What if you hate cooking?

Coq au vin

Why is it that some people really hate to cook? It's a question that Michael Ruhlman tackles in a thought-provoking blog post. He approaches the subject as a response to an article in the NYT Magazine by Virginia Heffernan, in which she judges the call for people to cook for their families as being unreasonably difficult. She asserts that besides being hard, the task of cooking too often burdens only the women in the family, and that a woman's self-worth is unfairly linked to whether or not she cooks.

Ruhlman disagrees that cooking is inherently difficult and speculates that the biggest reason people don't like to cook is because they don't plan ahead. (Perhaps some people are also put off by unrealistic images of people cooking.) Ruhlman also argues that cooking for your family "is a good and powerful force, and failing to cook at least one meal a week that you share with the entire household deprives all of that goodness." He points out several benefits to cooking, including that establishing a routine can "give structure and stability to the chaos of our days," and that home-cooked food is often better for us than takeout. Plus he notes that the aromas given off by food while it's cooking can actually help us relax.

Ruhlman illustrates his point by including a recipe for chicken schnitzel that he made for his family in about 30 minutes.  He concludes his argument by stating that many worthwhile associations go hand-in-hand with a home-cooked meal, and that "failure to plan isn't a good enough excuse to give that up. We all make our own choices. No one should judge those choices. But we should be aware of what those choices mean."

Do you agree with Ruhlman that Ms. Heffernan's excuses for not cooking for her family are unavailing, or is he too harshly judging her legitimate complaints?

Photo of Coq au vin from Ruhlman.com by Michael Ruhlman


  • Barb_N  on  10/14/2014 at 7:22 PM

    I recently read a similar scathing piece about the burden of home cooking on women- I think it was in Slate. I am an MD, I work 60 hours a week yet I love to cook and find it relaxing. I manage to cook 4-5 nights a week; sometimes I cook ahead, sometimes I open a jar. My routine has developed over 20 years though, and when my kids were little it was pre-made meatballs and chicken nuggets. I think either extreme is just that-unattainable. The meal together has benefits, and each family should find the best way to achieve that when possible. "Good enough is good enough"

  • Cati  on  10/14/2014 at 10:15 PM

    What about unrealistic pictures of what people have cooked from their recipe. How did Ruhlman get the panko crumbs on his chicken snitzel to adhere so well when he did not use anything to help them stick? I have to use flour then an egg and milk solution to get panko crumbs to stay on while cooking my skinless, boneless chichen thighs.

  • TrishaCP  on  10/14/2014 at 10:37 PM

    I have lots of thoughts on this one. I'll start by saying that a key issue omitted from Mr. Ruhlman's post is that a lot of families aren't lucky enough to even have a choice about cooking/not cooking dinner and/or having a family meal together. So his viewpoint is already coming from a certain level of privilege that he doesn't acknowledge in his commentary. He does at least acknowledge the greater flexibility one has when they work from home, but only in reference to Ms. Heffernan's situation, not his own (I am assuming here that as a writer he is working from home a lot too). Again, these are flexibilities to which not everyone has access. I think if you want to start judging lifestyles based on what you yourself can do (which I feel like Ruhlman is doing), at least acknowledge the privileges you have that allow you to do as you do. For me, the concept of being able to work on dinner at 6:30 pm a la Ruhlman is total fantasy because I am still at work or am still commuting most days. I make it work by making weeknight dinners on weekends and shopping in advance for quick prep items, but I realize I am lucky to have the time for that even because sometimes I just don't have the time.

  • wester  on  10/15/2014 at 2:16 AM

    There is definitely a discussion going on about this. And I agree with Ruhlman that Heffernan's piece is "a long, shrill, monochromatic whine", which is a pity, as she does have valid points, I just wish she would make them without attacking so many people. On the other hand, as has also been said above, it seems Ruhlman does not really see how privileged he is. There is an excellent piece on how we can have very skewed motivations for cooking dinner, and how these can thoroughly spoil those important dinners, here: http://www.cafe.com/r/9b514042-a7f9-47b5-93da-ffeb0b2a1a97/1/how-cooking-for-others-can-be-selfish . And Wednesday chef has some interesting thoughts as well here: http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2014/10/on-cooking-for-others.html (good comments too). Sorry for giving you even more to read ;-)

  • Analyze  on  11/18/2014 at 8:42 PM

    I couldn't have said it better than the first three commenters. There is truth in what both of the original authors had to say, and they both take it to extremes. I think it would be better if they were both less judgmental and let people decide what they want to do with their time. Of course cooking (or eating) is a wonderful, family-bonding activity, but so are many other things. Each family has to weigh the benefits and costs of their options, and some have more options than others, and we can't all do every single thing that is good for us. I cook from scratch every day, but I would never judge people who don't. I'm glad that most of my friends/family/co-workers/acquaintances/colleagues can still enjoy good food even if they never cook, because of the availability out there, and that they have a choice in how they want to spend their time because of modern advances. I chose to spend time cooking, which leaves me with less time for other valuable pursuits. It's just a trade-off and I'm just grateful that I found something I love to do and that I have time to do it.

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