Mary Ann Esposito and the Thirty Minute Meals

Posted on November 30, 2005

It's all Rachael Ray's fault. Blame it on her "30 minute meals" cooking show and books. Because the hot trend in cookbooks now is how to make gourmet meals in 30 minutes or less. People just don't have time to cook for several hours a day. Now Italian chef and cookbook author Mary Ann Esposito has entered the world of 30 minute cooking with her new book, Ciao Italia Pronto!: 30-Minute Recipes from an Italian Kitchen (St. Martin's Press). But she isn't happy about it.

"Our life today is about two things, the same things as the Romans -- bread and the circus," said Esposito, who has been bringing Italian cooking to television viewers for 17 years. "Feed me and entertain me."

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"I think the whole reason cooking shows are so popular is because people don't cook," she said. "People say 'Wow, that looks like a good dish. Maybe I'll make it someday, even though I have no intention of ever doing it.' " Somehow our priorities have become confused, Esposito said. Europeans celebrate food and its social nature; Americans treat it as a nuisance to be expedited.

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"You can have gourmet food in your kitchen. You just don't know it," Esposito said. "The twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings have never been taught to cook. You have to start from scratch and that's what this book is about."

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"Cooking is not considered fun, but what are the great joys in life? Number one, being alive. Number two, enjoying food," she said. "I'm hoping (this book) will get people off the couch and into the kitchen and see how easy it is."

She has a point. Most Americans would rather have Mary Ann Esposito in the kitchen whipping up some fabulous Italian creation than spend the time doing it themselves. Ciao Italia Pronto! is in bookstores now.


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