In the last several months, I have combed through a myriad of food blogs and I have found there are a few dichotomies within the foodie blogosphere. As I have been writing in this blog, I’ve wondered, “Where is my place in this blogging system?” To find out, I present you with the types of bloggers that emerge at the intersections of these dimensions.
Here’s how I see the food blogging divide at its most extreme:
Do you know people on either side of this scale? We have people who spend a few hours each day preparing delicious foods that are extremely healthy, but in most cities that also means the ingredients are quite expensive. We also have people who don’t have time to heat a prepared, frozen hamburger patty, much less grind three kinds of meat, bake the buns and toast them with homemade garlic butter. There are many people who can’t afford gourmet, organic, hormone free meat or any flour other than store-brand wheat, who still want something good to eat after a long day.
I don’t think the above image should represent the intersections of cooks today. I love cooking and I love to go all out, but I don’t have the time or budget to do so every day. I can’t search through my local farmer’s market (most people don’t have one at all, and the once-per-week one near me is quite small and limited) for a good deal on lavender honey. From my searches, most of the gluten free cooks on the internet are also striving to be all natural with 4 star quality and presentation, and I can’t live up to that.
What if I want to be a natural-as-possible, budgeted meat AND veggie eater who likes grain but without corn or wheat and has some time, but not much?
This realization occurred in last night’s round of “what to eat for dinner?”
I wanted mac & cheese. Growing up, this meant getting a <99 cent box from Kraft and following the directions on the box. My mom would add tuna fish and peas to give the meal some protein and vegetable value. That’s it: 20 minutes and it was on the table. But last night, I had to skim several blogs with homemade mac & cheese recipes because I can’t make it from a box any more. These recipes have 12 ingredients and as many steps. I was daunted.
Then rationality came home in the form of the wonderful man I love. I mentioned that I was going to make mac & cheese, but that it was going to be too much work. “Seriously?” he asked. I explained patiently that I couldn’t just make it from a box any more, that this was Gluten Free macaroni and cheese. I had to adapt Ina Garten’s recipe, I had to use 45 dishes and utensils and order in special spcies from Tibet and the whole process would take too much time and effort and money that we don’t have.
Turns out, boyfriend has never had the Kraft version. His mother boiled noddles, grated cheddar cheese while they cooked,
mixed a little Worcestershire sauce with milk and Tabasco and mixed everything on the drained noodles. That’s it: 20 minutes and on the table.
Now, I am not knocking those recipes I found that were complicated, tempting and surely decadently divine. I simply cannot achieve those standards on a daily basis. When I try, I wind up getting discouraged and overwhelmed, doing nothing and eating spinach leaves dipped in dressing for dinner (they’re more fun to dip like fries than to eat as a proper salad).
Mac & cheese CAN be a special event dish, done up impressively and served alongside a gorgeous prime rib and asparagus with hollenaise sauce.
Or… mac & cheese can be an impulse, 10:30 at night, there’s nothing else that sounds good, quick, easy and inexpensive kind of food.
*We have two bowls of cheese above because I made mine with cheddar AND mozzarella. That, and having one pot of wheat and one pot of rice noodles, was the craziest we got in this recipe. Since it comes from Evan’s mother’s way of cooking mac & cheese, and because she is Italian (not just in heritage), this is our Italian style mac & cheese:
Trow in your desired amount of macaroni noodles
While noodles cook, grate about a 1/2 C of cheese per serving (+/- your desired level of cheesiness)
Mix a dash of Worcestershire sauce (or wheat free soy sauce+squirt of Dijon mustard) and hot sauce with 1 C milk per person
Drain noodles and return to cooking pot.
Add cheese and stir furiously.
Add milk mixture slowly until sauce is creamy and thick. (CAREFUL!! if you have too much milk, your cheese won’t stick to the noodles)
Eat quickly! The cheese will coagulate and be harder to eat as it cools. Adding some flour/corn starch to the milk mixture can help alleviate this effect.
In conclusion, you will see more slapped together kinds of meals here, but they will be tasty even if the ingredients are basic and the presentation is plebeian. I think we should be multi and cross-dimensional in the way we cook. There should be as many styles (and combinations of styles) as there are cooks. This comic gives a 2-dimensional version of what I would like to see.