Turn Off Your TV, Turn On Your Stove

No Run Today

I went to bed last night with a pretty good feeling that today’s scheduled 20-miler wasn’t going to happen.  Pretty soon after I finished writing yesterday, I crashed.  I got really cold and lost all my energy.

In fact, since Erin was busy, we just ordered pizza for dinner.  On a Sunday!  My balls-to-the-wall cooking day! So you know something must have been wrong.

I woke up this morning feeling hungover.  Odd, considering I didn’t drink anything yesterday.  Nothing terrible, but if you’re a marathoner, or even a half marathoner, you know that attempting long runs when you’re feeling any less than 100% is a recipe for disaster.

So I’m planning to get up early tomorrow and do the 20 before I go into school.  I don’t expect whatever this is to last—I haven’t had a sickness last more than 24 hours in two years, and even that was just a weird head cold.  So not to worry, readers.  The run will get done, and the training will go on!

Stop Watching People Cook and Start Doing It

[Food Network collage]This little bit of extra time today has afforded me the opportunity to read a fantastic article by Michael Pollan, called “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.”  If you’ve read this blog since the beginning, you know that I’m a big fan of his since reading In Defense of Food (and I’ve heard The Omnivore’s Dilemma is even better).  I even went to see him speak in Baltimore.

This article has rekindled the fire in my loins that In Defense of Food started.  It’s about food television, and the way that Americans are now spending far more time watching people cook than they spend actually cooking.  “Watching people cook” isn’t even the right phrase, because that implies that some iota of learning might occur in the process, the way it did when people watched Julia Child (or so I’ve come to believe; I’m too young to have watched Julia).

When we watch Iron Chef, for example, are we really taking anything from it that’s going to put better food on our table?  Of course not.  We’re watching a frenzied sport, an exciting orgy of culinary prowess that has nothing to do with real cooking,  the way a shootout in soccer or hockey is an incredibly entertaining contest that really has nothing to do with the actual sport.

But what really makes this article resonate with me is the underlying message that rings true for so much more than cooking: Stop watching people do stuff; get your butt off the couch and do it yourself! (Remember how I’m a sucker for the Tony Robbins stuff, too?)  As far as we know, we’re alive on this earth one time.  One single time.  Is watching someone cook, or exercise, or decorate a house on television really the way you want to spend it?

If it interests you, do it yourself.

Yes, it takes effort.  Yes, it takes energy.  It’s not quite as enjoyable as watching it, at first, because there’s even a chance you’ll fail.  (When’s the last time someone said you sucked at watching Top Chef?)

Get over it. Doing things is what fulfills us, and doing things is what we’re meant to do.  (Duh.)

So come on, do something today.  Don’t leave that same comment you always leave on your favorite blog, the one that says “This looks so good!  I’m definitely going to try it sometime,” and then forget about it a minute later.  Write it down, print out the recipe, whatever it takes, and make it tonight.

Stop watching people do things.  Do something.

Ok, I’ve calmed down.  But do check out the article.  It’s eight pages long, so it takes a little while, but stick with it.  Especially if you haven’t read In Defense of Food or any of Pollan’s other stuff, the last two pages are a good way to get the gist of his message.  So is the quote at the very end:

“You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”

Two more interesting things,  kind of unrelated to the main point of the article, but that I would like your input on:

  • Men cook only 13% of the few meals that are cooked at home these days, women the other 87%.  This is funny, because in my house I cook the 87%.  But I do only 13% of the lawn-moving; that’s Erin’s job.  Some friends of mine found this fact hilarious the other day.  What do you think?  Weird?
  • Pollan, in talking about the advent of cooking and the evolution of man, claims that cooking food makes it much more easily digestible, leaving us with more energy for other things.  But everything I’ve learned about the raw food movement tells me otherwise.  What gives?



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  1. I enjoyed Pollan’s article too, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. The great thing about Julia Child was that she embraced failure, which is a lesson I try to apply to a lot of what I do in my own life. I do enjoy watching Top Chef, but I usually watch it on my laptop while I’m cooking something myself! I would get bored otherwise 🙂
    .-= J.´s last blog ..Dragon’s Tongue Beans With Garlic =-.

    • Thanks J. I love your blog name! I’ve only recently learned that Julia Child has this awesome message behind her cooking, the idea of not being afraid to try new things for fear of failure.

      I watch Top Chef too, and some Food Network shows as well (but not Iron Chef). I learn a lot from them. I’m sure you understand that my point isn’t that you shouldn’t ever watch TV. It’s that you shouldn’t JUST watch TV.

  2. I find it really sad that so many people equate opening a box of hamburger helper with cooking. And that so many say “I don’t cook” as if it were a badge of honor, cooking is menial labor and therefore beneath them.
    I have never viewed cooking as a male or female job- everyone eats and should know how to prepare healthy food.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Quinoa Pilaf with Fresh Garden Veggies =-.

  3. I couldn’t have said it better myself! I read that article when it came out in the magazine a couple weeks ago. I am not a crazy gourmet cook, but since I became a vegetarian I had to step it up and start cooking for myself. I must say, over the years I’ve gotten much more creative–mostly out of necessity. I’ve had some wicked kitchen failures, but many more successes. Thanks for the article review!!
    .-= Allie Katie´s last blog ..Weekend wrap up!! =-.

    • Hey Allie, same for me about cooking more out of necessity since becoming vegetarian. I cooked a lot before that too, but when you’re vegetarian, it’s not as easy to just order take out or eat a quick frozen meal. If you’re not cooking your own food, you’re eating junk or unsubstantial food a lot of the time. Plus, I’ve really enjoyed the variety in my cooking that being vegetarian has forced me to add!

  4. Men cook only 13% of the few meals that are cooked at home these days, women the other 87%. This is funny, because in my house I cook the 87%. But I do only 13% of the lawn-moving; that’s Erin’s job. Some friends of mine found this fact hilarious the other day. What do you think? Weird?

    I cook probably 87% of the time, down from about 95% of the time since my Erin graduated law school. Once things settle down my cooking will probably go down to only 80-85% of the time, ha ha ha!

    As for mowing the lawn, I do that 100% of the time. Which means that when I got out there on Saturday night, the grass was really long as I hadn’t mowed it since I broke my foot a few weeks ago.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..IAAF Removes The “Free False Start” Rule Starting in 2010 =-.

    • Blaine, that’s funny about grass. It sounds like our house, when Erin gets really busy. You’d think I’d step up and do it myself, but I have some sort of strange blinders that prevent me from even noticing that the backyard looks like a jungle.

  5. Ugh! Hope you feel better fast! I agree..everyone needs to be spending more time in the kitchen cooking healthy meals! I cook probably 99.8% of what comes out of the kitchen and I love it 🙂 I want to mow the lawn too but our lawn mower is ancient and Josh is nervous its going to hurt someone one day haha
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..An Unfortunate Incident…. =-.

  6. Since I embarked on this journey to health I’ve become a serious proponent for home-cooking. I used to equate cooking with drudgery, but it’s become an act of love and I enjoy taking care of myself and my husband in this way. I’m also becoming more and more adventurous and inventive in the kitchen.

    Cooking is a way of taking food back from the food industry. Having read “Fast Food Nation”, “The Food Revolution” and now “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which I’m busy with at the moment), I know that my health is in my hands.

    Today is my 8th day raw (out of 21) and I can confirm that raw food digests easier than cooked food! My body is reveling in the raw food!

    Hope you feel better soon!
    .-= Hanlie´s last blog ..It was a great week! =-.

    • Hanlie, cooking is great isn’t it? I’ve found that spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen is such a therapeutic thing. And spending a lot of time and attention on food that you’re going to share with someone you love just makes it that much better.

      I’m glad to hear that the raw food is working for you. Pollan says the thing about cooking making foods easier to digest in Omnivore’s Dilemma too, I just don’t get it. I wonder if he responds to emails.

  7. Two thoughts come to mind after reading your post today…

    1. Last week, Joel and I noticed that 3 NMA recipes made it onto our weekly menu…and 2 out of 3 were favorite repeats. We’ve not set out to become vegetarians but we are really pleased at how we’ve changed our views around dinner…the “meat, starch, veggie” rut is out the window and it’s made our meal planning more enjoyable and diverse. BTW – 3 NMA recipes are in this week’s rotation too!

    2. I do enjoy some of the cooking shows and have been watching Top Chef Master’s. The episode from 2 weeks ago included a vegan cooking challenge. On top of that, there were soy and other allergies/restrictions. I was honestly bothered by the judges’ comments…it was as if they felt sorry for the vegans and what “must have been” such restricted meal options. It was like they were praising the chefs for serving up meal choices the vegan dieters would never think of on their own. I never noticed the “meat bias” as much as I did in that episode.

    Anyway, enough ranting for me!! I will end here saying that we love our NMA shirts…if you don’t have one…get one!! Oh, and PS, Joel does most of our cooking too…thank goodness he likes it because he is always home first:)

    • Colleen, that is so awesome that you guys are eating lots of meatless meals. I think making meat a once-every-few-meals thing is such a smarter (not to mention more environmentally-friendly) way of eating than the “square meal” idea that you mention.

      I like the cooking shows too; I hope people didn’t think I was saying you should never watch them! I just meant don’t watch them INSTEAD of cooking. I missed that Top Chef though; I just haven’t really liked the Masters season. I would like to see that one though to see what you mean. As much as they show reruns, I’m sure I’ll catch it sometime!

      Glad you like your shirts 🙂

  8. I’m in the middle of reading In Defense Of Food, and the message that’s hitting me is the one he portrays using margarine and how it can be changed in a lab to give the consumer what they want. Of course we can put all these extra stuff that are “good for us” into the foods we eat, hoping that it doesn’t turn out like how hydrogenated oils did, but should we really be? When I buy something in the store, my first question is if all the ingredients are natural. But then I see how many of the ingredients are really needed. Obviously you need wheat and yeast and salt and baking soda and water to make bread, but some even natural breads have laundry list ingredient lists that I prefer to stay clear from.
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..Starting Off With A Smile =-.

    • Hey Evan, great point about putting extra stuff in food. Another thing is that so often, our bodies don’t absorb the extra stuff that scientists cram into foods. It’s like they know that it doesn’t belong in there. There’s so much more to food than reductionist science tells us by looking only at what happens when you change a single variable. There’s something about the wholeness of a food that is not to be messed with.

  9. Matt, you rock my friend. One life to live and no one is going to it for you but yourself. It’s amazing how things happen once you step one foot in the direction of a true passion. Sweet post!
    .-= Mel @ She Runs Brooklyn´s last blog ..Running Locals Crazy =-.

  10. Yes, it’s true that we ought to DO things rather than say we’re going to do things. I think it’s also important to stick with it when we make the choice to do something, too.

    I really adore Michael Pollan.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..I make bread. =-.

  11. I just came across your blog from The Runner’s Kitchen- and YIPEE! I love it!
    Thanks runner and food blogging friend-I’ve added you to my reader!
    .-= Morgan´s last blog ..Things I have learned this summer =-.

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