Cooking: The Project Manager’s View

13 09 2009

It’s always seemed to me that cooking wasn’t ‘hard’ in of itself but dedicating the time to it was. Chopping and dicing veggies isn’t a difficult process. Getting them perfect may be but that is all about how you want to define success. A bag of pre-cut and frozen veggies is in fact easier but mostly in the time dedication way. I think most people find it easier to make pre-made food than it is to rearrange their schedule to cook well.  The path of least resistance if often the one taken.  And with that observation there is no judgement only a re-framing of a common expression.  Sometimes looking at it from within a different framework different details emerge. Some are interesting and some are not.

But I digress.   Time and food. Time and eating.  The seed for tonights re-framing came from another blog I was reading.   Her words crystalized my words into this: cooking is like a project. And project managers say you can have 2 out of 3 but not all 3 of: time, quality, and cost.  This guideline applies to food and cooking as well.  Obviously there are exceptions to all this guideline but it certainly seemed like a starting place to investigate my own eating habits.

For example, the sous chef and I have been cooking almost exclusively out of the farmers market this summer.  It’s actually REALLY cool to think about how I only go to the grocery store to get crap food that I crave or need because I forget my lunch.  The crap part isn’t the good part in of itself but the part where maybe 1% of our dinner is coming from there.  Anyway I’d personally say that our meals have quality but lack in the time category as we spend a few hours cooking every other day.  That leaves us with cost.   A woman at the farmers market asked me once whether we were saving money by shopping there.  Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention to the cost as that hasn’t been a driving factor in any of this so far.  But today it occurred to me that I’m probably spending more money but not because the veggies are more expensive but because I’m actually buying veggies, and herbs, and fruits.  Before the farmers market time I would just buy processed carb products; which were cheap and yummy.  I bet I’d be saving money if I had been buying the same kind of food at the grocery store and especially the same amount.  So in the end I’m spending more money but I’m actually eating quality food.  Or to continue in the faux business terms my gross cost is higher but my adjusted net cost is probable less.  Go figure.

Back to the project management metaphor I’m exploring here. In that case I’d give cost to the farmers market side so we’d end up +cost, +quality, – time.  2 out 3.  It’s easy to imagine the +cost, +time, -quality version where I only at mac-n-cheese, frozen pizza, and pb&j all the time; house brands only of course.  But what about the +time, +quality, -cost side.  Perhaps that is eating out at a good restaurant. Or paying someone to cook for you. Or buying quality pre-pared food.   The challenge is most people want +cost, +quality, AND +time.  Of course there are ways to get closer to that with many “quick healthy recipes” but many of them are -cost at some level. 

This is by no means a proclamation of the adage fitting but a starting point to examine my own eating habits using this “categorization” scheme.  In the end I suspect that all three combinations will have their moments to shine and the key to eating well is using them all in an accurate way.  Another form of food balance.

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