If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know I like New York Times writer Mark Bittman enough to try and cook as many foods as possible from his “101 Simple Meals” article. However, this new article on what he deems IN or OUT for this year is, well, really pissing me off.
Here’s the list of what he deems OUT:
Packaged bread crumbs or croutons.
Bouillon cubes or powder, or canned stock.
Bottled salad dressing and marinades.
Bottled lemon juice.
Spices older than a year.
Dried parsley and basil.
Grated imitation “Parmesan” (any other pre-grated cheese).
Canned peas (and most other canned vegetables).
Tomato paste in a can.
Premade pie crusts.
Cheap balsamic or flavored vinegars.
Minute Rice or boil-in-a-bag grains.
Here’s why people actually buy these these supposed horrors:
Time. The canned beans one chaps my ass especially. I’m no stranger to cooking dry beans. It’s time-consuming and always a gamble as to how they’ll come out. Have you ever cooked chickpeas from scratch? It takes at least two hours — after an overnight soak. I don’t generally start planning dinner 24 hours beforehand; do you? The same goes for the sneer at boil-in-a-bag grains. Parboiled brown rice (you know, one of those whole grains we’re all supposed to be getting more of?) is done in 10 minutes, compared to 45-55 minutes for brown rice cooked from raw. And no, parboiled rice does not lose any of its nutrition along the way.
Money. In lieu of buying bottled lemon juice, he advocates buying lemons “six at a time.” Look, I love lemons as much as the next cook, but here in my neighborhood Key Food, lemons are 99¢ a throw. At that price, it’s no longer an ingredient; it’s a condiment, to be used sparingly. I can’t say I’d buy it, but I can certainly understand the appeal of 32 ounces of bottled lemon for the price of two fresh lemons. The same stands for vanilla. Vanilla beans: around $10. Imitation vanilla extract: $2.79.
I think what really bothers me the most is that I just… expected more from Mark Bittman. The entire piece has a sanctimonious and intimidating tone. I feel uncomfortable reading it and I already buy most of these things already — I can’t imagine how someone less comfortable in a kitchen would feel reading this, knowing their kitchen is tainted with “cheap balsamic” or a stray can of corn.
Actually, I take it back. I can imagine how they’d feel. They’d feel like Mark Bittman: kind of an ass.