Junk Food vs. Cooking?
My Mom was a really good cook, my Grandmother was an amazing baker and my Dads Mom was quite the cook herself. Cooking was just part of our life. My parents threw dinner parties, my Mom had cookbooks and was definitely creative in terms of the day to day meal. Not that we didn't have our basics like broiled chicken, rice and a vegetable but we weren't picking up a bucket KFC for dinner.
Josh and I were talking about the costs of junk food vs real food this past weekend. He told me that you can actually buy a 20 piece bucket at KFC for $10. $10 can also buy you a whole chicken, a box of rice and a stalk of broccoli. Hmmm, which is healthier?
I have been reading Kathleen Flinn's latest book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. The book will be released 9/29. She writes about nine culinary novices and how she turned them into fearless cooks. She became obsessed with helping these people improve the way they eat after literally following a woman in the grocery store with a cart filled with bad food for her and her family. She convices this particular woman to swap out the processed food for healthy food that she can make at a lower cost but soon realizes that this woman has no idea how to cook.
Mark Bittman wrote an article in the NYTimes about pretty much the same issue called Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? The answer is no. The core problem is that not only is cooking is work, I am not sure that many people really know how to cook healthy. I also believe that the biggest problem lies with low-income families who can't afford to go to a high-end store and buy prepared food. BTW, that food isn't so good either but at least it is healthier. The good news is that there are a variety of organizations trying to help change that by teaching young people to cook and understand where their food comes from. It has to come from within to change the culture.
The other good news is that food has become a big part of our economy. The DIY generation is very interested in where their food is coming from as the farm to table revolution is underway. They are also taking that piece from the 50's where people, friends and family sit down to have a meal together vs grabbing something on the go.
Many years back I had two friends who wanted to cook but always felt that they would somehow fail in the kitchen. They didn't enjoy the process and one of them was seriously concerned if she didn't make it right that she would make someone sick. One of my friends really for the sake of her children and family got into cooking and figured out to make a meal quickly. She is not only a good cook at this pont she actually enjoys the process and is definitely proud of the outcome. For my other friend, for her birthday many years back, I went to her house with a box of spices from Penzeys and gave her a list of basics to have when I got there. I taught her how to roast a chicken, roast vegetables and a few simple tricks on how to take those basics and mix it up.
She threw a luncheon for a bunch of people last spring and sent me her pictures. They were amazing. She has turned into a pretty damn good cook and for her family it has been a joy. It doesn't take much to whip up some eggs, mix together some vegetables and olive oil and roast in the oven or roast chicken. After you do that you generally become a little more adventurous once you see how easy it really is. The question is, how do we teach as many people as possible to feel comfortable cooking in the kitchen even if it is only a few times a week.