"So, it's a weeknight, okay? Life isn't always fun, you know? You've gotta work. And you've gotta come home, and you've gotta make dinner." That's the way Amelia from Bon Appétempt begins this episode, titled "30 Minute Meal?"
At this point, we're all familiar with the idea of the (attempted) 30-minute meal. While not a new concept, this idea was popularized and burned into our cortices by Rachael Ray's cooking show. The idea seems sound -- simple, healthful recipes that are easily executable for a weeknight dinner and neither bury you in prep work, nor leave you with a ton of clean-up. It's such a nice idea, but unfortunately, real life rarely works like this, right? Watching it on TV, it always seems like the timer is doing its job, but it rarely takes into account steps like rinsing and drying lettuce, finely shaving shallots, hard-boiling eggs. All these things get done in the magical land called "Ahead Of Time."
By the time you're a minute into Amelia's video, you can tell she's giving you a nudge and a wink about how long a weeknight meal can really take.
"The thing about the weeknight meal, is you just do everything ahead of time and it makes it super simple... it's not simple."
We love this. We love Amelia. We love standing up for a little bit of real talk and being honest. To make salad dressing, hard boil eggs, bake homemade croutons, fry sausages and pull together a composed meal in 30 actual, real life, human minutes takes intense organization, time management, trust in your abilities and zero distractions. Does this sound like your life? Amazing! It does not sound like ours.
Don't fret. It is possible to pull together a respectable dinner in 30 minutes (sometimes you can even do dinner in 10!), the important thing to remember is this: cooking under time constraints is rarely fun or rewarding. If you've got your heart set on a 30-minute meal and it ends up taking 40, don't worry! It will take you less time the next time you make it. Or you'll know what you can do ahead of time to speed things up. OR, you'll pick another, more realistic recipe altogether.
The notion that food can only be accessible or weeknight-appropriate if it takes 30 precise minutes or less is actually so silly that we can't believe we get so worked up about it sometimes. If your schedule mandates this kind of speed-demon behavior, there are a few things you can do that will make your life feel much less stressful:
- Prep ingredients ahead of time: You know, like, Sunday -- chop/roast/blanch some vegetables, make a sauce, a little planning goes a long way.
- Plan for leftovers: If you make enough on Monday to also enjoy on Wednesday, you'll feel accomplished, smart and less frazzled. Plus, there are a ton of foods that benefit from a day or two in the fridge, like soups and stews.
- Order take-out sometimes: Seriously. No one cooks every single night. Not even Rachael Ray.
[via PBS Digital Studios]