Here’s my beef with the mainstream diet and fitness industry: they say you should change the way you eat, but they don’t give you the tools to make it work in your regular life. They don’t teach you how to shop in the grocery store or what to keep stocked in your pantry and freezer so that you can always eat well. They don’t give you a “go-to” cooking technique that will give you a healthy meal when cooking is the last thing you want to do.
Laura Miller explains it better than I can in Salon’s review of Food Matters, a recent book by Mark Bittman that’s “an unusual blend of manifesto, self-help manual and cookbook designed to convince people that they can drastically improve their diets with relatively little discomfort.”
She writes: “Of all the challenges confronting the “Food Matters” plan for “responsible eating” … probably the single most obdurate is the fact that so many contemporary Americans simply don’t know how to cook. By “cook,” I don’t mean being able to concoct an impressive dinner the one night a month you have guests over while otherwise subsisting on nuked Lean Cuisine. Real home cooking means having a good repertoire of reliable, quick, uncomplicated recipes and understanding enough of the underlying principles to improvise when needed. It means knowing how to stock a pantry and plan your menus so that you shop for groceries only once a week. It’s a set of skills manifested as an attitude, something you can acquire only through regular practice, and it’s the one thing that can make a person truly at ease in a kitchen.”
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Adam Gopnik’s column in the annual Food issue of The New Yorker (11/23/09) is a marvelous nd poetic exploration of cookbooks, with a special focus on Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything (10th ed).” I think I’m going to buy it.