'Easy recipe' - it's an oxymoron!
Thu, 23 June, 2016
‘Easy’ - that’s how seven out of ten google recipe searches start. ‘easy fish pie’ - comes up at the bottom of the page in searches related to fish pie. ‘cookies recipes easy’ - should you slap ‘cookies’ into the search engine. ‘easy chili recipe’, ‘simple chocolate cake’, ‘easy recipe for scones’, ‘simple recipe for spaghetti bolognese’ and my all-time favourite: ‘panettone recipe easy’.
I despair. I concede cookies are not difficult to make and you can find an easy chocolate cake recipe, of the ‘bucket cake’ type - throw everything into a bowl and stir around. But a fish pie or spag bol requires a bit of effort: chopping fish, mashing potatoes, cooking ragù and seasoning it correctly - it’s relative how ‘easy’ those things are! Nor, frankly, are they supposed to be. ‘Easy’ is sticking a ready meal into the oven or microwave.
Cooking requires a skill and baking is an art. True, you can learn most things or follow recipes, but like I will never produce a good likeness trying to draw someone’s portrait, someone who can’t cook won’t create a ground-breaking new dessert. It’s the same in any field, there’s art and there’s craft: you follow recipes correctly and produce decent results, or you slap together a few unlikely ingredients and come up with an unforgettable dish.
To visualise how the end product might taste takes the same amount of talent as designing an interior where elements will work harmoniously together. And (getting onto an even higher horse!) anyone can try their hands at painting by numbers but only select create art with a capital ‘a’.
Getting off the stallion, the next question is whether ‘easy’ means ‘enjoyable’ and that’s an entirely different question indeed. I love cooking. I sometimes spend half the day preparing dinner for friends or just for me and the Weather Man on a leisurely Saturday and I enjoy every minute of it (scrubbing potatoes potentially excluded). But it’s not quick, usually not so simple (I’m pleased to say) and frequently damn hard! How about de-boning a bird and stuffing it with pork I minced myself? And I love cooking this dish.
The problem, of course, is that on average people in my neck of wood don’t cook and don’t know how to. They love watching cookery TV - a bit like (sadly very untrendy these days) Jerome K. Jerome said: ‘I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours’ - but load their trolley choc-full of half-ready meals when shopping. I have my kitchen refit project on the go as mentioned here before: when it comes to picking an extractor hood, guess what seems to matter to most people? But of course: how your extractor fan looks. Not how effective it is and whether it will get rid of the smell, grease and smoke - oh, no! That’s irrelevant cause it will hardly ever be switched on and even then quickly turned off, being too noisy - because there will be not much cooking going on.
And don’t you believe those captions on food porn websites and on Pinterest, which say ‘sooo easy!’ and feature what looks like the most elaborate concoction in the world…