Twenty-Minute Menus

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Contemporary market research indicates that most working Americans are willing to devote no more than fifteen to twenty minutes to the preparation of a meal. It is no accident that two out of three American households have a microwave oven, and the industry reports a 20 percent annual increase in processed foods for such appliances. Nevertheless, microwave meals are still not acceptable with respect to guests--unexpected or otherwise. This latest work by Marian Burros, who also gave the cooking public KEEP IT SIMPLE: 30-MINUTE MEALS FROM SCRATCH, thus satisfies a real need.

For those who must prepare meals in short order, Burros presents the essential information in as concise a fashion as possible--each menu is available without turning a page, eliminating those alarming surprises that lurk within the pages of most conventional cooking manuals. Moreover, not only is a separate listing of ingredients furnished for rapid examination, but also the author provides a “game plan” to ensure that everything arrives on the table at the same time. In addition, a suggested list of items for the well-stocked pantry, “tools for quick cooks,” and a select list of mail-order suppliers are contained within this handy, compact volume.

This cookbook is not designed for families with small children, unless the individuals in question eat separately from their offspring or find that circumstances allow the preparation of an adult menu. On the other hand, this work does allow those who are awaiting parenthood to avoid a diet of microwave meals, peanut butter sandwiches, and perpetual trips to the local fast-food outlet. Admittedly, the recipes involved require a certain familiarity with basic cooking skills, but the procedures are outlined in such a manner that even the novice will be able to survive the experience without too much damage to either the kitchen or the ego. The author asserts that the meals described are in accord with the dietary guidelines from the Surgeon General’s report on nutrition and health--a claim which may meet with a certain amount of skepticism on the part of the average reader--but there is no denying that this work provides a welcome opportunity for those who seek flavorful, satisfying meals constructed from fresh ingredients.