Lucy Corry’s Blog: Is life too short to grate a carrot?
Has the world gone mad with its plastic-clad fruit and pre-grated carrots? It’s complicated, says Lucy Corry.
In 1975, English writer and journalist Shirley Conran made the bold statement that ‘life was too short to stuff a mushroom’. Her book, Superwoman, was a kind of ‘domestic encyclopaedia’ that encouraged women to ditch menial chores in favour of things they wanted to do. Alas, this feminist call to arms came a year too late for my mother, who was asked to stuff eggs for a Country Women’s Institute ‘do’ while pregnant with me.
My mother was an uncomplaining, saintly type, but years after the fact this request still rankled. If only Conran’s book had come out a bit earlier, or she’d been more of a mind to tell the CWI to get stuffed. Either way, she never made stuffed eggs again (thank goodness).
No one would dream of making such a request these days (especially not of a heavily pregnant woman in her 40s), would they? Now, life’s too short to do anything. Or we’re told that it is. Funny how we all have so much time to scroll mindlessly on the internet but we don’t have time for basic kitchen tasks, isn’t it? Convenience food is nothing new — frozen ‘TV dinners’ were a thing long before Shirley Conran penned her modern household manual — but the prevalence of convenience components seems to have gathered speed.
For every cottage-core type knitting their own yoghurt, there are two more people buying plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables that have been cut up and packaged by someone else. I totally understand what it’s like to be time-poor, but my life is still not too short to slice a frozen banana. Or grate a carrot. Or boil an egg.
You might think I’m joking but these things are all available in a supermarket near you. To me, this is madness.
Like the guy in the Tiktok video above, my freezer has sometimes been a graveyard for frozen bananas. I’d no sooner buy a bag of pre-sliced frozen bananas than I would buy a TV dinner. In fact, I’d probably buy a TV dinner first. Even more concerning is the grated carrot. Nearly a year ago I saw a tweet from a horticultural conference that said pre-grated raw carrot was selling like crazy in New Zealand supermarkets.
I had to read it twice to make sure it wasn’t fake news, because it seemed outrageous to me that people preferred to pay nearly four times as much for pre-grated carrot rather than spending less than two minutes doing it themselves at home. A 250g packet of grated carrot costs about $2, or the same as a kilo of whole ones.
It strikes me that you have to be quite wealthy or quite lazy to buy pre-grated carrots on a regular basis. As far as culinary status symbols go, this is a very weird one. Don’t even start me on the boiled eggs.
Has the world gone mad, or is it me? I don’t want to sound like a martyr to the cause of domestic harmony, but I don’t find slicing a banana or grating a carrot that onerous. Indeed, if you want to spend less time on your phone, they’re just the thumb-occupying tasks you need. Even better, you could encourage someone else in your household to do these little jobs while you get on with something else, like smashing the patriarchy, fighting climate change or perhaps just staring out the window of someone else’s life.
Post-Superwoman (and Lace, the scandalous novel that was banned from my Catholic girls’ school), Shirley Conran got rather tired of being asked if life was still too short to stuff a mushroom. However she was adamant that prioritising was still a crucial skill. “First things first, second things never,” she said.
If buying frozen sliced bananas makes you feel like you’ve got more time for the important things in your life, more power to you. Just make sure you’re prioritising the right stuff.