In yesteryears, there was a popular bread named WonderBread. Nutritionists said, “It’s a wonder it doesn’t kill you!” And there was a saying about the miracle of sliced bread. Today you can buy a variety of tasty and nutritious loaves—sliced or unsliced–from competent bakers or at farmers’ markets. But even those loaves don’t satisfy as much as ones that you have made yourself. We grew up next to our grandparents, and we loved it when our grandmother gave us a still-warm loaf (which was raised next to a wood-burning stove) for our next meal. In our case, we purchased a bread machine (ours is the Zojirushi), which does most of the work and ensures that our timing of the mixing and raising are correct. Most of our value-added is in choosing a recipe (we refer to The Bread Machine Cookbook, by Donna Rathmell German), assembling the ingredients, making sure that it is behaving properly in the early stages, and carefully removing the loaf from the machine (it doesn’t surrender its bounty without effort). The pandemic underscored the benefits of home baking.
Grocery stores, in particular, deserve a lot of praise these days for their quick response to the challenges caused by the CoronaVirus. We personally experienced this in the case of using Instacart at our local Safeway. We actually were in touch with the staffer who was picking items from their shelves, and we could answer questions regarding the items he was choosing and make decisions in real-time
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.