The Atlantic ran this story on Thanksgiving and i was ok with it until i got to the following passages. Which I’m having a hard time articulating why they bothered me, so i’ll just post them and see what you think about the article :)
Just yesterday I read about a new cookbook from the editors of Lucky Peach magazine called 101 Easy Asian Recipes, filled no doubt with obscure sauces and vegetables that I have absolutely no hope of finding at the Pioneer supermarket on the corner. Everywhere, there are magazine features proclaiming that making and freezing my own chicken stock is a “no-brainer”; homemade Calabrian chili oil is an “easy” way to add big flavor; the secret to making effortless breakfast granola is to simply do it in big batches.
Over the course of the past two decades, as food culture has exploded, recipes like Ms. Willan’s have become commonplace. More of our cookbooks are written by chefs publishing recipes adapted from their restaurants, as opposed to the self-taught home cooks who traditionally authored the lion’s share of the category. Ingredients have gotten more exotic, and less likely to be collected within a trip to your average American grocery store. Za’atar? Yuzu juice? Persian cucumber? For a special cooking project, fine, but galling to discover in the ingredients list for a weeknight dinner.
Food editors are, for the record, acutely aware that their (mostly female) readers want sophisticated meals but feel that the complex recipes offered by chefs are incompatible with their harried lifestyles. So, they make efforts to simplify and streamline, without ever admitting the one thing that cooks really need to hear: that real “easy” cooking, if that’s what you’re after, is far too simple to sustain a magazine and cookbook industry. It relies on foods that can be purchased at a single point of sale and involves a bare minimum of ingredients and a small repertoire of techniques. It leans heavily on things your mom taught you. There are no garnishes of thyme leaves in simple weeknight dinners, and no appetizer salads. Homemade breakfast smoothies are many things, but they are not an “easy” alternative to one of those squeezable yogurt things that you can eat with no hands in the car.
I really hope i’m not over thinking this, but as someone in a mixed race marriage who grew up in and is herself a mix of cultures, i just find the thought that the foods i eat now and grew up eating being ‘exotic’ or hard to find in a supermarket, especially since you can have them delivered to your door! Admittedly i live in California and have easy access to a 99Ranch along with a Cardenas. But still...