Thursday, May 23, 2013

Who is Cooking? Part II

I was flying home Monday from the National Restaurant Show, when I read some of the letters to the editor in the New York Times regarding the May 11th op-ed “Pay People to Cook at Home.”  The letters further validated my April post: “Who is Cooking?”

Read On:
“PayPeople to Cook at Home” was written by Kristin Wartman a journalist who writes about food, health, politics and culture.  She presents an interesting point of view as it relates to the current debate that food advocate Michael Pollan recently initiated.  He contends Americans should take control and eat more intelligently/healthier by getting back into the kitchen.  If you have time, I suggest you click on the link and read Kristin’s op-ed.  She provides some original solutions, including the concept of the “1.5 jobs model” which several Northern European nations have instituted.  Men and women are allowed to work 75 percent of their normal hours when they have young children (e.g., in Sweden until children turn 8).  Consequently parents have more time to nurture their children like shopping for food, cooking or tending to a community garden.

Back in April, in response to the release of Pollan’s latest book, I questioned whether America was ready to rebuild a culture of cooking.  I argued that we are suffering from time deprivation thanks to our busy lifestyles.  Most Americans prefer processed convenience foods or inexpensive restaurant meals that tend to have more unhealthy calories and are less nutritional value than carefully planned home cooked meals.  A majority of the letters confirmed my rationale.  To quote one woman from Brooklyn: “Try getting home at 6 or 7 with children weary from after school, starting your fresh-cooked dinner and supervising homework at the same time.”    

Ms. Wartman and I both agree home cooking will require a major cultural shift. 

What do you think?


  1. This is 100% true. People time to meal plan, shop and prepare. when you get home at 6 or 7pm to hungry families, it's not feasible to wait 2 hours more for a meal. Until work hours become more manageable and we have a cultural shift to health and families, we cannot expect people to cook from scratch.

  2. I agree with Jaime; the unfortunate reality is that we do have an unhealthy relationship with food, which is why we put such a low emphasis/priority on it.

    I think time is definitely the major issue, not just in terms of preparation, but also in having the time to express our creativity through our cooking.

    That's one of the reasons why I enjoy cooking as once you become comfortable with a particular cooking technique/style, you can start to play around with it to discover your own personal version of that dish.

    Of course, to do that means we need to have dedicate time and mental processing power to conceptualize and plan it out. Thanks to today's increasingly fast-paced, on-demand world, we're unfortunately allowing that aspect of our living take a backset.

  3. Our culture which currently emphasizes the financial does not value work/family balance , home cooking only 1 component. Until such a shift occurs we should refrain from blaming the many who do their best by their families despite the pace . Lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, secondary smoke , and too much drinking also contribute to Unhealthy life styles

  4. Jimmy! (long time no talk:) ) I agree with your Mom from Brooklyn and with Jamie. Not only is it a tough scenario for overworked, underpaid Moms (and Dads too), but there is tremendous social pressure to feed your children nutritiously or suffer the judgment of the nearest SuperMom.

    I disagree that "most Americans prefer processed convenience foods or inexpensive restaurant meals". The choice to serve fast food is partly an economic issue. If I have $5 to get dinner for 3 kids and Mickey Ds has burgers for a buck, why think organic? Almost very difficult to afford organics for a family. As well, whole grains, etc. often cook microwaving! So, if you're SuperMom, maybe you can plan and shop for your week's meals on Saturday, cook everything Sunday and freeze it in cute, pre-labeled, perfectly portioned meals, AND show up for dinner every night, in dress and pearls. Not the case for most of us. And sure, there are those who prefer such foods and care nothing for the growing obesity problem. (pun not intended)

    Anyway, as we'll all agree,there is NO more important "initiative" in our lives than the care and feeding of our children. Do I think we need to take a fresh look at how this gets done? Absolutely.

  5. Jimmy, interesting topic. We are making some progress. Recently for medical reasons I had to adopt a low fiber diet for a while. I was shocked at how hard it wasto find processed white bread at the supermarket. It was down on the bottom shelf and only a meager few options.

    My food strategy for a busy life is to cook a big-batch main course on a weekend afternoon and freeze meal-size portions. on weekday nites I just have to nuke the maim and add quick veggie and carb side - both fresh of course.

  6. Interesting comments. Thank you all for weighing in.

  7. time seems to be the biggest factor in eating the right way. how does one do it all? prioritize the best we can.