Thursday, November 1, 2012

Random Thought on Bad Cooks

I should start by emphasizing the fact that I love cooking. Love it, love it, love it.

I love experimenting with food, trying out recipes, and coming up with new things for me and the hubby to eat. I especially love making something myself that is usually purchased from a store. If I can find basic guidelines or a recipe for something, I'm up for trying it.

So, last week, I was getting pretty excited about making food for Brayden in a few months and was thinking about how much things have changed over the years (yep, this is a "good ol' days" posting). The conclusion I came to was this: If you're a bad cook, it's not really your fault. It's one of those unfortunate "changing-times" things. Allow me to explain...

I'm always surprised by how many of my female friends tell me "I'm such a bad cook." Or alternatively, how many of my male friends complain about their wife's "sub-par" kitchen skills (because clearly using "bad cook" in the same sentence as their significant other is a no-no). I have quite a few of friends who eat out regularly because they simply "can't cook." For the most part, when you think about our grandparents' (and to a lesser extent, our parents') generation, this just wasn't the case. You think of the proverbial 1950s housewife (donned in an apron) taking a pie out of the oven while her husband and 2.5 kids eat an elaborate rack of lamb. You don't typically think of that scene ending with the family pushing away the meal because it tasted like something you clean your car with.

By and large, our generation's cooking skills just don't hold a candle to our grandparents'. I'm sure there are dozens of reasons for that, but I think one of the biggest (and most unfortunate) reasons is because of the way meals have shifted to outside of the home. Our grandparents didn't have a McDonald's on every street corner or the ability to eat out at restaurants every week. Eating out was a luxury - a treat.  The way they fed themselves (and this is a novel concept here...) was by cooking. Practice makes perfect and they practiced all the time.

The other part to this is that because meals were cooked and eaten inside the home, kids grew up around cooking and typically helped out during the process. I'm sure most of our parents or grandparents spent countless days helping their own parents in the kitchen. They were righ there next to their parents -- mixing, blending, breaking eggs and observing. From an early age, they were exposed to cooking. From an early age, they were learning skills of the kitchen. And, from an early age, they were being taught that there's nothing wrong with spending an hour preparing a meal with love. This is so much different than today's generation who I fear is learning that speed and convenience is far more important than quality. Or that food is an afterthought or something to fit into a busy schedule. There's really no replacing homecooked meals made by people who love you and enjoyed at the table with your family (Recently, there's been a plethora of scholarly research done about the diminishing "family meals" and how important they really are for families and children).

Because so many more families eat out (and eat out often) these days, there just isn't the same focus on homecooked meals. And when parents do cook, I wonder how often they include their children in the process. I'm sure a good many of them do... but I'm also betting it's not nearly as it once was.

When my dad came to visit me in Virginia last summer, we went to a local farmer's market to get fruit for some jam I was making. He was so shocked that I knew how to "do all that kind of stuff" and was able to make a batch of (super-tasty!) jellies and jams that ended up lasting almost a year. This was normal in our grandparent's generation. Canning, preserving, making homecooked meals and being a good cook were the norm. They seem more like the exception these days. And you know, that's sad to me.

Personally, I'm really excited to expose my kids to cooking and to make it a point to eat together as a family at the kitchen table. I'm excited to have them help me in the kitchen and to teach them everything I can. I also know that I'm a fairly skilled cook. It seems to take more effort these days to know your way around the kitchen. But in my opinion, it's totally worth it.

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