A few weeks ago I spent six hours making chicken parmesan from scratch: I simmered the vegetables to make red sauce, coated fresh chicken in grated cheese then browned it in imported extra-virgin olive oil, layered the meat, sauce, and extra fresh cheeses in a huge pan and baked it to perfection. All the pots and pans in the kitchen were dirty, and I barely had time to open and guzzle the wine before the family came for dinner.
The following week I quickly stuffed some carrots, celery, garlic, and onions into the cavity of a whole chicken, covered the top with olive oil, sprinkled fresh rosemary over the bird and stuck it in the oven. Preparation time was 15 minutes. The family raved over dinner as if I were the Supreme Grand Exalted Chef of the Universe.
(Note to self: next time, just stick a few chickens in the oven and skip the labor-intensive dishes.)
People don’t bake very often, and that’s a shame because I see all these glorious gourmet kitchens full of gleaming appliances and stocked with the latest gadgets along with a few contraptions that mystify me. What do they do? But I also see empty pizza and takeout boxes stuffed into the garbage can.
I asked my neighbor if she had turned on her fancy new, six-burner, gas oven. She said that it was too much pressure to use it and that she didn’t have time to fix anything, and they were all too busy to sit down and eat. So I invited her family over for dinner and served two baked chickens, brown rice, a green salad, steamed asparagus, and crusty bread. The family wouldn’t stop raving about the meal and wondered how I found the time to do it all. I replied that it took less than two hours to pull it together and they could do it, too. They stared at me with wide-eyed looks of amazement as if I’d just challenged them to assemble a rocket engine. Blindfolded.
When they started to go home, I handed them a book from my collection and suggested they read it. It was a cookbook, one of several I own that date back to the sixties. They were delighted that it came with detailed instructions and color photographs.