Home Cooking: A Returning Art?

From Joe Yonan:

How about you? How many evening meals do you cook at home? We do 5 — Sunday through Thursday. 

Throughout the book, Pollan reminds us how much cooking matters. The food industry, he writes in one example, was all too happy to step in when women started working outside the home and couples were at risk of arguing over who should get dinner on the table. “In the end, women did succeed in getting men into the kitchen, just not their husbands,” he writes. “No, they’ve ended up instead with the men who run General Mills and Kraft, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.”(One criticism: He largely ignores the role of restaurants, from celebrity-chef-driven places to mom-and-pop joints.)

Pollan shows us the folly of our decision to hire food corporations and other industrial forces as our live-in cooks. The consequences include the gluten intolerance that he suggests might be tied to modern flour cultivation and processing, and the compromised immune systems that might be related to our diet’s relatively recent absence of live-culture foods. What’s the most reliable predictor of a nation’s obesity rate? It’s not income. It’s not the share of women in the labor force. Quite simply, the higher the percentage of a country’s residents who cook, the fewer of them who are obese….

Ultimately, he makes the case that cooking is a political act, one that declares our resistance to the “learned helplessness” that the food industry likes to insist requires an outsourcing of dinner. “To cook for the pleasure of it,” he writes, “to devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Dean

    Six to seven a week for us. We eat out 1-2 times a month.

  • Dean

    We have compelling reasons though. I’m a type 1 diabetic and my wife has celiac [gluten intolerance].

  • Joe Canner

    Another problem with processed food (both home-”cooked” and restaurant) is the amount of salt, which is a known risk factor for high blood pressure.

    We try to have 5-6 dinners at home per week, thanks mostly to my wife and daughter, the latter of whom is a vegan who loves to try to impress us (and convert us) with interesting vegan recipes. I like to cook and am reasonably good at it, but I am too slow and don’t have the time and patience to do it regularly.

  • Phil Miller

    I think it’s kind of disservice to romanticize the notion of cooking meals at home. The truth is that it takes a lot of work to do it consistently. My wife and I don’t have children, and we both work full time, and even without kids, it feels like a hassle to have to prepare meals.

    I think this article makes a better point. What we should aim for is to make convenient food that is also healthy. http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/healthy-affordable-fast-food-feminisms-holy-grail/274948/

    Demonizing the food industry is a losing battle in the long run. The fact is that we aren’t going to become a society of people who grow our own food, and expecting everyone to spend their free time shopping at farmer’s markets isn’t realistic.

  • metanoia

    In 2006 my wife quit her job. It was a mutual decision based on wanting a simpler lifestyle. Prior to that we cooked dinner at home twice a week, usually Saturday and Sunday. Ironically I am the one who cooks most of the meals now. It hardly ever takes more than 30-40 minutes. We eat better, save a lot of money, and our time together preparing and subsequently cleaning up is a great way to bond. As a further bonus, now when we eat out, it’s usually a “dress up” affair and much more enjoyable.

  • Andy W.

    We eat out maybe once a quarter, so we’re cooking 7 nights a week for our family of 4. My wife works part time, but I do almost all the cooking because I enjoy it and I can controll what we eat! Simple wholesome ingredients – lean meats, veggies, rice, beans with the occassional treat. I’ve read “Omiviours Dilema” and am currently listening to “Salt, Sugar, Fat” which is about the processed food industry…very scary!! It’s quite obvious why we have such an issue with obesity and diabeties in the US. The food giants are now passing this same trend to other parts of the world. I don’t think it’s a mistake that 2 of the food giants are owned by Phillip Moris and RJ Reynolds…tabacco companies!! They’re taking the same approach to food that they used to sell and market tabacco products!!

  • Elizabeth

    We do 6-7 meals/week at home. Probably eat out once or twice a month. I enjoy cooking and grew up somewhere that demanded my mother cook *everything* from scratch….so I learned from her. I like to improvise with whatever ingredients we have on hand. I do the day-to-day meals…and if we have a new or gourmet-type thing chances are my husband made it.

  • kerry

    We cook most meals at home and rarely ate out when our children were at home. We had a family agreement to eat dinner together every night and cooking was my contribution to that covenant.

    I grew up on a farm so I can, and do, cook most meals from scratch, although I enjoy not having to bone meat these days! As someone has already said, it is a lot of work to cook everything but definitely healthier. I do enjoy playing truant from the kitchen when I am really busy.

    My sons only appreciate the commitment I made to their diet now that they cook for themselves, but encouraging they prefer “real food” too – and my daughter in law is very grateful that our son cooks most meals!

  • Terry

    I’m conflicted: we eat one dinner meal at home (and love it, favorite meal of the week), but sometimes none, each week. The other days it’s eating out, and sometimes twice or even three times each day. Although we try and do take out and eat restaurant food at home several times a week so it feels more like cooking at home. Does that count? But then, I own the restaurants we eat at each day, and we create up to hundreds of meals by hand each day for others. It’s not the simple, quiet and artfully healthful lifestyle I would have chosen, then again it is a primary source of ministry for my family in our community. Often serving 12-14 hour days, arriving home at 9-10p each night allows little choice. I grew up on Hamburger Helper so I don’t complain much. Additionally, my wife is up early baking dozens of scones every Sunday morning for our congregation which gathers for breakfast before worshipping together. Home cooking can have an other than traditional look–even if I too could appreciate the traditional. One person’s learned helplessness is another person’s love your neighbor as yourself. :)

  • Mike M

    “Cook your own” isn’t necessarily the same as “grow your own” so eating what you make doesn’t mean you have to become a “little farmer.” However, it does help to grow whatever you can: google “small space gardening” & “aquaponics” some time to see the truly amazing technologies that have developed recently. As with recycling, your little efforts may seem hopeless at times (especially after a trip to WalMart when the basket in front of you is loaded with Cheez Whiz, Froot Loops, and Coke) but take consolation in the fact that at the same time millions of others are doing the same thing. And keep the rules of good nutrition in mind: it does no good to eschew the crap the corporations sell as “food” if you make garbage at home.

  • http://themongers.blogspot.com Rachel M

    Living in Tanzania for the past few years, we appreciate the slower pace of life and no packaging! Food comes from the local market, we take our own basket and load it up with loose fruits and vegetables and bags of beans and rice … just the amount we want! Everything is cooked from scratch – bread, cookies and meals … and more appreciated! We want to encourage a nutritious, varied diet in the local villages here so encourage small kitchen gardens – and are having fun experimenting with them! We use the phrase “God gives us life!” a lot – let’s take care of it!


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