We watched "Julie & Julia" on Friday night. It's a lovely cheerful film about Julia Child and gorgeous food. It reminded me of our fabulous meal over Easter weekend at the Quickenberry Lodge.
Attracted by Meryl Streep and her character's obvious delight in cooking and eating, I spent much of this weekend looking at Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Aside from being hopelessly intimidated, I see some discouraging issues with this kind of cooking.
First issue: this kind of cooking takes a lot of time. The top chefs think nothing of taking 20 minutes simply to carmelize the onions or reduce a sauce to concentrate the flavour. Don't get me wrong - I love fine food. But I can't fit that kind of prep time into my life 7 days a week.
Second issue: this kind of cooking has a lot of fat. What are the three ingredients to French food? Answer: butter, butter, and butter. The typical French recipe for a super-food like cauliflower, cheap and high nutrient, has a half cup of cream per serving, plus the butter and Parmesan cheese. I'd love it! But, despite Dr. Atkins, those of us who need to reduce our waistlines are not going to succeed very well on that much fat.
Third issue: this kind of cooking is expensive. The recipe for beef bourgignon, for example, calls a full bottle of wine. Yum! Bring it on! - just don't make me pay for it, at least not every day. A modest look at the forums and comments around the web show that people are worried about the cost of food, especially in the current economic slowdown. Not everybody can afford a lot of wine, cream, and Parmesan cheese.
But I'm so attracted to it, nonetheless! I wanna eat the good stuff! But these decisions have tradeoffs.
Here's a chart of the tradeoffs. I've put the good stuff, palatability and nutrition, on the vertical axes, and the bad stuff, prep time and $ cost, on the horizontal axes.
Our ideal diet should look like Meryl Streep - tall and thin. Wouldn't it be great to find a nutritious diet that tasted great, but was quick to make and cheap, too?
Unfortunately, our actual diets tend to look like Danny DeVito, short and with a big belly. Not really all that good, not really all that cheap, but fast. And not too nourishing.
On the bottom left, I put raw cabbage: not really all that tasty, but low cost, great nutrition profile, and no prep time. Just buy, pull off a piece, and stuff it in your mouth. I guess you can buy it organic if you're worried that it might need washing first. Let's call this the Linda Hunt profile. (Great actress, but still the wrong character for the boss on "NCIS LA", which is not nearly as good as the original "NCIS".)
Now look at the bottom right, the Cauliflower Gratin. Huge on prep time, huge on palatability, huge on cost, and pretty good nutrition. I gave it a slightly lower nutrition rank due to its fat. But this profile is a Julia Child profile. She was a huge woman, 6 feet, two inches. She loved cooking, and she loved eating. I'd love to eat like that, but I really shouldn't!
So there's this whole confusing issue of what we want to do, what we should do, what we are able to do, and what we actually do.
I want Cauliflower Gratin. I should probably eat plain blanched cauliflower. I'm not able to make Cauliflower Gratin, at least not very well, because the broiler on our ancient second-hand stove isn't working, and I don't have the cream and Parmesan cheese anyway. What will I actually do? Dunno yet. I was planning the Gratin for lunch, but ended up with toast. LOL!
Somewhere among the infinite set of recipes, surely one cauliflower recipe out there is reasonably easy to make, doesn't have too much fat, and tastes good.
What I really want is a system that helps me with the search. I want to find those Meryl Streep diets. Google's great, but not enough, as on-line recipes never cover all four of palatability, nutrition, prep time, and cost. Enter Wagmu 2.0! Stayed tuned for the big launch sometime this year.