Friday, May 20, 2011

Foodies v. Techies: The Middle Ground

Today I came across this exchange between Virginia Heffernan from the New York Times and Amanda Hesser, co-founder of food52 and author of the New York Times Essential Cookbook.  The conversation is centered around a piece Heffernan wrote earlier in the week, arguing that there is a cultural schism between foodies and techies.  Foodies are the food purists--demanding organic, home-cooked meals that are "politically progressives." Techies value convenience and efficiency and see food as just something that is required for sustenance.

In the exchange, Heffernan says, "Amanda, it’s because I admire brilliant homecooks like you for your pleasure in cooking that I quit trying. In deference to foodies, let’s say. A day is finite, and I’d rather spend it playing with my kids and reading than cooking."  Okay--fair point, but I argue that it does not have to be a zero-sum game.  As I have mentioned before in this blog--the freezer is a wonderful wonderful thing.  As Hesser mentions in the article--you can cook a week's worth of meals in two hours. 

Hesser continually tries to make this point throughout the conversation, suggesting that she too orders 4-minute meals.  She encourages Heffernan telling her to be more thoughtful--but just do your best.

What struck a cord with me when I read this entire exchange is I sometimes feel overwhelmed by  cooking with consciousness similar to what Heffernan describes. I took a Food Law course this last semester and I learned a lot.  It made me think a lot more about where my food comes from and that there are ethical and health implications of what is on my plate.  I found myself trying to limit my meat consumption, trying to buy as much organic as possible, worrying about not being able to purchase grass-fed beef, avoiding Asian seafood and avoiding Jimmy John's.

After awhile it got really exhausting.  However, does that mean that I hang up my apron (I actually never wear an apron) and call it quits? Absolutely not. I decided I would just do my best.  I almost always buy organic milk and yogurt and try to buy a lot of fruit and veggies at Trader Joe's and Costco because organics are less expensive there.  I eat more vegetables than meat, and I try my best to avoid ground beef.

I feel like Heffernan really missed this point and I feel like a lot of other people do too.  However, I do not entirely blame them.  I think a lot of "Foodies" make cooking intimidating by acting as if every dish requires some sort of unique culinary skill and passing judgment on parents who feed their kids the occasional bowl of boxed mac 'n cheese.

I feel like my blog really is the middle ground between these two authors.  There are some techie shortcuts I take in the kitchen such as using Swanson's Chicken Broth rather than homemade chicken stock or Hunt's Fire Roasted Tomatoes rather than fresh.  However, I try to be thoughtful and conscientious about cooking--making nutritious meals using quality ingredients.  I hope my cooking is accessible to others. My only culinary training comes from my mother and I do not think anything I do requires any special skills.  I am just not afraid to try new things and I really happen to enjoy cooking and sharing my adventures in the kitchens with others.  So in the words of Amanda Hesser--Eat thoughtfully and do your best.

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