I'm amazed at the prevalence with which food is being marketed to us as 'convenient'. Out of all the inconveniences we trip over in life, surely food is not one of them.
I recently sat on a panel of judges of some esteemed food awards and I was frankly alarmed at the number of ready-made products that have popped up to help us cope with our busy lives - snacks bars and meals-in-one in particular.
Cooking a meal can be pure pleasure providing you have the necessary ingredients on hand, the most important of course being...time. When we're short of time we are more susceptible to reaching for something 'convenient' to lessen the bothersome nature of cooking. Manufacturers know this and have long been plying us with products that will 'save us time' in the kitchen.
The truth is, there's always a price to pay and invariably it's in the taste department. To gain shelf life, price advantage and ease of processing, it's rare that additives or regulators aren't used and in doing so, the flavour is altered. Famous chef Alice Waters once said, "Let things taste of what they are".
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Here's a meal that takes about 15-20 minutes: get a big pot, fill it with hot water from the tap, set it on the stove and bring it to the boil. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea (about 1-2 tablespoons), add dry spaghetti and cook for 10 minutes.
While it's cooking, grab a bowl, tip 1/4 cup olive oil into it, grate in 1/2 cup of parmesan - or as much as you can afford on one meal - then squeeze the juice from 2-3 gorgeous lemons and whisk it all up. Drain the cooked pasta, saving about 1/4 cup of the starchy water and pour this and your cooked pasta into the bowl with the oil/parmesan. Mix it up and dish it up.
I don't believe in the 'no time to cook' theory - it's too convenient as an excuse.
* Look out for Viva food editor Nici Wickes' weekly report every Friday.