cook? Are those of us with no one around to give a damn exempt? 

    The irony though is that except for the liquor I probably eat exactly the kind of healthy largely veggie diet he’d recommend. Is that meant to be his point? I really wouldn’t call that *cooking* though. I’d call it… eating what’s around and making sure what’s around isn’t Doritos.

    Cooking, however, is not effortless. I’d often wake up at five or so to prep so I could work then come home in the evening and get started. Cakes can be multi-day affairs, as are many breads. It’s timing. Planning. Setting up a schedule and meeting it (which might mean you spend your lunch break rushing back to play with some dough). Stocks and marinades have to be prepared ahead of time, the right ingredients have to be assembled, and then there’s batches of cleanup. If you want certain foods you will either work for them or pay for them to get them. It’s silly to suggest otherwise. What is true though is that once you get a good rotation going you can stretch foods much further with a bit of forethought. But… it kind of *is* an artform IMO.

    Eh… but now I shell out a pretty penny for apples, yogurts, nut butters, spinach, and various fruits which comprise the majority of my diet. I don’t think I’m saving anything much over my “every day lunch out” days actually. But I am thinner…

  22. Yesterday afternoon we broke in our new smoker by smoking an 8 lb. brisket.  When it came out of the smoker 8 hours later, it was a tender moist blackened 6 lb. hunk of beef. 

    This afternoon I carved off the thick layer of remaining fat that had kept the meat juicy and some of the dry bits — thereafter it was a 4-5 lb. brisket.  As I cut away the crust, it struck me the genius of this method of cooking.  How the method of slow cooking could turn the cheapest cuts of meat, tender and tasty.  It was an epiphany about resilience of class. 
    Next up — ribs!

    There are two people in my house – me and my husband.  We cook at home because we love each other and taking care of each other is how we show that love.  We’ve been doing this for 35 years.  We didn’t start out good at it; good, like with most activities, takes practice… like sex.  No one is going to offer us our own television show, nor will we be writing a book on the subjects of cooking or sex, but we’re pretty happy with each other’s efforts and that’s enough for us. 

    We’d eat out more but there’s no sense of community in restaurants, just a bunch of folks competing for tables, the attention of waitstaff, and the last slice of homemade apple pie.  There’s something extra stressful about being in a public space trying to nourish yourself, in the company of dozens of people all competing, and otherwise ignoring each other.  Cooking and eating together are about love and sharing.  The food we eat in the company of other is a reflection of who we are to each others and if it’s fast food, then bland, convenient, cheap, low quality, unimaginative, and quickly forgotten, if indeed it was noticed at all.

  23. Thank you, Maggie, for this post. Pollan seems to get a good deal of acceptance from progressives, but I find him a sanctimonious fingerwagger who makes a living at nurturing the sanctimonious fingerwagger in others. 

  24. There are these things called externalities.  They are created when we look at things in their specific context without recognizing the larger implications.  The argument is that you don’t want to hand over control of your food supply to corporations that only care about the bottom line.  Not only will eating less processed food make you healthier but it will change the structure of our broken agricultural system.  When you become more involved with what you eat you begin to care more about the source of that food.  You will begin to see that you are contributing to massive marine dead zones created from pesticide runoff.  You will see how the confined feeding operations for raising livestock create new pathogens that require putting antibiotics into you meat and dairy.  You will see how 90% of the world’s seed supply is controlled by one corporation.  On top of all that, home-cooked meals strengthen the family structure and provide community, something which we find lacking in our modern society.  So next time you pop your home meal replacement into the microwave, think about the bigger picture.  

    1. Thank you, A K. I’m befuddled by a Boing Boing post that criticizes someone who is actively trying to get people to think through doing. All the rah-rah for DIY science and for being a “maker”, but not cooing food?  Food is so fundamental and so much a true battleground of our age . . . I get it that eating is so basic that people can feel like they’re being picked on if they’re asked to consider how they do it . . . but the projection onto Pollan is a bit odd . . .

    2. Externalities don’t run in only one direction. Unless, I guess, you’re a food activist who thinks that your pet issues trump everybody else’s.

  25. Waste of time post.  Get your shit together boingboing.   Why people don’t have food?  Interesting.  How to cook in any situation?  Also interesting.  A mindless response to an equally mindless author?  C’mon… ya’ll are better than this.

  26. Painting him as a nostalgic elitist that just wants us to toil at traditional arts is missing the point.   Pollan’s argument has always been that the system is failing us, that the modern food industry is making us unhealthy, and that the only way to fight it is to take responsibility for our own food.  Whether you agree or not, there is a difference between where he is coming from and the “preindustrial agrarian fantasy” of the Alice Waters clique.  

    And risk of trying to hard to argue to the audience: think of operating systems in the late 90s.  It’s ridiculous and elitist to expect people to compile their own kernels, but if you didn’t want to be stuck with whatever garbage the oligopolies provided, there you were spending all your free time trying to get Linux to recognize your peripherals. 

    Obviously we cannot do every single thing for ourselves and still be part of society, but there are certain times where it is worth walking away from what is easy to do what is better.  It is leaving the big house in the suburbs to the small overpriced apartment in the city: it’s weirdly expensive and requires much more effort and thought to get through life, but you might find a better lifestyle in it.  And if that’s not the right choice for you, it isn’t because Jane Jacobs was an elitist.

    Also, as always, be skeptical of one journalist’s ability to pick and choose quotes to make a story interesting and another’s to create a strawman from out of context extreme positions.

    1. The Linux analogy is a good one. There are people who use Linux for a good reason: they are scientists or engineers in fields where UNIX is the standard. Then there are people who want to make a big deal about using open source, even if they are not technical people and frankly would be better served by a commercial operating system. These people are basically the equivalent of vocal vegans or locavores or whatever the latest hipster foodie thing is.

      1. Ummm… that was a better description of the status quo five or ten years ago.  (Spencer’s “in the nineties” was a very good analogy.)  I know people now who are non-technical users and use Ubuntu because it’s easier and less work than Windows, and needs less technical understanding to fix when there’s a problem.

        The people who needed to and the people who wanted to pushed the field until everyone could.  This is a good thing.

      2. Except that there are FOSS systems that are as easy to use as commercial ones, and that being able to cook is kind of a useful life-skill and has nothing to do with being vegan/a locavore/whatever.  Neither, as in Spencer’s analogy, is cooking anything like trying to get a mid-90s Linux system running. Cooking’s a piece of piss; you put stuff in a hot place till it goes brown. A little practice and some experimentation will allow you to produce edible results. 

        Granted, some folks don’t like it, nor do they have to. But being able to produce edible meals and keep yourself healthy isn’t the same as being some high-falutin’ foodie.  And would you say that someone who would rather buy ingredients and put ’em together, however haphazardly, is an aspirational elitist, and would be better served by a TV dinner? Or that they might want to eat more healthily for less money?

  27. I cook, love to cook, love to eat, would love another life to do it in full time, although would want to go straight to TV and cookbooks avoiding any semblance of a Michelin kitchen.

    It’s pretty easy.  It’s all in your preparation karma.

    After a bagel disaster six months ago, I’ve learned to bake properly, and weekends see me churning out beautiful and delicious sourdough loaves.

    Once you get the hang of each thing, it’s pretty easy.

    But yes, I don’t need some patronizing evangelist to tell me to cook.

  28. Cook if for no other reason because no one can feed you better than yourself.
    I save a ton of money too.

  29. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the backlash on Pollan began. But really, it’s pretty simple. If you cook your own meals rather than eating at McDonalds every day, you will probably be eating food that is a lot better for you. I don’t think Pollan is really talking down to people; I’ve read all his books except the most recent, and find his voice to be quite measured. His message really is to all those people who don’t eat much besides fast food. If you don’t want to cook, that’s fine for you, but we need people out there making general populace know that fast food is crap and is really bad for you if you eat it all the time. Because they somehow don’t know (or care).

    1.  Is anyone really unaware Maccy D’s et al asre bad for you? Not caring, aye, but not knowing?

          1. Education is the key, not economics.  Poor — but knowledgeable — people can feed themselves better and more cheaply in the same local environment where wealthier — but more ignorant — people will consume more junk food.

      1. Yes, I do think there are people who simply don’t know. And part of that may be that they don’t care to know.

        1.  And those people have never heard of Michael Pollan, and probably never will, because he lives in Berkeley and writes books about arugula.

  30. I got the audio version of his new book, and in it he does not come off nearly as pretentious as in the NY Times article you linked to. Overall, he comes off as an earnest cheerleader for the real food movement (the DIY movement in general, if you consider his other books on gardening and building his own cottage). You can’t get mad at cheerleaders. They’re not saying you’re a piece of shit if you’re not on their team, they’re just trying to get you on board.

  31.    “You should only do things you’re good at” is about the most privileged argument I can imagine.  Oh how I wish I could get paid to only do things I’m good at and enjoy! We all have to do some things that we don’t enjoy like clean the house or shop for clothes or get the oil changed in the car. Michael Pollan was trying to help us when he recommended cooking. He has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about food and he has come to the conclusion that processed food is the source of a lot of illness.
      Yes it is harder to cook than not to cook.  Yes it is less delicious to eat beans and vegetables than french fries and hamburgers.  But there are some scientific truths in the world and one of them appears to be that it is far healthier to cook and eat fresh natural food than to eat processed food.  It would be better to go ahead and grieve over this news and move on  than to attack the messenger.

  32. I love to cook and have since I was in middle school, but I hardly make all my own meals, I eat out maybe 6 times a week. I go grocery shopping once every two weeks, but I’m also lucky enough to walk by a produce stand on my way to and from work. So I’;m hardly unbiased.

    I will say that cooking is a *lot* less work now than it used to be. To make the same recipes I use fewer dishes and utensils, less prep time, and make less mess, just because I have a more experienced sense of what order I need to do things in. A dishwasher is also extremely helpful. And having tried enough recipes to know how to improvise and substitute effectively reduces the Peking Bison Casserole problem (, as does going to a health food store with bulk bins so you can buy just a few tablespoons of an obscure ingredient if you really want to try it.

    As far as time: if you’re cooking a full meal every day, I’d say you’re doing it wrong. Make things that last and can be repurposed. Mashed potatoes become potato cakes, and roasted vegetables become soups, and so on. I cook usually 4-5 recipes in parallel, usually on a weekend, and use them throughout the week. A couple of (more focused) hours where I’m using the oven, the microwave, the slow cooker, the rice cooker, and several burners at once can replace multiple hours every day of the week. Much of cooking is waiting, after all. This strategy also makes it easier to buy whatever is on sale and use it right away (often sale items are closer to the end of their shelf lives)

  33. One sense I’m getting from reading through all the comments is that there’s a common reaction which is similar to the reaction vegetarians get: even if they say not a word on the subject, other people seem to feel judged and will make defensive comments based on that assumption.

    1. Hm, could it be that certain zealots in various food activism camps prime people to anticipate that everybody in those camps will judge them for their own choices? Nah, couldn’t be…

      1. So it’s every victim’s fault for being attacked because there have been (theoretically) some other victims who weren’t entirely compliant when attacked?

  34. Pollan has a longform story on the microbiome in the new Times Magazine. He was an incredibly poor choice to write this piece. Our new understanding of the microbiome has so many implications and he whittles it down to such simplistic nutritionist bullshit that it’s unbearable. 

    “Al dente pasta, for example, feeds the bugs better than soft pasta does; steel-cut oats better than rolled; raw or lightly cooked vegetables offer the bugs more to chomp on than overcooked, etc. This is at once a very old and a very new way of thinking about food: it suggests that all calories are not created equal and that the structure of a food and how it is prepared may matter as much as its nutrient composition.”

    Ugh. That kind of simplistic thinking doesn’t require a map of the microbiome. It requires only that one be half-aware of the effects of  diet – not nutrient content, but diet- on people. I think Pollan is now playing with actual scientists and it will not go well.

  35. Why do people always feel the need to crap on something that doesn’t apply to them? I personally hate cooking but I really like everything Pollan is doing and am really surprised to hear all this complaining. If you don’t like to cook, I don’t see how his work or books should affect you at all. Ignore it.

    1. And if his problematic shit doesn’t apply to you, maybe you should ignore it and stop lecturing other people about what they perceive in what he’s saying.

      1.  Here’s the problem: He’s trying to help the world. You’re complaining. A lot.

        I’ve just reread your posts on this story and it sounds to me like you’re the one here with sexist attitudes. A man tell everyone that it’s fun to cook, while you may disagree with the statement, is not inherently sexist. To point it out as sexist is a form of sexism. Why shouldn’t a man enjoy cooking?

          1. “He” being Pollan?

            Either way, sure, complain away. But one of the things I really like about Boing Boing, (It’s really the only website I actively participate in) is that everyone is quite constructive, even when airing grievances.

            All I see Origami_Isopod doing though is throwing around accusations of sexism because a man wrote about about how it’s good to cook.

          2. You’ve failed to understand the problem.  The point isn’t what he wrote; it’s how society will implement it.  cf. The New Testament and the Inquisition.

  36. Seems like there’s just as much pressure to *conspicuously* dine out as there is to cook with fabulously expensive artisanal  ingredients at home, conspicuously purchased at the hot new specialty shops. That seems to be the “foodie” ideal right now. Having enough money (and free time) to both cook fabulously at home, as well as to dine and have craft cocktails at whatever the new restaurant of the moment is. Share on social media of course.

    fwiw, I don’t necessarily think these things are bad, just funny that a lot of people (not all) obviously are using their consumption habits to mark their social status and compete with their peers, but try to dress it up in saving the Earth. It is what it is…

  37. “I’ve got a lot of friends who don’t know how to cook, which I can never understand, because not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to f**k. You gotta eat the rest of your life. You might as well know how.” – Robert Rodriguez

    To which I would add: if you want something done right, sometimes you
    have to do it yourself.

    I mean cooking, but take it either way.

  38. No one should HAVE to cook, but everyone should know how to cook. It IS easy, unless you expect to be able to cook like Gordon Ramsay.

  39.  I usually like to cook, and I agree that cooking allows people to eat more healthfully.

    But it’s not effortless. Not at all. It takes time and energy to plan meals ahead of time, keep track of what you’ve got in the pantry and what you need to buy, do the grocery shopping, do the actual cooking, and then clean up.

    The more experience you have at it, the faster and easier it gets. You get better at multi-tasking in the kitchen, which lets you put together a whole meal in much less time. You learn what you can prepare ahead of time, and what you can’t; what you can substitute on the fly and what you can’t. But this takes literally years of experience. I’ve been cooking since I was twelve years old. I’ve been good at it since maybe age 15. Somebody who just started cooking really is going to take an hour to prepare a basic meal, because they don’t yet have the experience to plan the most efficient ordering of tasks.

    And don’t discount the time it takes to plan and shop for the week. That usually takes me a good Saturday afternoon, despite having enough experience that I have a large stable of go-to recipes stored in my brain and a running mental inventory of the fridge and pantry, and a mental database that allows me to cross-reference the two.

    And I don’t even have children to take into account — the schedule of their daycare or after-school activities, their dietary needs and preferences. Just cross-referencing my husband’s dislikes into my mental database complicates things to some extent, and he’s not particularly picky. (Things he dislikes that I like: eggplant, mushrooms, cheesy/creamy sauces, bone-in meats, poached eggs, dumplings.)

    Cooking is work. It takes time, energy, knowledge, and skill. I do think that everyone should know how to do it at a basic level, just as I think that everyone should know how to do laundry or clean a bathroom — it’s part of being an adult. But cooking, like bathroom-cleaning, is not always going to be a wonderful, fulfilling activity. Sometimes it’s just a chore that needs to get done.

    Certainly, there’s a potential fun, creative aspect to cooking that doesn’t really exist in bathroom-cleaning. But when you have to get dinner on the table after you’ve been at work for 10 hours and fought traffic all the way home, when you’re already exhausted and frustrated, cooking is probably going to feel a lot more like bathroom-cleaning than like playtime. You shouldn’t have guilt piled on because you don’t deeply enjoy every minute of it.

    1. ‘Things he dislikes that I like:  eggplant, mushrooms, cheesy/creamy sauces, bone-in meats, poached eggs, dumplings.)

      Except for bone-in meats, sounds like a texture thing.  (?)

      I asked my husband just now what he flat out will not eat.  He doesn’t much care for food that’s excessively salty (agreed); we part company over foods that are sour/tart.  I love them; him not so much, lest balanced with sweet.

      1. Except for bone-in meats, sounds like a texture thing.  (?)

        What *is* the texture thing?  Of all the things I don’t “get,” that is one I don’t get more than anything.  I have a relative who has food texture issues to the point of near-phobia of yogurt, cheesecake (!) or…anything creamy, really.

        1. Beats me, I hear this is an issue for some.  They don’t like much range in texture, or certain kinds of textures.  A friend’s husband comes to mind; he’s devoted to soft foods only, particularly white bread.

  40. I don’t enjoy cooking, but I’ve honestly been driven to describe myself as “HATING cooking” because every time you admit that you don’t take any pleasure at all in assembling food-stuff into better food-stuff, people begin to argue with you.

    But if you just got a crock pot! If you just cooked a whole bunch on the weekends! If you just – just – just.

    Look. I know how to cook. I will never starve through ignorance. However, I do not and will  never find joy in making food. It’s not because I haven’t tried your recipe, bought a really nice set of matching knives, or because I’m a soulless demon monster from outer space put here on earth to test YOU, the patron saint of the Joy of Cooking. I’m just a goddamn human being who doesn’t like doing the thing you like doing. Shrug and move the fuck on already.

  41. I love to cook and find it incredibly relaxing and satisfying, however there are often times when I don’t have the time or energy to do it. I reckon this is the case for many.

  42. Decades ago, Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s show was the one that taught me that cooking shows can make the best, most well-informed, most fun travel shows.

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