We think food is someone else's responsibiliity until we are ready to eat it.
So said Joel Salatin in Folks, This Ain't Normal. In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser said that Americans know less about food than we do about celebrities and cars, but we spend more on fast food than on entertainment, education, media, literature, and personal technology combined.
While we spend our time socializing instead of gathering food for ourselves, the powers-that-be decide what we will eat–through marketing, subsidies, cost, and availability. Production always meets demand, and convenient food is exactly what we as a nation have collectively, however passively, demanded.
To the extent we use convenience food, to that extent we are not cooking. And when we don't cook, we don't know much at all about our food. We don't eat well either.
Many people, such as the rapidly diminishing vocation of farmers, used to give most of their attention to growing or preparing food. Now, we don't give any attention to it; plus, we waste a lot of it! Do you know where your next meal is coming from or what it will be? Do you have a stock of food in case there were a crisis? A community's food used to be stored in cellars; now, it is centralized in the big box store–absolutely artificial, when you think about it. (It's trucked in from states away when there is abundant land surrounding your very own town.)
Animals, albeit, don't have a lot of cognition or responsibility, but at least they never forget to do their foraging, and they never makes themselves sick and dead by their eating choices. We are so advanced we are almost going the other direction again, and devolving (figuratively speaking) in our food-gathering abilities while we chase whatever it is that we chase after.
How have we as a nation gotten to this place? By ignoring our historical, traditional moorings. By focusing on the immediate world of popularity and fragmentation rather than wondering where these trends will take us. We forget from whence we came, forget the sustainability of our surroundings, and don't even think about whether our habits will sustain another generation or two.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Value cooking as the time-honored skill that it is. (Of course, we love it when other people cook, but sometimes don't want to do it ourselves.) Cooks are nigh unto physicians in the abilities they have to direct people's health. Food is such an inherent need of humanity that anything related to its production process is a wonderful thing. Cooks need more appreciation in this day just like farmers do. And not just celebration on TV, or remuneration at a restaurant, but allowing the people in your household the time to focus on cooking and all it entails.
- Make home-cooking a priority in your household. Allot the necessary time for it. Plan ahead. If you will be gone all day tomorrow, do you know what are you going to eat? Prepare some food a day or two beforehand. What times this week will you be crunched for time–such as between work and an evening meeting, or before an early-morning garage sale? Plan ahead so you aren't caught food-less and forced to eat out, or eat less-healthfully, during those instances. Crockpot cooking or bulk cooking can really help with this!
- Where's the virtue in fast-as-you-can cooking? The French, perfecters of the culinary arts and great gastronomes, don't think that way! Magazines in the checkout aisle boast meals made in 15-30 minutes. I like the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated mindset over the Taste of Home/Quick Cooking mindset, personally. What's the best way we can make this dish into something excellent? rather than What's the quickest way we can make this dish taste homemade?
- Some people have designer kitchens and a whole wedding-registry of appliances, but rarely use them. Other people do use their kitchens, but are sometimes inhibited by a lack of efficient space or helpful tools. What can you rearrange in your kitchen, or what other cooking or storage equipment could you purchase, to make food preparation a little easier? Is there anything making it hard for you to cook? and what could you change about that situation in order to help yourself out?
- Mindfulness in eating is better than multi-tasking. Enjoy the cooking process, and the eating experience. Again, as the French would say, it's a lot better, in many tangible and intangible ways, to concentrate on the meal while you are eating it, than to try to seem productive by eating fast food then getting on to the next task. Eating outside in the summertime really promotes mindful, relaxed eating, I have found. One can step away from the clutter of the kitchen or the call of electronics in the house, and be truly refreshed.
Let's all pay more attention to cooking real food from scratch at home. What do you need to do in your life in order to make this happen?
Thanks for reading!