I found a cookbook in this "Little Free Library". It's from 1983, and the title, set against the backdrop of a dramatic black plume ascending from a cooking pan, reads: "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her?" And the subtitle promises quite some existential knowledge: "Surviving Away From Home".
So we actually have an early version of Minimalist Cooking here! Let's have a look at what has changed since 1983.
According to the blurb, all dishes are:
1) "Easy to make – easy enough for a beginner",
2) "Most require less than an hour of total preparation time",
3) "None call for exotic ingredients", and
4) "You need nothing more than a saucepan, a frying pan, a casserole dish, and a sharp knife to create anything you'll find here."
A dish with "less than an hour of total preparation time" is considered a quick dish by the authors - this is probably the biggest difference. This number has come down to as little as 10 minutes - that's six times faster!
Another big change is that the world's ways of making cooking quick and easy are now open to all of us to an extent that they weren't in 1983. The easiest dishes from every cuisine and the most versatile ingredients from around the world are ours to embrace. While, in 1983, "exotic" was used synonymous with "difficult", we now use many ingredients from different cuisines as staples and can give our dishes for example an East Asian, Indian, or Thai flavor just by replacing a few ingredients.
Lastly, the Minimalist cooking equipment is down by one – to just a pot, a pan, and a knife.
Interestingly, and despite these developments, the perception of home cooking hasn't kept up with the progress in other areas at all. Probably few people would say with a sense of pride that they are still using the exact phone their grandma had, or that they are driving that exact model car from 1983. But when it comes to dishes, "exactly like my grandma made it" is usually a badge of honor, just like "it took all day to make".
Now, please don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your grandma's cooking, or with spending a lot of time cooking, if one has the time and it's something one enjoys doing. It just doesn't have to be that way. The circumstances and context of cooking have changed just as dramatically as phones, cars, and pretty much everything else has. Processed foods, more single households, and a loss of the social function of home cooking and of cooking as a source of prestige are just some factors. It's time to do home cooking in a way that works with our current lives and lifestyles! And when it comes to that, I want it to be simple, quick, delicious, and healthy. How about you?
So what's stopping us? Interestingly, it's not easy to come by the necessary knowledge. For unlikely cooks who haven't grown up seeing or doing home cooking, what they see on TV is what they think cooking is. It looks really hard to do. Even taking cooking classes often doesn't help, since most cooking classes are for people who can already cook. Unlikely cooks get overwhelmed, discouraged, and take away little or no practical skills that they can feed themselves with on a daily basis.
It doesn't have to be that way. You don't have to take it from me, though - Here's a note from one of my students:
Just this quick postscript concerning you & my first ever cooking class…
As I had NO idea what to expect from this experience, I felt everything worked out extremely well. Your obvious enthusiasm & comfort of the subject, your patience with my constant interrupting questions, and your easy laugh with my ineptness made the entire session most enjoyable and educational. Hope to continue with at least a couple more 'hands on' lessons.
I give you a High Five and Five Gold Stars."
If you're an unlikely cook who wants to learn, please do feel free to reach out to me today.