Simplicity Rules

On Sunday night, I watched a segment on 60 Minutes about the marriage of artificial intelligence and quantum computing. I’ve known about both technologies because I read the MIT Technology Review, an excellent source for staying informed about our fast paced world. Each issue delves into a new technology’s impacts from a historical, scientific, demographic, educational, political, economic, sociological, environmental, and cultural perspective. I’ve anticipated the convergence of AI and QC for a long time, but the 60 Minutes episode heightened my awareness to a new level. What happens when these two huge technologies marry? Hold on! Whoa!!!

Now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with food and cooking. After the program ended I sat in my chair and stared at the wall glazed over like a zombie. I contemplated the dizzying pace of societal change and a growing complexity of life that seems to have no end in sight. Then I remembered one of my most deeply held values: simplicity. You already know how much I love simplicity – every recipe I write about has minimal ingredients, requires little cleanup and takes only thirty minutes or less. Simplicity rules!

I often read recipes and re-write them in my head to eliminate unnecessary steps and stuff to wash. I sometimes wonder “What on earth are these cooks thinking?” They want me to use every pot, pan, and utensil in the kitchen. When I’m finished, I will be knee-deep in things to wash, dry and put away. I will likely feel very crabby and ask myself why I even made This Thing. Why follow a recipe exactly just because it said so? Break free from all the recipe shoulds and musts. Cooking should be enjoyable, not a chore that leaves our kitchens looking like a massive tornado just ripped through it.

When I read a recipe, I look for ways to simplify it and ask “Do I really need three bowls to mix this?” Can I combine steps and use only one bowl? Is there a shortcut that won’t compromise the recipe’s integrity? For example, my beau James taught me that it’s not always necessary to sauté an onion before adding it to a recipe. The onion usually cooks enough, has plenty of flavor, and a delightful crunch. I would have never thought to question this step. After all, my mother and grandmother and probably my great grandmother always did it that way.

Sometimes the most satisfying meals are the ones cooked with a sprinkle of ease and a dash of freedom. Do what feels good and eliminate the fluff. And who knows, after AI and QC marry, the best meals just may be the ones cooked by your robot.