Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Contrarian Cooking: An Anti-Recipe Approach (CARA)

If you eat to live (ETL), read on.  If you live to eat (LTE), stop now.

There is a business axiom that a project cannot be simultaneously optimized for Time (T), Money (M) and Quality (Q):
  • a high-Q low-M effort may take a long T (e.g., a low-priority but interesting work)
  • if work is to be done in a short T with high Q it takes a lot of M (e.g., a high-visibility effort)
  • and when T is short and M is low, Q suffers (e.g., "cheap" products and services).
Extending these rules to cooking is false.  High-nutrition meals (high Q) are both cheaper (low M) and take less T than lower-nutrition meals.  This seemingly contradicts the common sense.  The key to the fallacy is the definition of quality (Q).  If Q is equated with taste, then in fact, it may take more T or M.  However, the consideration of taste is not applicable to those who eat to live (ETL), while those who live to eat (LTE) should have dropped out at the end of the first paragraph.

Here are some examples of optimal T-M-Q in cooking:
  • hard-boiled eggs are easier to prepare (low-T) than scrambled eggs, they have fewer calories and additives (high-Q), and cheaper than a restaurant omelets or other sources of protein (low M)
  • eating hard-boiled egg whites is the most optimal as they are both a good source of protein and lack calories and cholesterol of the yolks
  • fresh spinach is both more nutritious (high-Q) and less time consuming than cooked spinach (low-T) for the same M spent at a supermarket
  • raw fruits and vegetables are more nutritious, more filling and generally healthier (by stimulating the chewing activity) than juicing
  • water is better (Q), easier (T) and free (M) in comparison to any liquid alternatives.
The above considerations are logical and easy to understand, and still most people don't follow the optimal T-M-Q approach to food and cooking.  The reason is the cultural emphasis on recipes.  Cookbooks are the highest selling books.  The majority of women and many men are proud of their recipes.  Grocery stores provide cooking instructions for the produce that should be eaten raw.  Health food experts do not have the courage to point of out the fallacies of cooking.

Note here that this is not an endorsement of a completely raw diet that may not agree with one's digestive tract and may require additional effort (T) on keeping the bacteria count low.  Neither is this a promotion of vegetarianism.  It is a simple common-sense approach to simplifying one's meals (T) while preserving high Q and low M.

The key to the Contrarian Anti-Recipe Approach (CARA) is to forgo the idea of recipes.  In a grocery store buy produce (vegetables, fruits), eggs, meat (turkey, chicken, fish), milk.  At home look at your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator as a "salad bar."  Pick different colors, mix, eat.  It is that simple.

No need for cook books.  No need for recipes.  Follow CARA.