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Slowing it Down

Why are there so many cookery books on the subject of preparing meals in hurry?

After a lovely long session at the last Lifeline Bookfest several things became apparent:

• People are keeping their cookery books longer; there were very few recent publications on offer.

• I didn't spot many books by Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson; surely this means their books are respected, used and admired. (And I'll go along with that.)

• Many titles were in the vein of ' Meals in Thirty Minutes' or 'Superfast Suppers'.

• A few titles urged readers to return to 'slow food'. (And I'll go along with that too.)

• A good proportion of books invited readers to become vegetarians or vegans.

• A lot purported to show how to be green, organic, fresh food fiends.

It's the fast food thing that bothers me. There is no trick to preparing a meal in half an hour provided you have the basic ingredients on hand or have shopped and brought them home with you. Steaks (from any beast), chicken pieces, chops or tofu with vegetables/salad/cous cous/polenta is fast food! And pasta is the cook's best friend when it comes to putting a meal on the table in double-quick time.

Don't we all know that? These books are a con, surely. I blame the rash of television shows featuring food preparation as a competition. Keep that for the professionals and let's leave the home cooks in peace. Yes, there are many occasions when putting food on the table quickly is essential, but it’s not a competition.

It seems to me that turning cooking into a race against time is defeating the purpose of encouraging people to cook. While many individuals thrive on challenges, most of us want our evening leisure hours to be relaxing and pleasurable.

Slowly stirring hot stock into risotto or shaping small meatballs can be almost meditative.

Not everyone revels in preparing food the way I do; but it need not be a dreaded chore.

What do you think?

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