Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cooking: We can solve it all

I have written before about how I think it is ridiculous that we are an obese society.
Monday, while I was clicking around on one of my favorite blogs, I found an old post that added another layer to my thinking about how cooking can fix our country's problem.

Jenny Rosenstrach, celebrated author and blogger wrote an article for the blog Superbug.  In this post on her own blog, Jenny wrote about guilt that parents feel and  quoted Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug, as saying this:

"I have a small private belief — for which, despite being a science writer, I can produce no data — that much of the complex difficulty of the American food system would vanish if people knew how to cook. When I say “cook,” I don’t mean mimicking “Top Chef” theatrics, or reproducing the transglutaminase excesses of molecular cuisine; I don’t even, particularly, mean carefully following recipes. What I mean, instead, is getting people to a place where they can walk into a store, or into their own pantries, emerge with a handful of ingredients, and make them into a meal.
If people trusted they could feed themselves, without much effort or advance planning, they wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the lure of fast and processed food. And if sales of those diminished, the market for the cheap products of industrial agriculture would diminish too. This I believe."

As my husband would say..."Boom goes the dynamite". Maryn hit the nail on the proverbial head. This concept that people don't know how to cook, really cook,not just warm up had never occurred to me. 

As someone who loves the Kitsch of the 1950's and 1960's, I love those old ads and commercials for products that were supposed to make housewives lives easier. Advertisers were smart. Families made more money than they had in years and were looking to improve their lives. Marketing to the new concept of convenience was brilliant. And successful.

Chef Boy-Ar-Dee’s Pizza Pie Mix (1958)
 Now  that mentality is ingrained in our society that we can't make dinner without Hamburger Helper or canned bread. Lunches can't be packed unless individual prepackaged sandwiches, chips and cookies are included. How much easier our lives are now that we are spending more money on things that make us sick. 
Eating out used to be the symbol of being wealthy. Now, organic and local food have taken the place. Stores like Wholepaycheck   Wholefoods cater to that way of thinking. And why wouldn't they? I am willing to pay for a product that I find valuable, despite the fact that I am far from wealthy.

There is a grass roots movement to change how we think about food. Knowing where our food comes from is just one step in the process. Placing value on the quality of what we eat is another. But, the first step seems to be knowing what to do with the food. 
Learning to cook is one of those things that the feminist movement removed from schools, in it's quest to make things "equal".  I am a feminist, but I believe that instead of removing the "women's role" classes, we should have made them mandatory,  just like learning how to change a tire and your own oil. These are (save your) life skills. Parents who didn't learn these skills cannot pass them onto their children. Chicken/Egg problem.
Jenny makes a number of great arguments for eating dinner at home, including health,  monetary and relationship incentives.  The question is how do we teach families to cook?
* Looking for more information? Start with these two blogs. 
They will change your way of thinking.


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