Excuses and Denial

Chef Michael Symon (image linked from newstalkcleveland.com)

Many of you know the reverence I hold for Chef Michael Symon.  It began when I saw him many years ago on Melting Pot when The Food Network was still young.  He and Wayne always made me laugh for half an hour.  Then, one day it was gone.

Chaz and I were in a bookstore about a year or so later and found a book, Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman (one of my favorite writers after reading this book).  It looked interesting, so I picked it up.  A third of the book is about Michael Symon and I didn’t even know it until I got to that part.  I got excited.  I learned so much more about his approach to food.  Real food.  So, as he has gone on to do other shows, I’ve followed.  He never fails to make me laugh.  Never.  Even now that I follow him on Facebook and Twitter.   If you haven’t seen his newest show, The Chew, with Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Daphne Oz and Clinton Kelly, check it out.  

So, yes, I follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  I have a handful of celebrity chefs that I follow on Twitter.  If nothing else, the banter between them cracks me up.  Like this little exchange between Michael Symon and Ming Tsai: 

@chefmingtsaiMing Tsai “@chefsymon: watching the nfl playoffs is like chinese torture for a clevelander…sigh” And u have never had real Chinese torture either…
chefsymon michael symon @chefmingtsai ive been out drinking with u…does that count?
@chefmingtsaiMing Tsai @chefsymon That does not count!!! Sorry bout those Browns….

I was laughing so hard I had to read the exchange aloud to Chaz as he was looking at me funny.  He found it funny, too. 

I do have a point here.  Or rather, a rant, thanks to Chef Symon.  He posted this on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, “i know ill get some sh** for this..but it makes me bonkers when ppl say they dont have time to cook..it takes like 10 min to set a stock..and 2 minutes 2 strain it..we r all busy..u have 2 make time..cmon peeps u can do it!!” 

I applaud him for taking this stand.  The whole reason for The Food Network and The Cooking Channel is to help us cook more whether or not the chefs say this out loud and take the same stand Chef Symon did.  He was right.  He got shit for it from some people.  He got a lot of support, too.  However, with the people who railed at him for his statement, I noticed a trend.  An absolute refusal to accept the truth of his statement.  A continual need to make excuses why they cannot take the time to really cook.  Sorry people, but if you have time to argue with a celebrity chef on Twitter and Facebook, you have time to cook.  

I know some people won’t agree with me, but that’s my opinion, take it or leave it.  

The revolution of Big Food has most of us brainwashed into believing we need their processed foods for convenience sake.  I admit that before my radical change in diet over 2 years ago that I did use some of those handy meals through the years.  But, I always cooked.  Even when I was working a full-time job 40+ hours per week, on-call 24/7, I cooked.  From scratch.  Even back in my college days, I cooked.  I did have my fair share of meals of saimin or pb&j or rice and tuna.  But, I also cooked.  Stews, curry, pasta sauce.  It was easy to put things like that on my little hot plate and let it simmer while I studied after a day full of work and classes.  

Chef Symon is right, you have to make time to cook.  There are thousands of us out there doing it while holding down jobs and taking care of families.  Re-evaluate what you are doing that you have to do and what you want to do.  There are so many time suckers out there that lull us into thinking, I don’t have time for other things.  If you are watching TV, messing around on social media, talking for hours on the phone, shuttling kids around from one activity to another, you have time to cook.  10 minutes to set a stock is generous, especially if you’re prepared.  I save bones and freeze them.  I save veggie scraps and veggies/herbs that are about to go bad and freeze them.  When it comes time for me to make a stock all I have to do is open the freezer bags and put the contents in my slow cooker, add water, cover and walk away.  3 minutes tops. 

There are those of us with food allergies and sensitivities for whom Big Food’s processed offerings are not an option.  We have to cook despite the numerous allergy friendly offerings that keep popping up.  I don’t cook because of my issues with gluten and dairy.  I was cooking way before my awareness of them.  I cook because it keeps me healthy.  I cook because it is more cost-effective.  I cook because it tastes better than anything that comes out of a box or a can.  I cook because I can waste less.  

There is nothing like making something with your own two hands that brings a smile to someone else’s face.  Nothing.   There is also nothing like teaching the next generation how to do the same thing.  I may not have children of my own, but some of the kids I used to work with had the benefit of working with me in their kitchens.  Side by side learning knife skills, time-saving techniques and how to cook on the fly because you didn’t plan.  Much as I tried, the teens just didn’t want to do meal planning so there was a lot of looking in the pantry, fridge and freezer and figuring things out.  

We owe it to that next generation to teach them how to plan for meals, make time for cooking and giving them the needed kitchen skills that will sustain them throughout their life.  Like it or not, Home Ec starts in the home and it starts with you.  

That said, one of these days I will make it to Cleveland to eat in one of Chef Symon’s restaurants.  


  1. Amen. We do have to make time to cook — and brainwashed is right, I have SO many friends who say there is no time to cook and wonder how we do it. You just do. It becomes what you do. You have to just take the time. (I heart Chef Symon too!)

    • Yes! I think if people with mindset can just start doing it, even if it is once a week, they’ll see the difference and just start doing. Such a great way to get kids involved and learning, too. Yay! Another Chef Symon fan!

  2. Is very guilty of not making time to cook…but he is so right. By the time you drive to a place (assuming you even know exactly where you want to go in the first place)…get seated, place your order…wait for your food. You could be cleaning up your nice healthy home-cooked meal.

    Jamie Oliver proved it on Nate Berkus show the other day…Nate ordered his favorite Chinese dish (delivered), and while they waited for it to arrive, Jamie taught him how to make the same dish. Less time + Less money + More Healthy + Tasted better…And who said artists can’t do math? 🙂

    • AND, even if Chef Symon does have someone helping with his 5 in 5 segment on The Chew (usually Daphne chopping something for him), he cooks a dish in 5 minutes on TV. LIVE. He said himself on Twitter in response to a comment that if you’re not as skilled and it takes twice as long to fix his 5 in 5, it’s still just TEN MINUTES! I’ve done one of his 5 in 5 and it was super easy. SUPER EASY!

  3. I went to an Alton Brown appearance a few months ago. One of the questions asked by an audience member was if he thought food TV had increased the amount of cooking people do at home. He turned the question right back to the audience and asked what we thought. Only one brave guy said NO, food TV has not increased the amount of food we cook at home. This one lone fella stood up and said people sit and watch beautiful meals created on food TV while eating their dinner from a box. I’m afraid he might be right.

    • I agree Johnna. The food shows should be an inspiration point for those of us with good kitchen skills and creativity. For those who need recipes, it should be a resource. I know there are people out there who sit there and watch the shows while eating from a box and it saddens me.

  4. Great post, Debi! I’ve only seen The Chew once, after you recommended it. I think it does show how quickly wonderful meals and recipes can be made. In regard to Johnna’s comment, I know TONS of people who watch cooking shows and don’t cook. Ever. It’s sad. And as shown in the other comments, it’s been proven time and time again, that it is not quicker to eat out, and that’s not even considering the cost and nutrition. The things that are being done instead of cooking are sad, too. Nonstop tv and such. I like Leanne Ely’s push for the family dinner. So many fantastic meals can come together very quickly for them, too.


    • Thanks, Shirley! It’s really sad how many people choose not to cook. One of the things I love about cooking is the leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ve never been able to fix something different for lunch the following day like some people do. And back in college it came in handy because I’d have curry or stew prepared that would last me several days. Busy is all relative and if I could do it while in jr. high/high school while managing homework, band, Girl Scouts, Job’s Daughters and all the extras that came along with those activities, anyone else can do it. Rarely did the dinners I fixed for my parents and siblings come directly from a can either. 😀 I love Leanne! But, you know that already. hehe

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