Fewer Ingredients = Recipe For Simpler Life

Many years ago, I had this stupendous idea: a four-ingredient cookbook.

“Wow!” I announced to anyone who’d listen.  “A recipe book for the rest of us! For people who don’t have time to chop and peel 16  different things between the downtown traffic and the soccer game.”

The response was lukewarm, and my four-ingredient gem died along with other family and friend fantasy inventions – the pager (remember those?) that looked like a piece of jewelry and my daughter’s digital ingredient detector.

As far as I know, the pager jewelry and ingredient detector never got off the ground, but everywhere I look now, the mini-ingredient recipe idea is flourishing.

“Why didn’t I run with that?” I ask, probably joining the person who first thought of the hula hoop. “I KNEW it was brilliant.”

Actually, from what I’m seeing now, I was insufficiently bold.  The speedy cookbook de rigeur is not four ingredients but three, as shouted from the front cover of a recent Real Simple (tagline: “Life Made Easier”) magazine, which promises to transform three ingredients “into something far greater than the sum of their parts.”

As the original prophet of minimal-ingredient cooking, I must admit I’m impressed.  The color photos of the apricot glazed pork chops on the cover look amazing. Ditto, the grilled portobello quesadillas.  To say nothing of the grilled sesame sweet potatoes.

A quick trip through Amazon showed me I’d missed an entire parade of three-ingredient cooking, most notably led by an award-winning chef named Rozanne Gold.  Seems that with life moving faster and faster, she’s  cranked out nine three-ingredient cookbooks, including one for kids, since 1998. She would probably not be interested to know that I had the idea – with one additional ingredient – even before then.

Even though she cheated a little (salt, pepper and water don’t count), I must admit that she and her Creamy Carrot-Ginger soup are inspiring, as are her Salmon Steaks with Cornichon Vinaigrette and the Green Beans with Pesto and Walnuts.

I’ll go ahead and confess that that my four ingredients were running more along the lines of one chicken breast, a can of cream of chicken soup, some broccoli and a solid shot of sherry.

Still, I was no less pure than the Real Simple offerings, which count a store-bought chocolate pound cake or a refrigerated rolled piecrust as an “ingredient.” Determined not to miss the boat again, my mind is racing.

“Why not a TWO-ingredient cookbook?” I thought the other day.   Unfortunately, the book has been written, and recipes for the two-ingredient pumpkin cake (spice cake mix + can of pumpkin) and a “junkburger” (pound of ground beef + large can of vegetable soup) are flying around  the web.

“So why not a ONE-ingredient cookbook?”  I thought.  More hope there.  A posted recipe for one-ingredient ice cream (a frozen, blended banana) has already received 502 comments, and I think I have just the thing.

Since salt and water don’t count, how about a book on boiling eggs?

Copyright 2011 Pat Snyder


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