When Taking Time to Cook is Time Worth Taking

There is an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times today by Virginia Heffernan titled “Foodies vs. Techies.”  I read the article (which you can obviously read yourself) and I think that the point that she was trying to make is that the Techies are people (often of the younger generations) who are more adaptable and looking for quick solutions to life’s problems including how to make sure bellies are full.  Foodies on the other hand (according to Heffernan) are these slightly snobbish staunch supporters of overly time-consuming processes and complex procedures that simply do not fit into the modern “need to get done and get going” culture of today.   It is an interesting perspective and yet I think it is one that I disagree with and am against in entirety.  I don’t think that what Ms. Heffernan is proposing is actually a solution but is an additional cause of the problem.

It is a matter of available time.  Our modern culture is obsessed with available time and many of us are often left feeling like we simply don’t have enough.  As such we look for almost any little trick or device that will supposedly “save time” for us throughout each and everyday.  As such the “time saving” techies will be most interested in cooking that requires as little overhead as possible because all that prep time is time lost.

But here is the problem I have with this time obsession.  It seems like no matter what we do to supposedly save time we still come out feeling like we don’t have enough of it.  And when do we ever take a moment to slow down and ask ourselves “what am I trying to save this time for?”  We don’t ask this of course because that there would be wasting time.

I love to cook (this is probably known if you know me and have read previous posts on this blog) and for me cooking a good meal need not be about time-saving.  I admit there are some nights when I am tired and really don’t want to take a lot of time cooking a fancy meal and so will decide on some quick fix, but more often than not I relish the opportunity to spend an hour or two in the kitchen working with quality ingredients to produce delicious food.  I relish it because it is that one time of day where I can slow down, take it a little bit easy, and enjoy the process without feeling like I am continually plugged into the racing frantic world of Facebook, 24 hour news, and a myriad of various devices that are supposedly working to “save” me time.

To the supposed Techies for whom Ms. Heffernan writes it is absurd to waste so much time sifting our own flour or carefully chopping our own veggies.  As Heffernan puts it “Like me, [Poppy Cannon] believed that most food tastes the same, which is to say super.”  As such it is okay to aim for the quickest solution because “hey’ it’s just as good right?”

Except that it isn’t.

What Ms. Heffernan misses is that those of us whom she dubs as “Foodies” don’t feel like it is a waste of time to take the extra effort to produce quality food from the straight up unprocessed ingredients (except for maybe dry pasta, canned beans, and a few other odds and ends).  We don’t feel like the quick solutions are “just as good.” For us the pleasure is that escape and the pride is the knowledge of the actual commitment we put towards our end product.  We do love the food we make and eat and we thus choose to hold it to a higher standard than “is this going to be quick and easy.”  When we do so we don’t come away feeling like it was a “waste of time” but that it was time being spent doing exactly what we love. Sure you can make a lot of different meals and other foods quickly and I admit that at times I choose to, but as a whole people like me, Ms. Heffernan’s foodies, don’t think about the time as wasting away they see it as being allotted specifically for the purpose. And honestly, I think that I can say that there is definitely a difference in taste between something that is made with canned fruit verses fresh fruit.

I love and appreciate technology and many of the conveniences of our modern lives but at times I worry that too many of us are too busily focused on the life-hacking that Ms. Heffernan writes about than on actually taking moments to slow down and enjoy the things that really make us happy.  I was born into a world in crux.  As a child there were no cell phones in my world and in my early years of school we still had classrooms without computers.  Now I live in an age of the vast internet, of smartphones and instant knowledge at our fingertips.  It can seem all great and good until I notice just how enslaved we are to that ringing phone in our pocket demanding attention right in the here and now.  Cooking food might demand attention too, but it is an attention that we can control.  It isn’t because the pepper is saying “cut me just right, right this minute” it is because we know that we’ll be pleased if we do take the moment to cut that pepper with precision.  To me, that kind of time taking will always me more worthwhile than the time it takes to appease some silly squawking device in my pocket.

~ by Nathaniel on May 16, 2011.

4 Responses to “When Taking Time to Cook is Time Worth Taking”

  1. I feel like I should say that I tend to practice a general philosophy of “to each his/her own” and if quick fix meals are what you want and look for all the time that it okay by me. I am not a big fan of snobbery in any degree of preference because we are just dealing with personal preferences and saying that one is better than another is kind of silly to me. And perhaps that more than anything is the issue that I take with Ms. Heffernan’s article, is that it kind of come across as if a person as a “techie” would never consider the silly time consuming and detailed approach to food that her “foodies” do. Anyway, I think if I have to be I’d rather be one of her “foodies” but to be honest, on my own accords, I’d rather just be a dude who enjoys the process of cooking a good meal.

  2. I didn’t take the time to read the comments under Ms. Heffernan’s article until now, and it seems I am not the only one who was feeling a little put off by it’s somewhat disparging and pretentious tone.

  3. The fact that professional chefs don’t serve microwavable hot pockets helps to prove that the extra time it takes to combine fresh ingredients, skill of execution, taste, and creativity are (usually) worth it.

    Some people look at food as mere fuel. And perhaps in survival situations this is true. But, if you’re living in a modern western industrialized nation and you take this attitude, you’re either tasteless/ignorant, lazy, or don’t have access to the necessary funds to dine at quality restaurants.

    • Evan, I think your true skill is your amazing ability to summerize an intelligent and concise response with just the proper disdain. You should post this same comment on the actual articles comment thread.

      But yes indeed, some people do think of food as “just fuel” which to me seems like a shameful waste in our lives of availablity for enjoyment and experience.

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