Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Working with the world

This Michael O'Hare piece on engaging with the physical world is worth a read. It's a riff on a Michael Pollan article bemoaning that we spend more time watching cooking shows than we do cooking, but it goes beyond that to talk about fixing cars, working on the house, etc.

I'd take it even further and throwing making music into the mix as well. Assembling a bookshelf from Target is not "building furniture", and playing a CD is not "playing music", but I've heard people use those phrases. Microwaving a box is not making dinner, either, I suppose I should point out.

Now that the kid is eating real food, Christie and I (mostly Christie, some of you might be surprised to hear) have been cooking almost every night. We do it because we want her to be healthy, and to have a healthy relationship to food as she grows up, certainly, but some of it is that peculiar idealism that comes with being a parent. Sure, we believe it's better to cook than to eat out, that it's better to read than to watch TV, etc., but when it's just us, it's easy to get lazy and take shortcuts. Now that we have a kid, we're trying harder to walk our talk.

And it feels good to make meals somewhat from scratch (we're not exactly grinding our own flour), just as it feels good to build a piece of furniture, or make a quilt from scraps. For Christie and I both, part of the joy of doing those things is that it ties us into a tradition. We learned to cook from our mothers and grandmothers, and had parents and grandparents that were more likely to be out doing than inside watching.

But there's a tension as well. Watching Ask This Old House and reading Fine Homebuilding have definitely raised my comfort level in taking on projects in completely new areas. Watching America's Test Kitchen and The Minimalist podcasts have introduced me to new techniques and flavors that I never would have tried if they weren't showing up on my Tivo.

But I also have to throw a little love at the Tivo. I remember back in the day when a Saturday afternoon meant choosing between watching home improvement shows and doing home improvement projects. Now, I can save a cooking show, watch it while I cook, and pause it when I need to. I can work on the house all day on a Saturday, then watch Tom Silva fix a rotting threshold while I'm taking a lunch break. Having a DVR makes it a lot easier to use these shows as a reference, not just entertainment.

No comments: