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Is this cooking?

Deenso Nov 17, 2007 02:48 PM

My husband and I were recently guests at a buffet dinner. There was a Manhattan-style crab chowder that both of us very much enjoyed. In fact, I asked the host's mother, who had brought the soup, if she would share the recipe. "Oh, yes! It's really easy! Mix together 4 cans of Campbell's Select Vegetable Soup, a large can of chopped tomatoes, a pound of crabmeat, and a tablespoon each of Worcestershire Sauce and Old Bay Seasoning. That's all there is to it."

On the way home, my husband said he'd never serve something like that to guests - that it wasn't cooking, it was just opening a bunch of cans. I'm not sure I agree, but wonder what you think: is this cooking or not?

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  1. j
    Janet RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 02:54 PM

    It is a level of cooking. You enjoyed it, she put it together, not a store bought item. I think we all have old recipes that call for a can of this and a can of that. If it tastes good, serve it and enjoy. Not all good foods have to be from 2 page recipes. The point is to enjoy the taste of food.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Janet
      Axalady RE: Janet Nov 17, 2007 03:35 PM

      According to Merriam Webster cooking is " to prepare food for eating especially by means of heat". I'd say that this dish that you both "very much enjoyed" meets that criteria. Your husband sounds like a food snob.

      1. re: Janet
        BygTex RE: Janet Nov 22, 2007 04:45 PM

        I don't need to read further. I agree with this statement. Whether or not the methodology is honest "cooking", the idea of preparing food is for the end result, not the faff in between.

      2. n
        NE_Elaine RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 03:25 PM

        You say that you both very much enjoyed the soup, so much so, that you requested the recipe. Does it really matter that the lady made an enjoyable soup out of some prepared items rather than spend the whole day chopping and stewing?

        1. v
          Val RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 03:30 PM

          I agree with Janet and Elaine...it's a level of cooking and you enjoyed it! The person who brought the chowder did not try to pass it off for a gourmet dish or anything like that...it's what I and others might call "low-brow" cooking, but, hey, it's still cooking!

          1. maria lorraine RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 03:59 PM

            The food writers Jane and Michael Stern, I believe, have referred to that era in the 60s when making a meal often consisted of opening cans of foods and frozen foods as "assembling" rather than cooking.

            I like the idea that Janet had -- that this is a level of cooking. Another level, and one that has its own term to denote it, is "cooking from scratch." It's great you enjoyed the soup. I hope you were able to still appreciate it after you learned its provenance.

            1. TrishUntrapped RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 04:05 PM

              This is like the semi-homemade stuff Sandra Lee touts. But if it's good, it's good!

              1. jfood RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 04:55 PM

                1 - Yes it's cooking. And more important not only did you like it but you asked for the recipe.
                2 - The mother was a real mensch and pulled no "i can;t give you the recipe" or "it's a family secret" or "a little of this and a little of that" great lady
                3 - Hubby would not serve it. That's fine if he likes making everything from scratch. He right to do it. But maybe next weekend offer to make it for the family. Hey you both liked it, that calls for eating again. And you can;t beat the ease of preparation.

                Jfood has a "secret" recipe as well for skirt steak. He marinates it in a bottle of Wasabiyaki, a store bought dressing, for 7 hours and then grills. He servd it at 5 separate BBQ's this past summer and in each case one of the couples asked for the recipe. Jfood keeps extras in the house and in each case, he offered a bottle to his friends. Now that's cooking.

                5 Replies
                1. re: jfood
                  b
                  brendastarlet RE: jfood Nov 17, 2007 05:28 PM

                  It's cooking. If they had bought the chowder and just heated it up, it wouldn't be.

                  Honestly, this is what cooking was for a lot of people in the 60s and 70s.

                  1. re: jfood
                    GIAD RE: jfood Nov 19, 2007 05:01 PM

                    Thanks for the good skirt steak grilling tip!

                    1. re: GIAD
                      jfood RE: GIAD Nov 20, 2007 05:40 AM

                      did one last night in the rain. barely got it into the kitchen before it was gone.

                      hope you enjoyed.

                    2. re: jfood
                      Catskillgirl RE: jfood Nov 23, 2007 09:35 AM

                      I agree. I've had friends ask for my recipe for grilled chicken. I hate to tell that that I open a bottle of store-bought Italian dressing and marinate the chix overnight, then grill. :-) But it's still cooking - I take it from raw to delicious. :-)

                      1. re: jfood
                        p
                        Panini Guy RE: jfood Dec 4, 2007 03:25 PM

                        Agreed. A few years ago we discovered Merriman's "Hula Sauce" courtesy of a friend who used to work for Sheraton in Hawai'i. It became the basis of what's probably my best shrimp marinade/cooking sauce (along with "a little of this and a little of that"). Every time we learn of a friend headed to the Big Island, we ask them to bring back a couple of bottles. Most are delighted to discover it for themselves and are happy to oblige. Merriman's steak sauce is great too.

                      2. Karl S RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 06:05 PM

                        You bet it is cooking.

                        If it's not cooking, then you can assign the making of all future meals to your husband that does not involve take out/delivery. Watch and see if he then considers the above cooking....

                        1. t
                          Tay RE: Deenso Nov 17, 2007 06:20 PM

                          According to my Assistant there is 'Store bought', like a cake from a bakery
                          'Homemade', which means there was some adding and/or mixing (even just water) and some heating/cooling, and then there is, 'from scratch.'
                          The very fact that you liked it enough to ask for the recipe, should have told you what we would all say. If you want to justify liking it, add a 1/2 cup of half and half just to heat. It will give it a richer,more 'homemade' creamy taste.:-} My props to the person who was kind enough to share her recipe. A lot of people are not that generous or secure.

                          1. p
                            Pampatz RE: Deenso Nov 18, 2007 10:01 AM

                            I think it's a type of cooking. You enjoyed it and asked for the recipe, so nuf said.

                            I have a chicken enchilada soup recipe from the 70s or 80s that is one of those open a can recipes. I have serves it to guests many times on a cold winter night with jalapeno corn bread. There is never any left and the recipe has spread far and wide.

                            Congratulations to the host's mother on sharing her easy recipe.

                            1. i
                              in_wonderment RE: Deenso Nov 18, 2007 12:54 PM

                              Not sure I understand why you wouldnt serve it to guests? You liked it, he liked it... don't you have some sort of obligation to share the good recipe with others? Maybe not... but I think he might be taking food way too seriously.

                              This isn't a pumpkin pie you bought at a store and try to pass it off as your own (that is something you shouldnt serve). And it doesnt taste bad (again, something you shouldn't serve). It's something delicious you put together. So what if it's easy. Not everything has to have 30 steps and fresh ingredients. Technically you didn't cook fresh ingredients into a cooked food... But I don't see why that matters.

                              1. d
                                dustchick RE: Deenso Nov 18, 2007 02:35 PM

                                The essence of good cooking, in my opinion, is bringing individual ingredients together to make a pleasant whole. If the woman has found a quick and easy way to do so, more power to her!

                                1. m
                                  MrsT RE: Deenso Nov 18, 2007 02:59 PM

                                  Sandra Lee made a whole career out of doing this. I don't know why your husband wouldn't serve it to guests just because he found out it came from a can. Sometimes you need these little short-cuts to make life easier when you're entertaining.

                                  1. e
                                    ESNY RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 05:19 AM

                                    Of course its cooking. Its not from scratch. If you want to make a version from scratch, the only difference would be to make a homemade vegetable stock.

                                    Nothing wrong with canned tomatoes either. If its not tomato season, you are better off with canned tomatoes than supermarket tomatoes.

                                    1. applehome RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 06:25 AM

                                      It tasted good, fine, but nevertheless, there is a qualitative difference between made from scratch and made from canned. Imagine how much better the soup could have been if it had been made from scratch.

                                      We all use shortcuts, and we make our own judgment as to which ones work "well enough". But it isn't snobbery to know and appreciate the difference, or to feel that you wouldn't serve the lesser quality, short-cut version to your friends and guests.

                                      I wonder how many chowhounds look at the Campbell's ad with the "green bean casserole" and think, yum - vs. how many think, how gross!

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: applehome
                                        Karl S RE: applehome Nov 19, 2007 03:57 PM

                                        The question of whether it is in fact cooking can only arise from someone who chooses fine cooking as a hobby/avocation rather than someone who has spent at least a chunk of his life with cooking as a daily obligation. No one who has been obliged to cook would reasonably question what cooking is.

                                        And I, as I am sure many Chowhounds would agree, love old fashion green bean casserole - because it has memories of liminal moments (which, of course for some people who experienced very bad cooking growing up, may be a negative). And *some* of the improvements thereon are good - but they cannot compete with such memories.

                                        The soup from scratch could well have been worse, lest we forget.

                                        1. re: Karl S
                                          applehome RE: Karl S Nov 19, 2007 07:35 PM

                                          But we've all eaten in kitchens that open up sysco cans and ones that make stocks and sauces from scratch. There's no qualitative difference because they're professionals? I guess I miss your point.

                                          I'm not getting into the semantics of what is cooking - that's just a definition - look it up in the dictionary. And of course, anything can be better or worse. But anyone that thinks that the best can be made from factory prepared goods has missed the bus. Good enough can be made from some prepared goods - but as we all know, good enough is the enemy of best.

                                          It's just a matter of what you're willing to compromise, and of course, I compromise with the best of them - I just have no illusions. I have no bad food memories, either - my mom was a strictly from scratch cook, always arguing with my aunts that their use of instant dashi powder was terrible - after all, how much effort does good dashi from katsuobushi and niboshi take? But in her 70's she started using hondashi... Of course, I could tell the difference, especially in the miso shiru - but I never did complain.

                                          1. re: applehome
                                            Karl S RE: applehome Nov 20, 2007 01:38 AM

                                            I just don't see that as terribly relevant to what cooking is (and the attitude of those who define cooking very oddly/narrowly) - which is the question of this thread.

                                          2. re: Karl S
                                            optimal forager RE: Karl S Nov 23, 2007 09:41 AM

                                            "The question of whether it is in fact cooking can only arise from someone who chooses fine cooking as a hobby/avocation rather than someone who has spent at least a chunk of his life with cooking as a daily obligation. No one who has been obliged to cook would reasonably question what cooking is."

                                            I think that's a particularly astute observation...and that's all I had to say.

                                          3. re: applehome
                                            k
                                            Kagey RE: applehome Nov 20, 2007 01:51 AM

                                            I think a big point here is that the original poster DIDN'T "know and appreciate the difference." It's really telling that a soup that she and her husband found so delicious suddenly becomes lesser-quality, short-cut, unworthy of serving to guests just because the information changes.

                                            And, as Karl says, the soup from scratch wouldn't necessarily be better. It's probably a bad example, but I think of Twinkies. You just can't make a Twinkie from scratch.

                                            1. re: Kagey
                                              applehome RE: Kagey Nov 20, 2007 08:37 AM

                                              But it's also really telling that when we try to think of food that is best made at the factory, it's a Twinkie.

                                              The soup from scratch has the potential of being better - you can blame the cook if it isn't. A good cook explores and creates a depth of flavors - the goal of commercial foods, on the other hand, is to please the most common denominator. It really doesn't matter whether we say cooking from a can is a form of cooking or not - maybe it's cooking, but bad cooking - I mean - it's just a word - who cares?!!! The point is that it's a shortcut. Fine. Not the end of the world. But it's not the best.

                                              As to making a decision after the fact of tasting, that happens all the time. If it was good to begin with, all you can imagine is how much better it might have been if it were really made with craft, love, originality, and skill. Of course, you should enjoy the moment of any food for its own sake. But we've all been to potlucks and gatherings where the table is full of the standards off the back of cans and prepared food boxes... green bean casseroles, trifles, to die for something or others... wonderful... great... gee whiz isn't that person a great cook?

                                              When did Chowhound turn into the Sandra Lee mutual admiration society for canned food?

                                              1. re: applehome
                                                KaimukiMan RE: applehome Nov 20, 2007 10:16 AM

                                                The post is not about "it could have been better." That clearly misses the point. Someone thought something was so very very good that they wanted the recipie, when they found out it came from a can (no matter how doctored) they decided it was terrible food, not worthy of serving in that setting. In my mind that is the worst kind of food snobbery. Not from someone who truly appreciates the difference, but from someone who obviously couldn't.

                                                Chowhound is for "people who love to eat." It says nothing in that line about people who love to eat only home cooked meals prepared from scratch.

                                                I think many in here might resent the implication that because they sometimes or even often use prepared food as part of a meal - in whatever form - they are not good cooks. The host of the OP must have been an above average cook to take such common ingredients and turn it into something worth asking for the recipie.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                  Karl S RE: KaimukiMan Nov 20, 2007 11:39 AM

                                                  Precisely on point. This is a pitch-perfect illustration of where Hounds part company with food snobs.

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                    applehome RE: KaimukiMan Nov 20, 2007 07:46 PM

                                                    "resent the implication that because they sometimes or even often use prepared food as part of a meal - in whatever form - they are not good cooks"

                                                    So if someone makes a better, tastier version from scratch, they are what - equally good cooks, better cooks, snobs who are obviously not hounds?

                                                    Of course we don't all make our own prosciutto ham, but that's not what we're talking about, is it? Nor are we talking about using canned tomatoes for sauce - there are well accepted uses for processed products. But campbell's soup? Like I said, we all draw the line somewhere.

                                                    Chowhound has a board for chains - that makes it easy to avoid posts about chains for those folks that think that they are not worth discussing or worse, feel that chains are actually antithetical to the very notion of great food. Perhaps it's time to split the other boards, even the general one, into one for people who feel that campbell's soup makes great food and those that don't.

                                                    Remember Jim's original manifesto talked about food finds - those restaurants and recipes that stand out as beyond the common or ordinary. It's about great food - not just good enough.

                                                    I just don't see the putting down, by calling them a snob, of someone who sees that as good as a recipe was, if it was made from campbell's soup, it could be made better from scratch, as an enlightening process that folks that are truly into great food ought to participate in.

                                                    1. re: applehome
                                                      k
                                                      Kagey RE: applehome Nov 21, 2007 12:45 AM

                                                      To point out snobbery by making a clear and reasoned argument isn't the same thing as putting someone down. And what do you call the notion that we should segregate those who accept Campbell's soup from those who don't? Enlightened?

                                                      The OP thought the soup was great, not "good enough." That's the point. If someone makes a "tastier" version from scratch, wonderful. We'd probably all prefer it. That's not really the point. I make excellent soup from scratch frequently. I probably won't run out and buy Campbell's to make the OP's recipe. But why denigrate anyone who tries it and thinks it's delicious, or suggest that that person be cast outside the realm of people who are "truly into great food?"

                                                      As you said, we all draw the line somewhere. Who says your line is the right one? What do you say to someone who turns up his nose at your canned tomatoes because he only uses fresh? Or someone who looks down at you for buying meat because she will only eat meat that she raises herself (don't laugh--I know these people)?

                                                      Who the heck is Sandra Lee, anyway?

                                                      1. re: Kagey
                                                        applehome RE: Kagey Nov 22, 2007 12:54 PM

                                                        Sandra Lee:
                                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_sh

                                                        There's a world full of this stuff out there. Chowhound used to be a refuge. Now it's just becoming part of it, despite periodic interviews with the McGees and Blumenthals.

                                                        There are 41 posts here that think this guy's a snob and what he said was not at all chowhoundish. Apparently, there's only one that doesn't think so. I don't look at the difference as denigrating anyone - I just acknowledge that there is a difference, and that making from scratch always has the possibility of being better. That's just life - some people think CD's aren't good enough, 1080i isn't good enough, Corvette's aren't good enough... whatever rocks their boats. Calling someone a snob because of higher (or a specific set of ) standards is simply the masses hammering the peg down to size. I say viva la difference, encourage those idiots that push the envelope - and let them bitch that the status quo sucks, because it usually does. Every time I see 40+ people pile onto the bandwagon of calling someone else a snob, I think Chowhound has lost its focus.

                                                        Has this friend of yours ever had any Mishima or real Kobe beef?

                                                        1. re: applehome
                                                          j
                                                          jayes RE: applehome Dec 4, 2007 04:07 PM

                                                          Perhaps, for the OP's husband, it is a point of pride -- that is, it isn't really "cooking" when one cannot take considerable credit (and/or blame) for the final product.

                                                          After all, there is no great craft/skill/technique involved in opening up 4 cans of premade soup.

                                                          1. re: jayes
                                                            Deenso RE: jayes Dec 4, 2007 04:52 PM

                                                            You're right, jayes - that was his feeling exactly. He takes a lot of pride in the meals I serve when we're entertaining. He'd very happily eat that soup again if I made it just for us, but he wouldn't want me to serve it to guests because no real cooking skill is required in its preparation. Everyone we feed is brainwashed to a degree and has come to expect "gourmet" food at our table. I believe he'd feel that serving this soup to guests would be a little dishonest. However, if I happened to have all the staples in our pantry and we happened to have spur-of-the-moment dinner guests, I wouldn't hesitate.

                                                            1. re: Deenso
                                                              j
                                                              jayes RE: Deenso Dec 4, 2007 05:09 PM

                                                              I'm with him on this one. I don't think he is being a food snob when he says he doesn't want to serve the soup to his guests. =)

                                                              It is, after all, simply a matter of different personal standards, of "cooking" and of "hospitality." Some people just feel more "hospitable" when they take great effort in "cooking" up a meal, while others don't see them in direct proportion to each other.

                                                              Gander. Goose.

                                            2. j
                                              Jen_in_NJ RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 06:40 AM

                                              If you start going down that path....then is it 'cooking" if you don't blend your own spices and grind your own flour?

                                              Where do you draw the line?

                                              IMO she used the soup as a base .... just like you would use a boxed stock.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Jen_in_NJ
                                                applehome RE: Jen_in_NJ Nov 19, 2007 06:51 AM

                                                But anyone who has made their own stock knows why it's worth the time and effort. Like I said, we all make our own compromises.

                                                1. re: Jen_in_NJ
                                                  i
                                                  in_wonderment RE: Jen_in_NJ Nov 19, 2007 07:29 AM

                                                  Have to agree jen. I can understand going back to fresh ingredients, but I know we've all used dried before. But as I was thinking about the first question... it's sort of a slippery slope. If you say it's not cooking, then we can take it to extremes. Do I need to go to the farm, and inspect it, before hand selecting my corn, or beans, or rosemary, etc?

                                                  Same with your example of grinding your own flour. Or baking your own bread for use in a casserole. etc.

                                                  Also can we just imagine how many years of your life would be wasted doing things like this?

                                                  Again, I'm not saying canned tastes better. But the OP said the dish tasted wonderful. So we'll assume that its fine in this case.

                                                2. m
                                                  misterbrucie RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 07:11 AM

                                                  I agree with what everyone else has said so far.

                                                  It's fun, though, to take the taste of that recipe and try to recreate it using "real" ingredients.... I remember this super rich, super moist chocolate cake my mom used to bake, and did a pretty good job recreating it (using sour cream and melted dark chocolate chips in the batter). Mom tasted it and approved (well, she is my mom after all). When I told her how I'd done it, she said "Oh, I used to just dump in a box of instant pudding!"

                                                  Also - if it's from scratch, you can control the amount of salt, artificial ingredients, etc.

                                                  1. AlaskaChick RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 07:32 AM

                                                    I'm gonna chime in and say its cooking. I have to agree that there are levels and I use all of them.
                                                    Storebought as it I go by and pick up something fairly ready to serve - usually reserved for when I'm out of town visiting someone or the oops moments.

                                                    Quick at home - a collection of quick recipes from storebought ingredients such as using a cake mix for a base or jarred pasta sauce -gotta know and use the shortcuts and honestly, I don't always have time to make stock so canned works for me.

                                                    From scratch - when I have the time to spend in the kitchen - and in front of my computer or cookbooks to find the perfect recipe. The "with love" kind!

                                                    Its all cooking when it tastes good.

                                                    1. s
                                                      swsidejim RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 07:34 AM

                                                      sounds more like meal assembly, which I guess by a loose definition could be considered cooking. Heck, Sandra Lee gets away with it on a dialy basis. Not a preperation method I follow(I am embarassed to use canned stock in a recipie if I have used up my supply). To each there own.

                                                      I think like others said, the important thing is it tasted ok.

                                                      1. n
                                                        nc213 RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 06:10 PM

                                                        in our house it's "making." For us, when we cut up veggies, grill protein, etc, we're cooking dinner. when we boil pasta and heat up jarred or frozen sauce, we're making dinner.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: nc213
                                                          m
                                                          moh RE: nc213 Nov 20, 2007 09:04 AM

                                                          I appreciate the distinction, nc213, and tend to agree. But if you cook the sauce from scratch (ie. no canned tomatoes!), then boil premade pasta, is it still making dinner because you didn't make the pasta from scratch? Difficult question.

                                                          Also, just because you open a can, it doesn't mean the quality has to suffer. In the winter in Canada, making a pasta sauce with canned tomatoes makes sense, as you can't get good quality fresh tomatoes. There are some really great canned tomatoes out there, and I don't think less of a person for using this product in a homecooked sauce. Again, difficult question. I am not an advocate of the Sandra Lee style of "making dinner", but I wouldn't want to exclude the use of certain products completely. I love well cooked meals made from scratch, and prefer to eat that way, but every once in a while, I feel like a Big Mac (about once every two years). I don't claim it's the best burger ever, but sometimes you just want that artificial taste. I am a huge fan of raw-milk cheeses, but again, once every couple of years, I want a slice of Kraft singles on wonder bread with hellman's mayonnaise. Just one of those things.

                                                          As for the original post: "he'd never serve something like that to guests, it wasn't cooking, it was just opening a bunch of cans" - One of my favourites things to seve is an antipasti plate. I buy cheese, pates, charcuterie, marinated vegetables, olives etc. I open a bunch of jars and packages, I might doctor a few items with pesto or with olive oil, I buy a good baguette (we can actually get delicious baguette in Montreal). I agree that this can't count as cooking, but I would still serve this to guests, as this is a delicious way to eat. If he enjoyed it, then why wouldn't you serve it to guests? If it is good, its good.

                                                        2. PeterL RE: Deenso Nov 19, 2007 09:21 PM

                                                          They have a whole program on FoodTV using that exact technique.

                                                          1. Chew on That RE: Deenso Nov 20, 2007 11:41 AM

                                                            I think I would consider that semi-homemade, which if acknowledged is perfectly fine. No one should assume everything that's served required slaving in the kitchen all day or all week!

                                                            1. Sam Fujisaka RE: Deenso Nov 20, 2007 02:29 PM

                                                              The host's mother is a Zen master cook. She might never answer the question, "Cooking or not?" But she sure generated an interesting discussion as to the basic nature of things.

                                                              1. Chuckles the Clone RE: Deenso Nov 20, 2007 10:10 PM

                                                                This brings to mind the comment, attributed to a lot of people and most entertainingly to Julia Child, directed at Alice Waters: "that's not cooking, that's shopping!"

                                                                I wonder if this story would be different if it was a great tasting vegetable soup and when asked for the recipe, the mother replied, "it's simple, just open four cans of campbell's vegetable soup!" Is -that- cooking?

                                                                I also wonder if the proportion of prepared/unprepared ingredients is an issue? How does a recipe along the lines of "take four cans of soup and add a cup of crab meat" differ from "take four pounds of crab meat and add a tablespoon of canned soup"?

                                                                1. Deenso RE: Deenso Nov 22, 2007 08:20 AM

                                                                  I love the discussion this post has generated! My husband and I are still discussing it, too. I'm firmly on the side of: if you opened the cans and put it together with other stuff, heated it up and added some seasonings, and the result was something good and tasty, then that's cooking, plain and simple. And that's the point. It's plain and simple - nothing pretending to be "gourmet." If someone bought a ready-made dish and tried to pass if off as homemade because he/she added a garnish or a sauce of some kind to it, that would be a lie. But this was done totally openly and without guile. I've got no problem with that and wouldn't hesitate to serve it to others. I love sharing recipes when people enjoy what I've served and even more so when it's something my guests can go home and replicate for themselves.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Deenso
                                                                    Richelle RE: Deenso Nov 22, 2007 03:13 PM

                                                                    I have a pretty large table to feed each night and I love cooking, but I have a few cheap, quick to make suppers that included opening cans, adding cheese, spices and pasta and voilĂ ! Tuna and cheese casserole...
                                                                    After a long day, it is perfect. I think most think me as a gourmet cook or foodie, but I love those recipes that are winners and oh so simple, because let's face it, we don't always have time for the gourmet cooking. And good food is good food.

                                                                  2. Chuckles the Clone RE: Deenso Nov 22, 2007 11:49 PM

                                                                    So one thing that's coming out if this is there's a spectrum:

                                                                    -|---------------------|---------------------|---------------------|---------------

                                                                    .... cooking ........ preparing ........ assembling ...... shopping

                                                                    Ranging from careful, cheflike preparation from raw ingredients
                                                                    on the left to just going out and buying something premade on
                                                                    the right. The inner two activities mostly distinguished by the
                                                                    proportions (in both time and volume) of raw vs. prepared
                                                                    ingredients in the finished product. With the boundaries between
                                                                    each somewhat fuzzy. And the disagreement we're having is
                                                                    whether the word "cooking" should only describe what's going on
                                                                    on the far left or should encompass more of the spectrum.

                                                                    Something maybe worth noting is that the line may actually be
                                                                    a circle: at the way far right is the hunter/gatherer who walks to
                                                                    the berry bush and walnut tree and chows down, which is pretty
                                                                    much what the chef on the way far left is doing except he puts
                                                                    the berries and nuts into a galette or something first.

                                                                    Confusing everything is the restaurant Quimet i Quimet in
                                                                    Barcelona, serving world-class tapas strictly out of cans.

                                                                    1. EWSflash RE: Deenso Nov 23, 2007 07:46 AM

                                                                      I think this has generated some great discussion, and I'm glad somebody posted the original. Everybody has their shortcuts, whether they'll admit it or not.

                                                                      But does anybody besides me think it's hilarious that the poster's husband, a food snob (with a capital "snob"), couldn't tell that the base of the soup was campbell's vegetable soup? That's one of the world's most identifiable flavors, in my opinion.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: EWSflash
                                                                        Chuckles the Clone RE: EWSflash Nov 23, 2007 09:00 AM

                                                                        Not "hilarious" at all. There are lots of possible explanations.

                                                                        Maybe he doesn't eat soup from a can? And didn't recognize it because he'd never
                                                                        had it?

                                                                        Or perhaps he identified the taste and being a true chowhound, rather than some
                                                                        other insulting word, was very curious about how the cook managed to reduplicate
                                                                        such a classic flavor? Even though I'd never buy a twinkie myself, if someone
                                                                        I knew baked something that tasted exactly like one I'd be all over them trying
                                                                        to learn how they did it.

                                                                        1. re: EWSflash
                                                                          i
                                                                          in_wonderment RE: EWSflash Nov 23, 2007 11:36 AM

                                                                          yeah... that's interesting, isn't it? im 22, and i called out my aunt on her broccoli casserole... mmm, is that campbell's cream of mushroom? again, maybe he's never had it, but it is very identifiable.

                                                                        2. marmite RE: Deenso Nov 23, 2007 12:54 PM

                                                                          I had a roommate who always made soup for my dinner parties. So many people complimented him on it, and asked me to get the recipe from him. I forgot to ask him until the next dinner party I had, when I wandered into the kitchen when he was making the soup- cans of chicken broth and vegetables. As luck would have it, no one asked me again to get the recipe, and I was pleased. I didn't want to have to say 'go to the canned aisle in ShopRite, and buy what you saw in the soup.' But since everyone obviously enjoyed it, I guess I shouldn't have been concerned. I think I got more uptight about it than my guests would have. :)

                                                                          1. w
                                                                            willownt RE: Deenso Nov 24, 2007 03:54 AM

                                                                            So, if you, a self-professed chowhound, "very much enjoyed" the chowder -- enough to ask for the recipe, then didn't it pass the tasty test?

                                                                            Why does something have to be "difficult" to count as "cooking"? Doesn't it count as fine fare to have strawberries drizzled with balsamic? How about tomatoes, basil, and mozarella stacked on storebought bread?

                                                                            1. MeffaBabe RE: Deenso Dec 4, 2007 09:15 AM

                                                                              Isn't that what Sandra Lee calls SEMI HOMEMADE COOKING? I have done it- in fact I have a great quick dessert from Sandra Lees show- frozen berries poured into a casserole dish- crumble sugar cookie dough (yes the pillsbury kind from the dairycase) ontop and bake according to the cookie recipes... your guests will love them. I make them in individual ramikins and everyone thinks you slaved over dessert- If asked for the recipe just tell everyone its a family secret! Unless of course your not too embarrassed to tell them how easy and simple it is....

                                                                              1. jennywinker RE: Deenso Dec 4, 2007 11:16 AM

                                                                                I'm afraid my vote is for "assembly," which I do not include as a subcategory of cooking. I'm not saying there's no place for assembly (although Sandra Lee makes my cringe). Personally, I avoid any recipe that includes a can of soup as an ingredient, or salad dressing as a marinade. Or a BBQ sauce recipe that includes BBQ sauce as an ingredient. That's just me. Don't bug me about what I eat, and I won't bug you about what you eat.

                                                                                1. p
                                                                                  Pincus RE: Deenso Dec 4, 2007 01:17 PM

                                                                                  Is it cooking? It was assembled and processed by someone who was not a machine or an employee of a food delivery enterprise. I call that cooking. (Assembled includes everything from opening cans to making chiffonades, in my world. Similarly, processing includes everything from stirring with a spoon to the latest techniques in molecular gastronomy.)

                                                                                  Is it skillful cooking? In terms of effort and materials, no. In terms of pleasing guests, yes.

                                                                                  Can your husband use this as a stepping stone to develop his own recipe that will please him more? Of course! Isn't that part of the fun?

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Pincus
                                                                                    amymsmom RE: Pincus Dec 4, 2007 05:11 PM

                                                                                    I agree with you... pleasing your guests, that's what I think cooking for company is all about.

                                                                                    I have to admit, I'm a bit of a snob when I entertain, only in that the only cans I'll open are chicken broth or tomato sauce. But some of my favorite meals are partly out of cans and frozen vegetable bags. I regularly add some veggies to a can of chunky soup. I have frozen okra for a canned gumbo, corn for vegetarian vegetable soup, and broccolli rabe for Italian wedding soup. Today I got exotic - chopped up some fresh escarole for the wedding soup - great quick, yummy lunches (and warm on freezing days like today).

                                                                                  2. Chuckles the Clone RE: Deenso Dec 4, 2007 02:35 PM

                                                                                    In _How to Cook a Wolf_, M.F.K Fisher presents a tomato soup cake recipe which
                                                                                    uses, as an ingredient, a can of tomato soup.

                                                                                    1. p
                                                                                      pasuga RE: Deenso Dec 15, 2007 05:31 PM

                                                                                      Back in the early sixties when I was about seven my folks took me to the World's Fair in NY, and we had tomato-based crab soup in the Maryland pavilion. Still remember it as one of the best things I ever ate.

                                                                                      I don't give a damn if it's cooking or not - I was so happy to find something similar and the recipe is on my hard drive. THANKS !

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