When Michele was first trying to get with me, he made me some profoundly beautiful ravioli. He got up early on a weekend morning and made his dough… [and also completed] at least an hour’s excursion for just the right ingredients to fill his ravioli… He [then] rolled out his pasta with a rolling pin, like his mother uses, not even availing himself of the relative ease and short-cutting use of those stainless steel crank jobs that roll dough on a galley kitchen counter the size of a standard ironing board… [and] he cut out each round with a pairing knife, not even a cookie cutter, and filled each one by placing the… mixture in the center of the round, draping another disc of dough on top and then sealing the edges with a damp fingertip. He made dozens this painstaking way.
Blood, Bones & Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton, on her ex-husband’s efforts to court her using painstakingly traditional methods of scratch cooking employed by his stereotypical elderly stay-at-home Italian mother

In this clip, Cooked author Michael Pollan explains that the most important thing about one’s diet is not a nutrient, it’s an activity (cooking). But is it? Not to say that some packaged junk foods aren’t just that — junk. They are. Cheetos and Oreos have no nutritional value. But while some microwavable foods may include preservatives and some packaged foods may include questionable ingredients, pre-packaged meals may still deliver the same amount of nutrients at a lower financial and caloric cost than their scratch counterparts. Packaged is not always bad, and “natural” is not always healthy.

The outsourcing of much of the work of cooking to corporations has relieved women of what has traditionally been their exclusive responsibility for feeding the family, making it easier for them to work outside the home and have careers. It has headed off many of the conflicts and domestic arguments that such a large shift in gender roles and family dynamics was bound to spark.
Cooked, Michael Pollan

Cost: $39.75

Preparation Time: 3 hours

Culinary Knowledge: Advanced (rolling dough, broiling, sautéing, browning, etc.)

Taste: Exceptional filling, tough dough

Calories: Way too many per serving (there were 4 oz of goat cheese and 8 tbsp of butter used in the recipe)

Eaten: In a shared meal with others 

Unlike the microwaveable or “semi-homemade” meals, this organic butternut squash ravioli dish was made completely from scratch. Every individual ingredient, from the seminola and wheat flours to the goat cheese and butter, was organic in its own right. Because no ingredient in this meal was previously prepared, the length of cooking time increased dramatically, as did the culinary knowledge necessary to complete every component of the dish. The price for each fresh, organic ingredient was also much more expensive than the price tag on the dish’s previously prepared counterpart. In modern society, very few people have the time, knowledge and resources necessary to prepare such a meal. Furthermore, this dish was extremely difficult to make, and even with substantial culinary experience, I had trouble reaching the right consistency in the pasta. So who would be relegated with the task of preparing such a meal today? Stay-at-home women, whose husbands’ paychecks could support both their families and the wives’ attempts at such complex family meals. And, really, who has time for that?

Cost: $3.59
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Culinary Knowledge: Basic stovetop usage
Taste: Average
Calories: 230 per serving
Eaten: Alone 
As mentioned by Pollan in his work Cooked, another popular method of cooking in the United States is to make “semi-homemade” meals (Sandra Lee style). By adding a few homemade touches to pre-made store-bought ingredients, Americans take less time to cook a meal than by traditional means and still receive a result they can take credit for producing. This method of cooking allows for more control over dietary selections than microwave cooking does, but not as much control as making an entire meal from scratch would. For example, this particular package of pasta is an organic one from health grocery store Whole Foods, and so it is void of preservatives and is made entirely of organic grains, vegetables and spices. It also takes much less culinary knowledge than a scratch meal would take to prepare to make a “semi-homemade” meal; as in the case of this ravioli, the most complex part of the dish to prepare must just be reheated to completion in boiling water. 

Cost: $3.59

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Culinary Knowledge: Basic stovetop usage

Taste: Average

Calories: 230 per serving

Eaten: Alone 

As mentioned by Pollan in his work Cooked, another popular method of cooking in the United States is to make “semi-homemade” meals (Sandra Lee style). By adding a few homemade touches to pre-made store-bought ingredients, Americans take less time to cook a meal than by traditional means and still receive a result they can take credit for producing. This method of cooking allows for more control over dietary selections than microwave cooking does, but not as much control as making an entire meal from scratch would. For example, this particular package of pasta is an organic one from health grocery store Whole Foods, and so it is void of preservatives and is made entirely of organic grains, vegetables and spices. It also takes much less culinary knowledge than a scratch meal would take to prepare to make a “semi-homemade” meal; as in the case of this ravioli, the most complex part of the dish to prepare must just be reheated to completion in boiling water. 

Cost: $2.50
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Culinary Knowledge: Basic microwave usage
Calories: 260 per serving
Taste: Exceptional for microwave meal
Eaten: Alone
One of the most common methods of cooking for the modern American is done with the help of the microwave. Popular microwave meal company Lean Cuisine offers this low-calorie, quick and “healthy” version of butternut squash ravioli in nearly all retail grocery stores. This microwaveable meal can hold its own in a freezer for months on end without spoiling, as it is made with dehydrated vegetables, preservatives and various other flavored powders. It’s a meal of convenience, both for those short on time and on culinary knowledge. 

Cost: $2.50

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Culinary Knowledge: Basic microwave usage

Calories: 260 per serving

Taste: Exceptional for microwave meal

Eaten: Alone

One of the most common methods of cooking for the modern American is done with the help of the microwave. Popular microwave meal company Lean Cuisine offers this low-calorie, quick and “healthy” version of butternut squash ravioli in nearly all retail grocery stores. This microwaveable meal can hold its own in a freezer for months on end without spoiling, as it is made with dehydrated vegetables, preservatives and various other flavored powders. It’s a meal of convenience, both for those short on time and on culinary knowledge.