May 1, 2010
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Maybe Not

I think perhaps I’m mistaken in my argument about being too busy to cook. Time (and patient partners) does matter. One might have better ways to spend it. And it’s good to have food to eat in the first place.

But, mostly, I was talking about food, when what really matters (I think) is commensality: eating with people, sitting down to dinner. A good thing to do, at least occasionally.

Another point that food writers and TV shows miss: a lot depends on you skills at multitasking. Very little cooking demands your constant close attention. Suppose you want to make a roast chicken. You might want to brine the chicken: that takes ten minutes (to make the brine) and a day (for the chicken to sit around in the brine, improving its taste). It takes all day, but you don't have to do anything; you throw it in the refrigerator and do other stuff. (Only have overnight? Fine. Need to leave it another day? That’s OK. Or just take it out of the brine and let it dry out a bit on the plate.)

It takes an hour to roast, plus time to preheat the oven. This takes a couple of minutes of your time. You need to turn on the oven. It will get hot on its own: do something else. Then you need to find the roasting pan, plop down the chicken, put it in the oven. Maybe you want to chop a couple of potatoes or carrots and throw them in the pan with the chicken. You stuff it in the oven, and wait an hour. Do other stuff.

Take it out of the oven. Put it on a cutting board to let it rest for ten minutes or so.

It really didn't take any time to roast the chicken. But you had to think about doing stuff when it needed doing. You could spend more time the first time you try: maybe you spend an hour finding the roasting pan, maybe the brine takes fifteen minutes because you don’t remember where the salt box lives. But it doesn’t really take time — if you can leave things to cook, do other stuff, and remember to take the roast out of the oven when it’s done.