Newspaper Recipes’ Claims of Brevity and Simplicity Can Shorten Your Life

Even famous cookbook author Julia Child needed help in the early days of cooking shows on television. So unless you have a personal food shopper with access to world-class farmers markets and a personal prep chef (the person who does all the slicing and dicing) there is no way that you can come close to turning out a gourmet meal in 30 minutes or less or getting a “weeknight” meal on your family’s table before your family perishes of hunger. Some men enjoy cooking as a relaxing analog counterpoint to their stressful digital days, but it is not fair to them to make them salivate over recipes from professional chefs who DO have prep chefs and MAY have assistants rounding up the ingredients (or perhaps they personally do the shopping but don’t count that in the short time claimed in the recipes).

A particularly egregious example appeared in the May 6 Wall Street Journal, promising a meager 20-minute stint. We were immediately suspicious when we noted that there were 12 ingredients (not counting the Parmesan cheese, a critical addition that makes most every pasta dish tasty). We have a pretty decent farmers market, but none of the sellers had any garlic “scapes” (none of them had even HEARD of these scapes). To be fair, the chef-author mentioned that he would omit the scapes because of his kids, but readers could substitute scallions (AKA green onions), ramps (equally arcane and probably at least as unavailable as scapes), or plain old dependable garlic (maybe his kids are used to that). Beyond this, the capers (not a common household item) needed to be rinsed and chopped, a fussy and time-consuming task.

The bottom line: 40 minutes would be a lot more accurate. And doubling the time might be a good rule-of-thumb when you see recipes that promise fast gourmet meals.