Reading Books For Pleasure. Radical Idea!

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Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. — Groucho Marx

Can you live a day — a week, a month, a year — without reading a book? Whether on a Kindle, borrowed from a friend or the library (i.e. depriving us authors of our desperately needed royalties), bought for 50 cents at a yard sale or thrift store, or, maybe, purchased at full price in hardcover, are you still reading books at all?

Gotta love the irony that the film (which, of course, began with a blog) “Julie and Julia” has now turned Julia Child’s cookbook into a best-seller. “This was a secret dream,” Nora Ephron, the film’s writer and director, recently told The New York Times, “that the movie would sell a lot of books. I’m completely delighted that people are walking out of the multiplex and into the bookstore.”

The Wall Street Journal recently ran this essay on why so many of us turned away from modernist novels — with all the allure of eating overcooked vegetables in their pitiless difficulty — and started reading fun stuff about vampires instead. The New York Times, in a front-page story this weekend, focused on a schoolteacher taking the radical (?) step of letting her students read what they prefer, albeit nudging some of them toward tougher and more challenging material, instead of the same-old “To Kill A Mockingbird” and its reading-list equivalents. I don’t have kids, but if they did, they’d have grown up as I did, in a home where every shelf is filled with books, from reference works on art, design and architecture to cookbooks, travel guides and fiction. A life without books is, for me, a life without oxygen. Continue reading “Reading Books For Pleasure. Radical Idea!”

If You're Really Not Cooking, What Are You Eating?

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I really can’t believe this, but, hey, if a best-selling author writes it in a New York Times Magazine cover story, someone thinks it’s true. Americans no longer cook, writes Michael Pollan. Instead, exhausted, confused and overwhelmed, they make sandwiches, order pizza, gulp fast food, heat soup. Ugh.

I don’t buy it, although I’m clearly in one serious minority as one of the nation’s 10 percent who don’t own a microwave oven. Never have, probably never will. My galley kitchen is too small. I’ve never wanted to own one, even when I had slightly larger kitchens. I know, they do stuff fast. I’m not a big fan of speed as my life’s highest value, even when I commuted an hour each way into Manhattan to an office job and came home tired and hungry. Putting together a meal of fresh or dried pasta and a sauce and a green salad, which really isn’t cooking, per se, still takes maybe 15 minutes, tops.

The average American, Pollan writes, spends 27 minutes a day on food prep. If they’re eating two meals a day at home, only breakfast and dinner, that’s a big 13.5 minutes per meal.  If three a day — and an estimated 30 percent of us are now working at home, whether by choice or between office-based jobs — nine minutes. That’s actually plenty of time to make real food. Continue reading “If You're Really Not Cooking, What Are You Eating?”