Think You Could Cook 90 Meals in 1 Month?

“I was looking online at my credit card statements,” said David Tamarkin, the editor of Epicurious, “and there were two charges a day from the Conde Nast cafeteria—and that food is horrible!” It was then that he challenged himself to cook three times a day for a month. “My primary motivation was to save money, but also I felt a little lame that I wasn’t cooking for myself.”

This turned into a plan David called Cook90. His simple, compelling, and obviously challenging idea is that he would cook every meal he ate for a month—with three passes. After three years, in which tens if not hundreds of thousands of people joined him (Cook 90 became an Instagram phenomenon), the idea is a book, subtitled “The 30-Day Plan for Faster, Healthier, Happier Meals”—but that’s obviously a marketing line, and the book is smarter than that.

Tamarkin is adamant that this is a plan, not a diet: “It’s so not Whole 30,” he says; “it’s all just about cooking.” (One of Cook90’s conceits is the use of “nextovers”—ok, I wish I’d thought of that word—in which you make a dish with the intention of using some of it the next day.) During his month, he cooked more or less everything (the cookbook is a not-especially well-defined hodgepodge, which is not a bad thing), because he believes (as I do) that “Cooking is healthy pretty much no matter what you cook. Of course you can’t eat cake all the time, but when you’re intentional about your cooking it’s pretty easy to plan balanced meals for yourself. And you have to plan for each week for Cook90, so it’s easy to see where you might be going wrong.”

We all know the financial, environmental, culinary, social and mental health benefits of cooking; generally speaking, it’s a healthy behavior. For many if not most people, however, it’s a tiresome chore, or a challenge, or a new behavior that just seems too difficult. Tamarkin’s original goal—to force himself to cook—has become a plan to show people simply that it can be done. Clearly it’s not for everyone, but cooking is something that deserves converts.

“One of the problems is all the opportunities not to cook,” says Tamarkin. “Entire industries want us to believe that cooking is so much harder and more time consuming than it really is.”

The fundamental principle, obviously not proven, but sensible, is that once someone demonstrates to themselves that they can do it—actually cook—there’s not only a kind of muscle memory but a love of the process. At the very least, says Tamarkin, “You’ll be cooking more than you did before.” (I suppose there are some people who will try it and say “cooking sucks,” but I’ve never met one.)

At the end of the day, Cook90 is both a plan—one that can be summarized in a half-sentence—and a cookbook: One with really nice recipes. Tamarkin’s favorites are below. Happy cooking.

— Mark


Photo: Chelsea Kyle

Tamarkin's meatballs “are kofte-style, basically ground meat with onion, herbs, and harissa—nothing extraneous. I serve them with tomato sauce and salted yogurt.”

LAMB MEATBALLS WITH HARISSA


Photo: Chelsea Kyle

"A classic shakshuka," Tamarkin says, "involves a spiced tomato–red pepper sauce; here that sauce is replaced by garlicky white beans."

WHITE SHAKSHUKA


Photo: Chelsea Kyle

"Beans and greens are great on almost every carb: in tortillas as tacos, over rice, on flatbread," says Tamarkin. "They’re also good without any carb at all, served in a bowl as a side. But whenever skillet-fried toast is an option, I take it. This is dinner food for me, but it also makes a good brunch with a fried egg on each plate."

SMOKY BEANS AND GREENS ON TOAST


Photo: Chelsea Kyle

Tamarkin says, “Chris Morocco, an editor at Epicurious, takes slabs of feta and bakes them with chickpeas and greens, then calls it ‘dinner.’ It’s so good. This is my version with tomato sauce; you eat it with pita or over polenta, and it feels decadent.”

BAKED FETA WITH CHICKPEAS AND GREENS


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.