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is it correct that home cooking skills are seriously disappearing in our society??

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  • MarkG Jul 15, 2006 03:15 PM
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the impression i have is that basically people interested in cooking at home in today's America are over the age of 45 and that the younger generation has no time, interest or skills. that we have become a microwave, can opener and take out society. agree? disagree?

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  1. Well, I am 31, and my husband and I make home cooked meals 6 nights a week. I am very interested in cooking and try to make meals which are 'fast' to prepare (no microwave, but 1 hour or less in prep), healthy and delicious. I don't have any children yet, but hope that when I do that I continue cooking and that dinner is prime family time.

    I do think that many of my friends don't have the same attitudes / interests that I do. At least, I haven't found anyone my age who is as into it as I am.

    1. My wife and I are both 26 and we cook at home 3-5 nights a week. I'll admit we do get many recipes off of the food network (Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger is our favorite) and we do try to keep prep time to a minimum. Like Danielle, I agree that most of our friends don't do this. To them, "making" dinner equals one heating one of those frozen dinners in a bag or making something out of a box like hamburger helper.

      1. Agree, most emphatically. I don't know if the disappearance of cooking skills is necessarily age related, I know of few people of any age who enjoy cooking regularly. At best it's regarded as a hobby or entertainment. So people might watch cooking shows on TV or talk about restaurants and unusual cuisines, but getting down to making puff pastry or a demi-glace, that's too much like work.

        I've had many friends ask about learning how to cook Chinese but at the first sight of garlic and ginger, or a cleaver and chunk of meat, their interest wanes. There's no motivation to learn technique or the basics which form the foundation of any cuisine.

        Everything has to be quick, easy and mindless. So there's a huge industry in pre-processed foods - pre-washed salad greens, mixes for sauces or cakes, pre-sliced veggies and meats. These maintain the illusion that the buyer is cooking just like mom and grandma used to do.

        12 Replies
        1. re: cheryl_h

          Making puff pastry and demi-glace has never been a common practice in the American kitchen. I studied the puff pastry directions years ago, but I have never tried to make it myself (from scratch). Have you?

          What did 'mom' buy? Unwashed iceberg lettuce, frozen fish sticks, condensed canned soups, jello mix. Had 'mom' ever heard of puff pastry?

          Sure there have been changes in cooking and food purchasing habits over the decades, but I think it is debatable whether there has actually been a decline in interest or skills. The diversity within any one generation has got to be greater than differences between generations.

          paulj

          1. re: paulj

            Yes I make puff pastry from scratch, also demi-glace and just about everything else. I have never bought mayonnaise in my life, or any kind of pastry. I worked through Julia Child many years ago.

            My mother never bought processed foods, ever. She made a full meal from scratch every day. She also worked a full-time job. I learnt to cook because she needed help, I was her sous-chef as soon as I could reach the countertop. I never encountered fish sticks or canned soups until I left home and went to college.

            I wasn't raised in the US, don't know how much difference that makes.

            1. re: cheryl_h

              I would suggest that you are a rare exception (and I'd love to eat at your house, it sounds like!); even I, who make most things from scratch, don't make my own puff pastry.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                You really should try it. It is really very simple. I have also pulled my own strudel dough. Very cool.

                Btw, I am 25 and cook supper from scratch 6/7 days a week.
                -Becca

                1. re: Becca Porter

                  I remember my Hungarian grandmother making strudel dough -- it went from a silky lump to covering her entire kitchen table, thin enough that you could read through it! I haven't yet done it myself, but I will. Do you have a good recipe? I have some lovely tart cherries in the freezer -- cherry strudel! Now I'm hungry.

              2. re: cheryl_h

                Well, I think it might make a lot of difference where you were raised. I think as a country we are falling further and further away from an emphasis on family and more towards a mentality of every man for himself.

                You are a rare exception, and I take an immense amount of pride in raising my own child the way you were raised. (except I don't make puff pastry and demiglaze!!)

              3. re: paulj

                I was under 30 when I learned to make puff pastry, my own strudel dough and to make pickles, jams, jellies etc. I was interested and wanted the challenge. No my mom never did any of that except in her 50's learn to make her mother's bread and butter pickles. She was a full time teacher with 4 kids to feed.Yes there was the occasional Kraft Dinner and fish sticks, Swanson's pot pies were looked upon as a treat, but mainly she cooked weekends, real food btw. Another trreat was when my parents were going out and we each got to pick a TV dinner for our individual meal that night. That did not happen very often.

                It may be bias on my side, being an old home eccy, but with relegating some life skills classes to also rans in our schools many of the younger generations are losing out. Many of their parents are clueless and don't have the skills, or interest or convince themselves that there are more important things in life.

              4. re: cheryl_h

                I worked in kitchens with "kids" under 30 and they all cooked at home and had excellent knife skills, were interested in fresh ingredients, and knew how important a clean kitchen is! They will be great chefs by the time they are 35. I am 53 and was very impressed. (My mom made frozen dinners in the 60's). Because kitchens don't use pre-cut ingredients, they knew the importance of saving $$ by cutting your own. (By the way...I see nothing wrong with buying pre-cut if ya can afford to do it!) I prefer farmer's markets but hey...the times they are a changin. If it is easier, doesn't mean it isn't as good!

                1. re: melly

                  I don't avoid pre-cut veggies and salad greens because of cost, I do so because they have higher bacteria levels than the uncut, unmixed versions. I like the convenience of mixed salad greens but the possibility of food contamination turns me off.

                  1. re: cheryl_h

                    Wash em..I use water and vinegar. I wash everything that I bring home.

                    1. re: melly

                      So do I. Not all bacteria can be washed away. I'd rather avoid the problem altogether.

                      1. re: cheryl_h

                        Then how do you clean your lettuce? Even if it isn't the pre-packaged greens, if it's a head of green leaf, for example, how do you ensure it's free of bacteria?

              5. i don't think you can chalk up young people's disinterest to just being young. i think it all depends on how you were raised. i'm 28 and my fiance and i try to cook every night we can. my usual grocery shopping routine includes 3 different stores (one for produce, one for general grocery items, one for meats/fish). it's a pain, but it's important to me to have the best quality i can afford. my parents are filipino and my mother cooked dinner every night (with the occasional chinese take-out here and there). i stood on a step stool next to the stove so i could watch her. i went to the store with her, did the prepwork and fetched ingredients, basically was her assistant. these days sometimes i get home too late to cook a full meal, but the hound in me can't settle for just take-out or pizza. i still try to make a balanced and creative meal, but in a quick manner. i like trader joe's b/c they have a large selection of frozen or pre-prepared items that aren't processed or loaded with salt and preservatives, and can be made quickly. not my first choice, but it does the job in a pinch and is healthier than tv dinners or chef boyardee.

                i think younger people have more of a general interest in cooking. people my age have been watching the food network for almost a decade, and celebrity chef's are about as popular as rock stars. i can't speak for all the people in my age group, but i know that from my group of friends most of them are interested in knowing more about good food and want to learn how to become a better cook. yes, some of them are part of the microwave, can-opener, take-out society, but their lack of knowledge, interests and skills were all passed down to them by their parents (the american age 45 and over group).

                4 Replies
                1. re: rebs

                  a thought provoking reply. perhaps it all started when women entered the work force full time. i wonder if cookbook sales and sales of pots and pans have been affected??

                  1. re: MarkG

                    perhaps, but my mother was a full-time nurse, her mother a full-time teacher (and mother of 7!), and i'm currently a full-time grad student who just recently dropped her full-time job to work part-time. i agree with another poster who says that most people who don't cook just aren't interested in food in general. and i think one's interest in food is reflective of their parents interest and attitude towards food.

                    i don't have real numbers, but i would guess that cookware and cookbook sales are higher these days b/c of the increased popularity of cooking shows and marketing of "professional quality" cookware with some tv chef's name on it (think wolfgang puck, emeril, or rachel ray). le crueset items have become somewhat of a status symbol and most engaged couples have williams-sonoma or crate & barrel on their wedding registries. cooking is sexy now, chef's are getting younger and better looking. if a guy cooks a woman dinner on a date, serious bonus points. you get the idea...

                    1. re: MarkG

                      Cookbook sales and kitcheware sales are higher than ever. When I was married in the early 70's cook books were a small portion of a book store's inventory, there was not a lot to choose from and your really good popular pots and pans were Revereware and Magnalight with Club almninum and Magnalight as runners up. Look at the popularity of speciality stores for cookware, and when you look at the shelter lifestyle mags the right kitchen with the right stuff is an absolute must, even for those who do not cook and don't care to, it is just an accessory and a status symbol. As a Realtor I see that a lot. The cookbooks are purchased by the people who have a true interest in food. Some may be good cooks and some may never cook anything out of a book but like to read and fantasize. I think that is why lots of us who have a real interest, tallent, appitude etc. love stores like Half Price Books becuase that is where many of those books end up

                      1. re: Candy

                        I too am a real estate agent, until recently in the Napa Valley. I can't tell you how many multi-million dollar houses I saw where the larder was bare, and the $12,000 range, which had obviously never been used, had $400 in flowers on it. It seems as if a granite counter is required to sell any house now-a-days.

                  2. I have to disagree. I am 32, myself & my husband and almost all of our friends can cook. Interest varies from obsession to medium interest level. I would say most people I know who don't cook just aren't that interested in food in general. And there are some others know that they should be able to cook, know that scratch cake is better than box, etc, but they are intimidated.

                    But there are certain things like puff pastry and demiglace that I won't be attempting anytime soon. Doesn't mean I don't use fresh garlic and ginger (have been since I was a teenager), or that I don't chop meat. But I can't debone a chicken breast to save my life so I buy them. I make tons of muffins, cakes etc and am working on my fear of pie/tart crust. To me some things are home cooking, some things are best left to the patisserie & the butcher. Maybe I'll get there eventually!

                    1. I don't know if you can make such a sweeping generalization like that, as I'm sure you'll find many many examples which will run contrary to your statement. I'm sure there are a large number of people under 45 (why that age?) who love to cook as there are a large number of people over 45 who hate to cook. I have about an equal balance of friends, all of whom enjoy good food - some of whom are as passionate as I am about cooking, some who'd prefer to come over to my apartment and have me cook for them.

                      I'm in my mid-20s, and started cooking on a regular basis when I was in college and couldn't abide the meal plan. Sure, it wasn't fancy food back then - a lot of pasta and a lot of simple stir fries - but it was still cooking, and far more than the simple open-can-reheat deal. I do think it comes down to more a desire to want to cook, but I still don't think it's a matter as simple as age.

                      Re: women entering the work force. My mother is a doctor, worked full-time, and yet still had a home-made meal on the table 29 nights out of 30 (and also made our lunches for school every single day). Perhaps this is a more of a rarity, but I know that nearly all of my high school friends enjoyed the same.

                      What I find most often amongst my friends who don't like to cook is that they believe it takes a lot of time, energy, and skill. Perhaps the first two are true - when you're making something extravagant, or are hosting a dinner party. Cooking doesn't have to be so involved, but there's often the misconception that it is. So perhaps as much as I dislike Rachael Ray, she, and others of her ilk, have perhaps let people realise that it doesn't take too much time to prepare a good homemade meal.

                      The skill thing, I'm more dubious on. Yes, there are those who demonstrate magnificant craft in the kitchen. But on a more day-to-day basis, to cook, in my opinion, especially in the beginning, really takes only the desire to open a cookbook and follow the instructions that are listed there, much like putting together a bookshelf from Ikea (and perhaps often less cryptic!). It takes some practice, that's all. I remember one of my friends, whose idea of cooking is to heat up a Lean Cuisine, decided to tackle a 3-course meal for some close friends. It turned out marvelously (a roasted beet salad, coq au vin, and creme brulee), to her surprise - she later said that she never realised it was that easy, just following the instructions. Unfortunately, she hasn't attempted to reprise this dinner since.

                      In the end, it comes down to the willingness to spend the time to do it. Are younger people more disinclined than older to not want to cook? Sure, there are nights where I'd far prefer to reheat something from the freezer or order take-out, and sometimes I do. But to boil it down to something as simple as age is not exactly correct, and I'm sure that there will be a fair number of responses that will disagree with you upon this point.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jacinthe

                        Agree with everything you said. I'm 32 and I am an avid home cook. But most of my friends aren't. But I am not willing to make that generalization. The art of cooking and popularity of cooking shows can also reflect a general interest in better food and better cooking.

                      2. Slight problem here: this is definitely skewed crowd. I'm sure it's true that the younger bunch trolling the Chowhound message boards are likely competent and motivated cooks. Alas, there are a whole mess of people out there who would sooner read the telephone book than concern themselves with posts regarding the best way to cook asparagus.

                        Are cooking skills disappearing? Among the general population? Definitely absolutely yes. Twenty-somethings were raised by 50 somethings who learned how to open cans of cream of mushroom soup. They, in turn have learned that the local take-out place makes halfway edible pad thai and caprese salad and bingo - no one is cooking from scratch anymore. Many have learned to EAT multiculturally but they can't even make a pot of chicken soup because they've never seen it done in person. We've entirely lost a generation - and let's face it, you really do learn much of this stuff from watching what goes on at home. Am I discouraged about this? Yes, I am.

                        Our own kids - we Chowhound-dwellers - are probably cooking. Because we do. My own kids are avid and fearless cooks. I'm proud of this. But I know from personal experience that many many of their friends don't know how to scramble an egg. And worst of all, they don't care. You can, after all, buy a frozen omelet already made - so why bother?

                        Sorry for the downer - maybe it's the humidity.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Nyleve

                          Whoa! I am 53 and my kids saw me cook from fresh ingredients...always! We only had mushroom soup in our pantry for well, mushroom soup (or the once in awhile good ole tuna casserole). My mother used to take us to Hooterite farms and we picked baskets of fresh vegetables to take home. I saw my mom make frozen dinners a few times in my growing up years...but only cause she was so facinated with the concept. By the way..my kids are 32 and 35 and they are both great cooks who don't like processed food products. (I started young).

                          1. re: melly

                            My point, exactly. You are a committed home cook. Your kids learned at your side. Here is an example of a generation NOT getting skipped. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in a horrible many homes.

                        2. This is a very interesting subject which I have been debating for years. I write a cooking newsletter called "The Curmudgeon's Home Companion" (curmudgeon.com) and have personally tried to provide recipes which are quick and with ingredients that can be bought at any supermarket. Years ago I was lamenting the loss of home cooking to Martha Stewart and she said "Go to the supermarket and look in people's carts. They are buying raw food to cook." I look and I suppose she's right, but I don't know very many of those people. But in reaction to her comment, and since at the time I was writing about food for a local newspaper, I started being very careful what embarrassing things I put in my cart.
                          One of the things that makes it impossible for a home cook to compete with take-out, especially hand crafted take-out, is a home cook's unwillingness to use the quantities of butter, cream, fat, and salt that a commercial place would use. They are thinking one meal sold at a time. We are thinking a lifetime. But for me, making a good meal is one of the few satisfying things I do. I have a slogan, "A Dinner Party a Month" which I urge on my readers.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Curmudgeon

                            Curmudgeon, I'm probably not a perfect example of your constituency, being kinda old and all, but my shopping basket often has a combination of what you're talking about: prepped veges and oven-ready meals from Trader Joe's, and then skate wing from an Asian market whose rock-bottom price is balanced by the fact that I'm gonna have to rip several square feet of sharply studded skin off of it.

                            I usually shop just a day or two at a time, more or less in the European manner, but I do enjoy buying for a feast. I have a very big frozen rabbit just now, waiting for some cold weather and a nice gathering for Lapin au Moutarde...

                          2. There was an article a few months ago about writing a cookbook and the level of detail required because the writer couldn't assume any skill on the part of the reader. As examples, they quoted someone who angrily wrote to an editor about a newspaper recipe. The directions included to "grease the bottom of the pan". The reader did so - on the outside. And had a huge fire. Another reader wrote in to say he or she didn't have enough eggs for a recipe, could they substitute a peach instead?

                            A friend of mine has worked as a personal chef and taught cooking classes. She laughed about going into perfectly designed kitchen with all the cool stuff - Viking ranges, Sub-Zero fridges etc. etc. She would open the fridge and find nothing but milk, eggs and soda. The ranges had shelves that weren't correctly fitted and had never been used. She was amazed at how little the students in her classes knew. They all wanted to have a family meal just like in the TV shows, just had no idea how to get there. She was hopeful that they were interested enough to take a class but everyone said they had no time, no time. She resorted to the Rachael Ray approach - shortcuts, no technique.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              this made me laugh...thanks!! :-)

                              1. re: cheryl_h

                                1 peach (skinned and pitted) = 2 lg. eggs

                                1. re: cheryl_h

                                  It's fun to laugh at people like that (in a subtle, polite way of course) but I wonder if they're really in the majority now.

                                  1. re: cheryl_h

                                    I too have taught cooking classes and when when I worked as an in-store home economist in the university town I currently live in I was amazed by some of the questions I was asked. My role in the supermarket was to assist the conosumers with cooking and nutritio n issues.

                                    I had someone come up to me and ask which soup was the healthiest and had the least maount of calories and salt and I told him/her the kind you make your self. The person was clueless so I said come with me and too the kid to the poultry counter and explained the basics of making chicken soup which was a miracle to him/her. Then I was asked "can you make other flavors?" Or the 2 girls I heard complaining about the cost of lettuce when it was cheaper back home and her friend telling her the next time she went home she should buy a bunch to bring back and freeze. Oh there are lots more tales that would have some of us rolling in the aisles but it really so sad and as much as I would like to rail about the meidocrity of Food TV at least it is producing an interest and maybe introducing some skills vicariously.

                                    I did get a kick out of a friend calling her daughter one afternoon, and my friend and her husband both are avid cooks, her teenage daughter was home with a friend when mom called to see how homework was coming. Daughter hung up on her saying "can't talk now mom, Julia and Jacques are on."

                                  2. I'm sure there are still people who enjoy cooking and want authentic food. Meanwhile, in some ways, there has never been food of such high quality available and appreciated in the US.

                                    Still, when I took some child care classes, one of the notes that was struck was that children, by and large, are NOT seeing cooking going on in their homes and are missing the valuable experience of helping. The instructor was trying to get early childhood educators to make cooking an important, deliberate part of their curriculum. And I've noticed that the Food Network has picked up and featured this thread.

                                    Cooking teaches or lays down the foundation for children to learn a whole panoply of skills from the social (sharing, cooperating) to sensory development, to elemental and abstract math concepts (counting, fractions) to basic chemistry (catalysts). If double-income families continue to rely on eating out and prepared foods their kids will miss these important and enriching experiences.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: rainey

                                      The sad thing here is we are preaching to the chorus. The parents who ignore learning these very important life skills are not the people who frequent Chow Hound

                                      1. re: Candy

                                        "The sad thing here is we are preaching to the chorus."

                                        Exactly. The membership of a food board isn't exactly representative of the general public. It's like waiting on the checkout line at Barnes & Noble and complaining to the other patrons that most people don't read. Sometimes it's good to vent in conversations like this but it really doesn't change anything.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          Well, in fairness, the instructors were *trying* to change things by getting Early Childhood teachers to make it a regular feature of curriculum so kids would have the experience and *value* it. It's conceivable that these kids would grow up to be cooks.

                                          From my own experience, my mother was an uninspired 50s housewife whose food I can't even remember. However, a couple weeks a year we'd go to visit my father's family still stuck in the 20s in Maine. My great aunt made her bread and just about everything else they ate. My grandfather (her brother) grew most of their produce. My great aunt canned what they needed to get them through the winter. It was plain food and there wasn't a tremendous amount of variety. But it was *excellent* quality, they enjoyed it and I have never forgotten it.

                                          I'm sure that tiny percentage of my food experience has animated everything I've done or learned or appreciated about food since. So I think it's important to listen to what the Early Childhood teachers are saying and doing and reinforce it. And I think that can have wider effect.

                                    2. Almost everyone I know puts energy into home cooking. Most of my friends are busy families in their 30s. In many of the families in which their are two partners, both of them cook (not the case in my own family, but only because I enjoy cooking and he does not- he does have cooking skills, though).

                                      My mom worked full-time when I was a kid, by the way, and is a fabulous cook. We almost always had home-prepared meals. Maybe a positive thing happened when more women entered the work force. Maybe more men started cooking for their families and now there are *more* skilled home cooks.

                                      Where do you get the idea that home cooking skills are disappearing?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MollyGee

                                        I have to agree with this -- my husband and I both work, and he is a fabulous cook. He has perfected the 30 minute meal in our house, coming up with a curry, stir fry, noodle soup, or pasta dish which is healthy and full of fresh ingredients and on the table pronto. He did all of this BEFORE I married him. We have different styles, but split the workload and always cook together.

                                        While my mom always cooked and we always ate dinner together as a family, my mother was bad about using processed foods. She is 66 now, and still uses frozen and canned vegetables and salty soups as the basis for meals (like cream of mushroom soup on chicken).

                                      2. What made a difference for me was home ec. class. I learned about eating from my mom who was a great cook but not a great teacher. The cooking skills I developed I learned from a home ec. class. I wonder if they still teach home ec. in high school?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                          As I said above, and am trained as a Home Ec teacher, very few schools offer home ec classes anymore. It was mandatory when I was in middle school and both boys and girls got home ec and shop, not evenly weighted but both sides were addressed and not only can I cook but can use power tools and manual tools too and know what tool for the most part is needed for a job. Schools are letting our kids down and no one is protesting especially when they need it now more than ever. No you do not use the Stuben frog paper weight you got as a wedding gift for a hammer...true story

                                        2. I sort of see your point; many of my co-workers of all ages don't cook--they go out for lunch almost every day, one of them lives on diet coke and fast food, and oh my! how she complains about her health problems which I won't stay in my seat to even listen to. But I've always cooked at home because I love to cook and it is healthier, less expensive, etc., not to mention enjoying the kudos I usually (heh, but not always!) receive from my family--I like to please those I love and cooking is one way to do it. My mom was not an inspiration to me at all and the food in our house while I was growing up was appalling, so I guess I was inspired in a negative way, the food was so bad that I just decided to eat right and explore new foods, etc. So when I had my own family, I truly did take pride in cooking mostly from scratch and we rarely ate out, really only for birthdays or special occasions and I try to stick to that now somewhat, though to explore a new ethnic cuisine, I will venture forth to try a new restaurant. If I like it enough, I will try to cook that type of food and learn the techniques at home; Indian foods are my recent new cuisine to cook at home.

                                          1. I see that most of my colleagues (mid 20's) know how to cook. They may not be reading chowhound, but they can cook well enough to bring in their lunches most days (not sandwiches) and to impress people they have over for dinner.
                                            I also know people obsessed with certain chefs on the Food Network, as well as the chef's cookbooks. Our generation buys so many cook books/new ethnic raw ingredients that there must be lots of people not settling for prepared sauces/dressing, etc. in place of real cooking.

                                            1. Would have to disagree here too. I'm in my late twenties, work more than full time (as an attorney) and manage to cook dinner usually on average about five nights a week. I learned from my mother, who is an excellent cook, but I also self-taught a lot from cookbooks and message boards. Weeknight cooking isn't always gourmet, but it's not like fifty years ago everyone had gourmet skills, and I say I can probably produce a pretty high end meal and I have some specialized skills -- I've made a few wedding cakes in my time.

                                              While maybe as a chowhound I'm not the norm, and while it's true that my interest in cooking is probably greater than that of a lot of my friends, I would say that most of my friends have a pretty strong interest in food and cooking. I participate in non-food-centric message boards, and the cooking forums are almost always reasonably active. When I go to the local farmers' markets (in L.A.) I tend to see a crowd that is a mix of all ages.

                                              1. I don't think it's that the younger generations lack the interest or skills in cooking. I think it's more a time issue, as well as a money issue. Let's face it, home cooking can be quite expensive, what with all the ingredients required and the quality of ingredients required.

                                                If we're referring to the 20-something folks, they're just finishing college and starting out in the labor force. Of course, SOME if it may have to do with the younger gen's greater propensity for instant gratification. However, I think it has less to do with simply laziness or incompetence and more to do with the (lack of)time issue. Cooking can be really time-consuming and exhausting. (I, for one, am so grateful for establishments like Trader Joe's, which has prepared and somewhat healthy meals.)

                                                But then, the 20-something folks are just starting out and experimenting, and one thing they do experiment with, as they live on their own, is cooking.

                                                Then we have to consider the single vs. coupled/married dynamics. I think people in relationships are more inclined to cook than single folks. There's shared labor + shared costs for ingredients.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Pamela

                                                  You may be correct...however, I am now sadly single but still enjoy cooking for my youngest son who lives with me after the debacle last year...eating meals with him when I can (we're on different schedules) is a pleasure and cooking for him and ME is important, especially for me, health-wise. I've read some posts here and other places about dining in restaurants as a single person...can't imagine anything more depressing, personally speaking. When he is away for a few days or whatever, I try recipes that he would never want to eat, so I think that when he eventually leaves this nest, I will still enjoy experimenting and cooking from scratch.

                                                  1. re: Pamela

                                                    Home cooking is WAY more economical than eating out, even eating out at a fast food joint. What makes you say it is expensive? maybe home GOURMET cooking is more expensive.

                                                    1. re: DanielleM

                                                      In New York City, where our kitchen floor space is 3'x3' with a "mini range, mini oven and small fridge," and where groceries are priced higher than in most other parts of the country but good food options abound, it is usually cheaper to eat out than make a meal at home. I usually eat breakfast at home, but even making a turkey sandwich is cheaper at a deli than I can make at home once I buy all the needed ingredients. A falafel sandwich from my favorite place on St. Mark's is about $3--cheaper than the cost of the veg oil at the local Met Food's that I would need to buy to cook falafel myself! Other things I regularly eat for cheaper than I can make them:

                                                      Pizza $2 (what New Yorker doesn't ever grab a slice?)
                                                      Gyro $4
                                                      Chinese dumplings $4
                                                      Bahn mi $4
                                                      Okonomiyaki $5
                                                      Indian food buffet at Brick Lane $10
                                                      Tiny's Giant hot turkey or Cobb sandwich $4
                                                      Mixed salad with grilled chicken $5

                                                      The salad I could probably make for about the same price, but I would spend about 2 hours hunting and gathering the ingredients, washing the lettuce and other veg, cooking the chicken, cleaning up afterwards, and another hour cursing because cooking the chicken would make my apartment feel even hotter than it is now!

                                                      1. re: Non Cognomina

                                                        Ok, this I cannot debate with -- in fact my husband used to work at UPenn, and regularly got a hot, fast, and healthy meal (out of a truck) for $3 or less -- which is why I never bothered him about bringing his lunch. However, working in the suburbs -- I can't go out to lunch without spending about $10, not even to the mall food court. There is NO QUESTION that my bean, veg, pasta combination that I brought cost a small fraction of that.

                                                    2. re: Pamela

                                                      Oh noooo!!!!!!!! Yes it may take some cash to stock a pantry and get some basic equitpment but in the long run cooking at home is much less expensive than take out or dining out. You can buy better quality ingredients than you are being served in a restuarant, have more control over nutrition for a lot less money. You are not paying for the restaurant overhead, real estste, servers, preparers, equipment, dishwashers, bussers etc. Even if you bought some of the most expensive items available at the fish and butcher shop you would spend considerably less money. I think nothing of spending $19.99/lb for dry diver's scallops and the ingredients to make a great salad and sauce to go along side. Tops that splurge dinner is going to cost me maybe $15.00/person. The scallop main in a good restaurant alone is going to run at least $30-$45 per person let alone any extras. I know how to cost out a meal and don't ever kid your self. Dining out is expensive and I am not so cheap that I cannot enjoy a well prepared meal at a fine restuarant, we save those occasions for special days or nights or travel.

                                                      1. re: Pamela

                                                        20-something with time issues? Maybe so. But baby boomers are the sandwich generation with kids and parents to look out for. That is us!

                                                      2. I cook most nights. When I am not going to cook due to commitments, I generally cook a meal that can be reheated to avoid the cost of eating out. I would probably eat out more often if I could find a restaurant that could properly cook vegetables in a manor that did not introduce a lot of extra fat.

                                                        Having said that, I buy prepackaged salad mixes. Generally, I can get them for $1/lb (not just the iceberg variety). To me, it is a lot easier and lest wasteful than buying 3-4 separate heads of different heads and trying to get them all used up.

                                                        Cooking is generally learned by children standing at the apron strings of their mother. I remember spending hours in the kitchen shucking bushels of corn, podding gallons of peas, and processing more produce than I care to remember. Also, spending hours kneading dough, making pie crusts, etc.

                                                        However, since a lot fewer people are doing that sort of thing, how is a kid expected to learn how to do them? I had one 28 year old MBA come from work and he couldn't believe that I could have all four burners going at the while the roast was in the oven. I spent hours with him showing that there was life beyond the George Foreman.

                                                        1. Both my son (22) and daughter (19) are avid cooks and getting better all the time. My mother was a superior home cook, and I spend as much time as I can in the kitchen. That said, however, I've read several articles lately about how editors are having to "dumb down" cookbooks because a growing number of would-be cooks are unfamiliar with basic cooking techniques and terminology. I think that this is perhaps one of the unintended consequences of the succcess of the feminist movement (please don't jump all over me -- I'm an ardent feminist): I, like many others, learned to cook by watching my mother cook and bake day after day. With so many moms working full-time outside the home, many kids just don't have this opportunity.

                                                          1. Well, I'm 29 and most of my friends really enjoy cooking. In the colder months, we have potluck dinners twice a month or so. And, everybody brings wonderful food that they actually cooked.
                                                            The degree of interest in gourmet cooking varies greatly, but everybody can put together a great meal. They talk about food TV like its porn. My friend Kevin just received a certificate for an Indian cooking class for his birthday.

                                                            However, I have to say that if you asked my grandmother about demi-glace or puff pastry she would have no idea what you were talking about. She cooked every single meal her family ate, and often killed the chicken herself. But, she was a farm wife. She made meatloaf, beef stroganoff, spaghetti, and other things that would never be considered gourmet. And, beyond beheading that chicken, I'm sure her knife skills weren't up to snuff.

                                                            Perhaps consequently, I have absolutely no interest in cooking anything in one of Julia Child's books. I'd much rather perfect the perfect meatloaf recipe. But, I don't think that makes me any less of a home cook.

                                                            1. To respond to the issue of the high cost of home cooking, I would agree that home cooking is far less expensive than eating out. By dining out I mean dining at the fine food establishments, not the fast food joints. I think the younger folks are more likely to visit the fast food joints, or buy prepared food (such as what's available in the local grocery stores or Trader Joes).

                                                              HOWEVER, I'm in my early 30s and I remember in my late teens and early 20s, when I was in college, I simply didn't have the funds to cook a decent meal. I mostly ate in, but I ate the cheap stuff: a lot of pasta.

                                                              Like Candy mentioned, it takes money to stock the pantry, and there are start-up costs. I'm guessing that most college students don't have the cookware, the ingredients (produce, meat, spices, etc.), and a lot of them also lack transportation to the grocery store.

                                                              Another thing to throw out there: Our society has become far more individualistic. Back when when I was young, I would have dinner with my parents and siblings every night. As I understand it (I have no children), this is becoming far less common nowadays, because the kids have tons of after-school activities, jobs, etc. What's weird is that when I was growing up, I had tons of after-school activities, but I still ate dinner with my family, and also helped prepare meals. Perhaps someone else would like to take a stab at what else is going on?

                                                              1. I am still trying to figure out why people don't have time to cook - or THINK they don't have time to cook. I really don't have an answer for this. In previous generations everyone cooked every single day. Most people made lunch and took it to work. This was not a weird thing - it was just what was done. But now it's like a badge of pride - "I always bring my own lunch!" "We cook at home 5 nights out of 7!" I'm not making fun of that - I just think it's odd how we no longer consider this to be the norm. Despite the fact that we have better, more efficient appliances and a more lavish choice of groceries sold in more convenient forms, we complain that we just don't have TIME to cook meals every day. Why why why? Is it that we now have these overly fabulous expectations of meals? Have we become so overwhelmed by Food Network perfection that unless we can produce culinary masterpieces for dinner, we feel we've failed somehow and therefore become discouraged to even bother to make meatloaf? I find the whole subject confusing and at the same time depressing. I personally know people who never cook. Never. They are raising their children on restaurant food. I find it impoverishing and sad. When I go stay with them I always cook a nice meal or even just cookies and get the kids to help. They think it's some kind of a minor miracle.

                                                                10 Replies
                                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                                  You took the words right out of my mouth, Nyleve. When I worked full time I always brought my lunch to work, and my coworkers would crowd around my desk always wanting to know what I had. Then they would go to Taco Bell and eat, and grouse later in the afternoon about how hungry they were.

                                                                  I don't understand the mentality of not having enough time to cook. It takes far longer to go out to eat at a restaurant than it does to make a meal at home. I don't get how people live with such chaos in their lives that they haven't any time to be a family, at home and together. My son has friends who can't believe that he eats pizza FROM SCRATCH! They don't get it when he talks about his mom's fabulous burgers, or the way I make pork chops or the fact that he gets waffles and pancakes from scratch. "Why do all that when you can just take them out of the freezer??" They have no clue what tastes good, nor how food should really taste. If given the choice between a waffle from scratch and a frozen one, I bet they would think the frozen one is how a waffle should taste. It is truly sad, and the worse thing I think about is that they are going to grow up without the knowledge of how real food should taste, and they will pass on these habits to their own kids. It's like watching ripples in a pond, you know it's just going to keep getting bigger and bigger and there is nothing you can do. There has never been a time in this country when the food choices are so extensive, and the amount of products available to bring more convenience into our lives is staggering. And the posts about the fabulous kitchens that have never been used is so true it just makes me want to cry. The kitchen is the heartbeat of every home, or it used to be anyway. It's so sad to think that cooking at home could become a dying art.

                                                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                                                    Nyleve, this is a mystery to me too. My husband's brother and sister and their families live close by so we see them often. Of the three women, I am the only one with a full-time job. They all (including the men) say they "love" to cook, yet we are the only ones who sit down to home made food every day. The other couples (all children are grown, not living at home) eat out (in horrible restaurants - these suburbs have nothing decent), get take-out or eat convenience foods. They say they don't have the time to shop or cook, yet any time you drop in, they're gathered in front of the TV, junk food at hand. All four have weight problems and some health issues that come from being overweight and underexercised. Sad to say, even with all the information that pours out about nutrition, they can't be bothered to learn about transfats or contamination.

                                                                    I think the simple (perhaps overly so) answer is that good eating simply isn't a priority to some people. They would rather not spend the time to shop and cook, or learn about nutrition. My husband's whole family thinks we are slightly mad because we run around to farmers markets and grocery stores to get fresh produce or specialty items. It's just not worth it to them.

                                                                    1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                      You have hit the nail on the head; making homemade meals for a family is no longer a priority. I am guilty of this myself. I often stay late at work and DH likes to hit the courts at 7:00-7:30 so we eat out more often than not. I think it is mostly a perception that I don't have enough time, but if I put my mind to it I can come up with a few meals that I can cook in a short amount of time, or better yet eat a snack and make nice meal we can enjoy when DH gets back. I know a lot of Hounds villafy Rachael Ray; however, her 30 minute meal show is a great concept. Admittedly, she cuts corners but its not totally semi-homemade either. It shows you can have a good home cooked meal in 30 minutes.

                                                                    2. re: Nyleve

                                                                      Nyleve, the saddest thing is that restaurant meals are really lacking in nutritional content, never mind the fat and calories. When I was a teacher in an inner city school, it was pretty common for the most distractable kids to comment on how they ate take-out Chinese or KFC every night, and for teenagers who were above average to say "grapefruit juice is the s*&$" or "my motha always has milk in the fridge." Anecdotal yes, but it makes sense.

                                                                      1. re: fara

                                                                        Fara, did you see the TV series on Jamie Oliver's school lunch program? He was trying to reform the English school lunch system. For the majority of children, this is their main meal of the day. We watched in horrified fascination as children refused (!) to eat roast chicken, threw up salads, went hungry rather than eat pasta with homemade sauce. It took a long while to break down resistance to pre-made processed foods (pizza, chicken nuggets, turkey twizzlers) and get the kids eating real foods. The teachers all noted an improvement in behavior and health as the food became more nutritious.

                                                                        The saddest part was knowing that US school lunches are, if anything, worse than anything they showed in the English TV series.

                                                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                          I didn't see the Jamie Oliver show. They threw up salad? However most NYC high school kids don't eat any lunch, or they eat some chips while in class. It's just not cool to eat the school lunch, they then go to McD's after school and hopefully eat something for dinner later. What a vicious cycle if your parents are not educated about food.

                                                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                            There's a growing awareness that school lunches are a problem in the US, though, and there's a lot of reform going on. Here in Berkeley, CA (not *really* part of the US, I know, but...) a lot of the public schools teach kids cooking and nutrition and a lot of work is being put into making healthful lunches kids will eat. Here:

                                                                            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                                                            And I've heard that many other schools across the country are looking at their lunches anew, also.

                                                                            1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                              My understanding is that Jamie Oliver is trying to do the same thing here in the U.S.

                                                                          2. re: Nyleve

                                                                            I think a large part of it is that people just plain old work longer hours. In the past, the people who were cooking were usually the housewives, while the husband went out to work. And the 9-5 job was the norm. Now, not a single one of my friends works 9-5. Granted, we're mostly highly educated and working in professions that reflect that, but really -- I work 11 hour days most days, and I am proud when after that I come home and cook dinner and pack a lunch.

                                                                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                              Amuse Bouches is totally right on. Not only are we working longer hours, and not only are more (if not most) women working, but it is STILL women who do the bulk of the cooking at home. Well, where are they going to find the time to prepare and cook wonderfully nourishing yet satisfying home-cooked meals if they (women) are working full-time and beyond, and they are still responsible for the bulk of child-raising (including shuffling their kids to and from after-school activities, shopping, etc.)?

                                                                              The food industry, of course, recognizes this and has capitalized on the busy schedules of modern WOMEN. This is evident in the marketing of prepared foods that attempt to resemble home-cooked meals and foods of convenience (e.g., soup you can drink out of a bottle, salads to go, etc.).

                                                                              Of course, I'm sure there is more to it too.

                                                                              As krissywats keenly noted, socioeconomic status also plays a HUGE role in all of this.

                                                                          3. I think the idea of great home cookin’ back in the day is nonsense. In the 50’s Julia Childs and soup can recipes took the country by storm. That’s because the cooking was so repetitive and unimaginative. We laugh about those soup can recipes now, but they made major improvements in the cooking of the day. Judging food quality is subjective. When we hear “home cookin” our judgment is automatically skewed. In fact I know women who are terrible cooks and their families brag about their cooking. So do you. And it’s easy to forget how many kids ate PB&J for breakfast, lunch, and after school snacks, every day.

                                                                            As far as today’s cooks are concerned, some can’t and some can. But we’re graduating students from high school who can’t read and write. They can’t cook? They can’t even hold down a job or get into the military. But other people are learning to cook, and they’re learning to cook things that Granny never heard of. You say you’re trying to make a meat loaf as good as Grandma made? You’ve probably turned her meat loaf into some legendary memory having no relation to the reality of it. Your worst meat loaf in the past six months was probably better than hers. Those folks ate stew, meat loaf, pork chops, spaghetti, fish on Friday, and chicken on Sunday. If you cooked these same things week after week from now until Christmas, everybody would be tired of eating them, but you surely would know how to cookum.

                                                                            People today are not cooking more because there’s a food network. There’s a food network because people are cooking. People today are doing far more entertaining at home and are serving things that were never heard of 30, 40, 50 years ago. And get togethers at home will increase because of the fuel costs, the DUI laws enforcement, and even the no smoking in public laws, and other factors, such as economics.

                                                                            I certainly hope this rant is over.

                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                            1. re: yayadave

                                                                              My grandma is still alive. Her "boring" food is still as good as I remember it. It tastes good, fancy or not.

                                                                              1. re: merkay

                                                                                Well, I had an answer, but either it got lost or The Ogre ate it. How about this. The original question is:
                                                                                is it correct that home cooking skills are seriously disappearing in our society??
                                                                                I think my answer is "No it is not correct." I think that is your answer, too.

                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                  Yup, I think we definitely agree on that. I'm just happy that people are cooking anything.

                                                                              2. re: yayadave

                                                                                I think you brought up an important point. Certain people are cooking better and cetain people are not cooking at all, another example of growing divisions in this country.
                                                                                People that don't feed their children properly are putting them at a huge disadvantage (for example the typical families mentioned above that sit in front of the TV and eat take out -- hello people, food is what our bodies run on. you are junk if you eat junk food, nothing new.)

                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                  I'm puzzled that you conflate "soup can cookery" and Julia Child(no S). Julia's eventual mass-marketing was a response to "soup can cookery" which, itself, was a fabrication of wartime/"futurism"/Madison Ave. Adding the likes of Sandra Lee into the equation one can see that not much has changed. I suppose some approach the plethora of contemporary canned "gravies" and "cheeses" as if they're a good thing; look ma! it's not just cream of mushroom anymore!

                                                                                  1. re: aelph

                                                                                    I certainly could have the time line wrong, but I thought Julia and soup cookin' were contemporanious happenings. Anyway, if Julia came along to help pull us out of the soup cans, it just shows how bad the cooking must have been before soup can recipes.

                                                                                    Agreed. Now we have poor, beaten down, Sandra Lee. But we also have so many others to show us the way and we know enough to call out "stranger danger" when we see Sandra Lee.

                                                                                    Here's another question, though. Is SL pulling down the level of cooking or could she be causing some people to try cooking something?

                                                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                                                      Yup! While Julia was making vol au vent on PBS in Boston my mom was pouring cream of mushroom over a can of tuna and calling it dinner. Well, in truth, mom had been doing that for years before Julia aired. But that's the field Julia had to plow.

                                                                                      PS We call SL "Half-Baked" at my house (isn't that what semi-made would be?). And anyone who was "inspired" by her and actually made one of her "recipes" would probably go off food altogether. They sound disgusting as well as shabby!

                                                                                      1. re: rainey

                                                                                        Half Baked! Dat ain't half bad.

                                                                                        If someone who eats pop tarts and grease sees HB SL make something easy and makes it themself, they will not find it shabby. If it moves them toward more cooking, that goes in the plus column for HB SL. Think about how many people see her and think she's swell. Uh, don't dwell on that thought.

                                                                                      2. re: yayadave

                                                                                        My old copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Berthold and Simone Beck has 1961 as the copyright date. This was Julia Child's first book and led to the TV show beginning in 1963.

                                                                                        The peak of soup can cooking was in the 1950s in the memory of this senior citizen. This is also the period when frozen vegetables became widely used. Larger freezer compartments in home refrigerators were as much cause as effect in the wide use of frozen vegetables. Even into the 1960s supplies (at high prices relative to incomes) of fresh produce were limited in most parts of the United States outside the local growing season.

                                                                                        1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                                                          I wouldn't dispute your timeline at all but even though canned soup cooking may have been old news by the time Julia got published it was still what was happening in a lot of American kitchens that hadn't given *that* up in favor of completely frozen meals AKA TV dinners. In fact, "Gourmet" was already being published by the time Julia was but, in general, the American palate was still 20 years away from approaching maturity outside of, perhaps, NYC and Boston.

                                                                                          1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                                                            Canned soup (and dried onion mix) cooking is still around from what I can see. In any case Julia Child did not have instant wide popularity.

                                                                                            Fresh, seasonal and local for produce and some meats was the norm in rural areas to small cities then. The big cities seemed to have more problems with quality produce then. Unfortunately, the same problems have spread from big cities to smaller ones although farmers markets may be reversing that trend somewhat. We can buy practically everything regardless of season, now but much of the quality is crap. At Chicago farmers markets I have heard too many comments from yuppies that reveal a total cluelessness about what good produce is.

                                                                                          2. re: yayadave

                                                                                            I went to a cooking demonstration with Sara Moulton and she spoke about Julia's frustrations with what you call soup can cooking at that time, and she noted that it's starting to come full circle again.

                                                                                            I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think anyone who gets people in the kitchen can't be all bad.

                                                                                        2. re: yayadave

                                                                                          ARGH!!! I just spent 10 minutes composing a thoughtful reply to your post and it DISAPPEARED! Anyway - sorry, the rant is not quite over yet.

                                                                                          I don't think it's fair to say that back in the "good" old days all food was boring and repetitive. Sure, some of it was - after all, our society was still suffering the after-effects of the depression, followed by the war. And remember - many of us have the additional legacy of that tasty Anglo/North American culinary culture to come to terms with. But still, some of our grandmas were good cooks, others were not. Same as now.

                                                                                          But then again, you have to remember that in the fifties, most people didn't have a Thai restaurant on their corner and an exotic meal consisted of spaghetti and meatballs. They cooked at home - stew, meatloaf, whatever - and they ate it. A meal was not a dining experience, it was just meal. And there is value in that too. I won't go into my whole other rant about the loss of the family dinner table, but cooking and eating together as a family provides more than just caloric nourishment. You can learn valuable skills in communication, cooperation, financial and time management and, most of all, develop better family relationships. These are not really Chowhound topics, so I'll leave it at that. But it's real and I think we're losing it.

                                                                                          As for the Food Network, I'm not a fan. But then again, I don't watch much TV so I may not be one to comment. Food as entertainment has trounced food as food. I don't like the cult of the celebrity chef and I don't like the fact that many people think that every meal should be a gourmet experience. It's not the Food Network's fault, per se, but this form of entertainment has turned cooking into something more akin to American Idol than a genuine life experience.

                                                                                          Ok, now I'm done. Probably.

                                                                                          1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                            If your "thoughtful reply" was a little too spicy, The Ogre ate it.

                                                                                            I don't think all the food was bad or boring and I certainly don't fault anyone who didn't know any better. For that matter, we all grew up with strong teeth and bones. I just think the memories of wonderful home cooked meals better than any today are not real.

                                                                                            In your last paragraph, I think you're right and not right. "Food as entertainment has trounced food as food." Absolutely right. That guy Buford in his book "Heat" illuminated this in about three pages. But then you say "It's not the Food Network's fault." Ooops. They went for the buck. I'm not going to fault that, either, in a country based on capitalism. They didn't do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. They just went for the buck.

                                                                                        3. We - husband, wife, son(20), daughter(18) - cook. We each have our own style of cooking (hot&fast, slow&meditative). As a result, the kitchen can become a warzone but it's all in good fun. ; )

                                                                                          My kids learned how to manuever in the kitchen by observing and by doing. While I was busy at the cooktop, they were chopping, asking questions and learning skills. Setting and clearing the table were tasks designated to my kids. They were involved from a young age in helping to plan our nightly meals - Tuesday/Taco night, Thursday/junk food night; (junk food defined by hot dog tastings, breakfast for dinner or in the event we were too tired to cook - take out), Friday was homemade pizza and caesar salad night and our door was open to friends and neighbors whom we spoiled. Many times over the years I have heard "it was Friday and I was wondering if pizza was going on". On Sunday's, when our meal was taken in the dining room, the kids (once they turned 13) were served a glass of wine with their Sunday supper. Farmers market days were Wednesday and Saturday and they knew going with Mom always made her happy and it was my pleasure introducing them to the sights and smells of the seasonal produce.

                                                                                          I believe the strength of my tribe is directly related to the time spent planning and preparing and enjoying our meals.

                                                                                          Cook often. Eat well.

                                                                                          1. I just read an interesting article in Food and Wine this month. A chef says more people are watching Food TV and reading cookbooks..but he's not sure they are really cooking more. He likened people who follow recipes "exactly" to he who became dependent on his GPS system. Fear of vearing off the paved path onto a "dirt road" so to speak. Sorry..I digress.

                                                                                            This was a great topic. Thought provoking and enjoyable.

                                                                                            1. Lol - I have to say a lot of this thread feels like it's starting with "Dammit Kid! When I was your age..."

                                                                                              I'm almost 35. My cooking 'skills' are completely self-taught. I considered being a chef at one point but am entirely too entrenched in my singing and acting. I also spend a lot of time with cookbooks and searching for recipes. It's creative for me. When I'm singing/acting a lot, I cook less. When I'm not, it is my creative outlet and with my audience present, I present and we all (mostly) enjoy.

                                                                                              So perhaps, a certain subset of the Westernized population are creative and this is the way it's always been with cooking or dancing or singing or acting? Living in NYC I know a TON of actors, singers, artists, burlesque performers, writers, and cooks - even if amateurs. But when I lived in Anderson, IN or Titusville, FL I knew few if any. Perhaps how many such people you know has a lot to do with your socio-economic status, your cultural leanings, or your geography (throw a rock here and you'll hit someone on a serious creative endeavor, personally or professionally).

                                                                                              I realize I might not be the average. I don't think my mother's cooking had anything to do with my desire. My mother (now in her 70s) cooked every night - she was also a stay at home mom (used to be called a housewife), but green beans were out of a can and everything was a casserole with a cream sauce (also out of a can). I'd never had fresh vegetables (except for iceburg lettuce) or seen things made from scratch until after college - except for devilled eggs and frosting. Cakes came from a box. There was no joy in her cooking. She didn't hate it either, it was just something that had to be done.

                                                                                              But when my father was in the kitchen: every saturday morning, the big pancake production on his huge electric griddle, or milk gravy made from sausage dripping to go over the biscuits, or for special occasions he made the Watson Family Secret Recipe M&M Cookies....but he loved it. He enjoyed it. He relished it. His abilities were limited (as are mine) but he adored the process and loved food and that, more than anything, influenced why I cook today.

                                                                                              Now I see that can be passed on to my friends. My husband doesn't cook (although often very capable, it's not a joy for him - it's stressful, so I do the cooking). My friends are afraid of it but they love my cooking and after teaching my best friend how to season his new cast iron and helping him stock his new apartment...he only wants to eat at home. My girlfriend is moving here soon and is excited to learn to cook from me. My brother (38 - never left Titusville) loves cooking and when we get together all we do is cook and talk about food.

                                                                                              Perhaps historically there were more home cooks, but out of an often joyless necessity. I imagine that as an affluent society we are able to experience more art because we aren't simply focused on surviving as a species. Perhaps the 'home cooks' have thinned out because men and women are able to pursue their real passions. Perhaps the home cooks that choose it now, are those that love it. And isn't that a great thing?

                                                                                              My experience is that when people tap into the creative spirit of cooking and see the joy it can be, they are infected and want to create, too - no matter the age.

                                                                                              1. cooking skills are alive and well. tons of special-interest magazines, tv shows, etc. seem to bear this out. civilians entering cooking schools are at an all-time high. can't see the factual basis for the original post.

                                                                                                1. my kids can cook-hopefully they're smarter than me to follow in my footsteps into the kitchen....

                                                                                                  1. I come from a whole family that cooks, and now I cook professionally. One thing I have come to realize is that I'm "all grown up" is that TIME is a factor of tremendous importance. We rotate who hosts holidays, and almost always have the same menu that mom made when we were kids, but I was shocked to find that one of my sisters spends almost 10 hours cooking the same meal it take me 3-4 hours to prepare. Both of us are good cooks, but since cooking is my career I have streamlined my organization, technique, etc. No wonder my sister is overwhelmed everytime it is "her turn" to host a holiday!

                                                                                                    I wonder if other people who "don't have time" to cook simply haven't learned effective time management in the kitchen. To those of us who cook so much and so often we can't remember how daunting it can be to learn a new technique or tackle a new recipe, I offer you this little snapshot of me at age 8, when I was visiting my Grandma and kept pestering her about how long it would be until dinner. She pointed over to the chickens she was getting ready to prepare and said, "if you are in a hurry, you take one and clean it, cut it, bread it and fry it yourself. But when you are done be sure to put out the light--we'll all have eaten my bird and gone to bed by then!"

                                                                                                    1. I would say that people most commonly use the microwave and gas grill, then the stovetop, and very infrequently the oven and broiler. This guarantees a higher level of mediocrity at the expense of fewer hits and fewer misses, as it were.

                                                                                                      1. you look at these suburban women flocking to meal prep places where they are guided through the process of preparing meals assembly line fashion. these women dont know how to cook. look at all the supermarket take out options for people who dont have the time to cook. i have a 54 year old single friend who eats out/takes out 360 days a year and will not even attempt to make sandwiches, eggs or pasta or salads. cooking skills are not being passed down or taught. and eating standards are deteriorating so that many dont particularly care what they're eating. my guess is that 80% of 20 somethings dont know how to cook and dont care. 50% of 30 somethings. 40% of people in their 40's. the worst case was an aquaintance who had to feed spaghetti O's out of the can not only to the kids but to hubby. hopefully she was able to warm it up.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: MarkG

                                                                                                          I have a staff of very young 20 somethings, mostly women. on my floor alone we have to have 2 'fridges to support the bag lunches. Granted many of them just bring yogurt and fruit on a regular basis (dieting) however you should see some of the leftovers they bring in-awesome. What I have observed is that very few of them lived in dorms for all 4 years of college. Most spent at least 2-3 years sharing an apartment. Quite a few of them learned to cook during that time or at least started practicing what they had seen at home. Are they enamored with Rachel Ray?? Yes but I look at that as a good thing. I didn't learn to cook by making elaborate time intensive recipes. I learned to cook by making scrambled eggs and tuna wiggle. I then went on to omelettes and lasagna. I now can make the most diificult french recipes,homemade breads, pastry dough, demi glace etc but it didn't happen over night. If Rachel Ray is getting them in the kitchen I applaud her. Hopefully they will graduate to the next step.

                                                                                                          Regarding family times the studies also show it is not what is being eaten that is important. It is the event itself. I do cook a family dinner every night of the week however I never feel guilty on the rare occasions we get take out or I just make french toast.

                                                                                                          1. re: MarkG

                                                                                                            I think there are several issues here. First, there are people who truly do not enjoy the process of cooking. My husband is one of these people--before I met him he ate out almost every meal. Second, there are those who are pressed for time (or THINK they are short of time). This includes those who work late or hit the gym after work so suddenly it's 7 or 8 pm and dinner is still in the thinking stages. Restaurants or convenience foods become the first thought at that time of night just because most meals would take an hour just to get on the table. I truly don't have the planning genius or the chunk of time on weekends to make big meals for the rest of the week. And I want something different most nights--not one pot of chili to eat for 5 consecutive dinners. A lot of the people I know are single--there it';s the tedium of cooking for 1 where it's hard to make something in a portion size that works, let alone get enthusiastic about going through the whole process night after night only to eat with only the television for companion.

                                                                                                            Yes, I learned cooking from my mother--who is a great home cook, but a very different cook from me. My biggest criteria is making something that will be on the table within an hour. (I will make an exception for weekend cooking/entertaining). Because I don't use a crockpot, I seldom make roasts, hams, meatloaf or a long-cooking spagetti sauce, all things my mother rotated through the dinner cycle. I do make stir-fries, quick cooking pork chops, soups, salads, ethnic dishes, chicken 101 ways etc. (Side thought--when I was a kid, it was hamburger 101 ways, now it's chicken....). My parents and grandparents always had a garden for fresh produce. I'm still getting fresh veggies from that. I just cook them VERY differently. Did your mother/grandmother always cook green beans and asparagus until they were limp? Mine did. Now it's tender-crisp. Totally different mindset for what is the "right way to cook". I still can and freeze some stuff, but the year round availability of most items makes some of the preserving obsolete. (Green beans are terrible in the freezer and mediocre from a can. Fresh garden tomatoes are the ONLY way to eat tomatoes.)

                                                                                                            I am helping to teach some friends cooking. Partly because their mothers never cooked, partly because they are intimidated by the expectation of what a home cooked meal should be.

                                                                                                            1. re: wjs

                                                                                                              I'm jumpging in. I grew up with fabulous cooks, most of whom were women not working full-time. I work full-time, as does my husband, and my children have active lives after school. But we still eat dinner together every night. It takes some planning, a big freezer so I can freeze dinner-sized pans of food after I've cooked in huge quantity on a weekend, and some nights we just have tuna sandwiches. But the cost savings, plus the preciousness of having family time together, makes it worthwhile. And my childrens' friends, who apparently are growing up entirely without family dinner hour, like to come to our house and eat and talk (except those few friends who are such picky eaters that they'll only eat bagels with cream cheese and no other foods.) Re: tomatoes, when my garden floods me, I put them whole into a large roasting pan with chopped garlic and basil, salt and pepper (and maybe fresh thyme), drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil and cook in oven for an hour or so. Let cool, pull off tomato skins with fingers, and put it in the freezer. Wonderful in February in Boston -- like summer again! The one problem with persisting with shopping and cooking is that I can't figure out how to keep my house clean. But I'd rather keep cooking and hire a housecleaner than clean my own house and have to eat take-out.

                                                                                                              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                Yep, I'm with you there. I find that a lot of people have made that choice. It's one thing to have someone come in and "help" with dinner. And by help, I mean, run to the store an pick up things, shell peas, clean up, etc. But I like to cook my own food (time permitting), though I'm not too fussed if somebody else cleans the bathroom!

                                                                                                                TT

                                                                                                          2. For me cooking is a love-hate relationship. I like the idea of cooking, but except for a few home runs, what I make tends to be about 10% 'off'. Not bad or unedible, but not what I hoped for. I love food. I love all kinds of food. My brother is a serious home cook and gets all sorts of joy from it. For me it's a source of stress.

                                                                                                            I use a lot of prepared items from grocery stores and markets and find for me that is the best world between dining out (which hubby and I do about 4 times a week)and cooking at home. Also, my husband cooks as much as I do at home.

                                                                                                            At the end of the day, I'd rather not cook.

                                                                                                            1. I honestly think that cooking in the general aspect of society is disappearing, sort of. It really depends on a few people.

                                                                                                              I, a 20 year old college student, love to cook and I'm really into baking breads, pastries, cakes, etc. The baking aspect is really when I make the time for it since I take great pride and care into my baking (and it's my stress therapy). For the cooking part, I usually do the speedy way of cooking (under 1 hr) which usually is uninventive fare like sauteed chicken and steamed fresh vegetables on the side. Unless I want to do everything from scratch like lasagne (the pasta and the sauce; cheese is from my favorite cheese store, Murray's), that's reserved for the weekends. I truly detest take out food because it's so greasy and very occassionally I go out to eat since money is usually very tight. I don't like processed food, especially after reading the labels what's contained in them, it's a huge turnoff. That's why I cook and bake.

                                                                                                              When it comes to my college friends, it varies, from depending their lives on take out, the microwave and Ramen noodles (the instant kind) to someone like me, who likes to cook and appreciate. I really think that people who are like my friends who don't cook is because of the limited time because of school and because they're afraid of cooking. One of my friends doesn't want to attempt to make biscotti or blueberry muffins, even when I give her my recipes, just because she's afraid of "ruining it." I guess it depends on the person.

                                                                                                              1. Here in our happy little chowhound world, we can all pat each other on the back and share our love of home cooking, the emotional joys of a healthy relationship to food in all it's varied forms. We live in cities with gorgeous farmers markets, or grow our own, cook from scratch, and search out the odd and mysterious foods hidden in roadside cafes and outer borough bodegas....
                                                                                                                No , wait a minute, right here, on this very board, there sits a post which sings the glories of ..gasp..canned chicken, in a tasty casserole combining canned soup and...gag me.... the day after the apocalypse is the day I will be eating canned chicken, thank you very much....
                                                                                                                I have a feeling, and it is reinforced anytime I venture into a conventional "super"market, that the majority in this country are eating their way to an early grave, with pre packaged, zero nutrient, transfat filled "foods". " I don't have time to cook" one whines, , as she nibbles on a Mc Donald's fruit and preservative salad, another who equates cooking skills with the glass ceiling, pouts, "I can't boil water" and microwaves herself a plastic mug of "soup"
                                                                                                                So, in response to the original poster, yes, there is a decline in the ability to prepare one's own food. BUT NO, this is not age related. Hopefully there will always be a persistant minority whom, by luck or intelligence, have the good sense not to be swayed by marketing, and buck the trend to equate with " success" a life style so rushed that you have no time to prepare and eat healthy, tasty, homemade, food. My 18 year old nephew is volunteer-ing at a local organic farm this summer and he and my 10 year old niece love to cook.......

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: ciaolette

                                                                                                                  SO much has been made of the canned chicken in the other post.

                                                                                                                  Do remember that in the "good ole days" a lot of people canned chickens, turkeys, beef and pork which they themselves slaughtered. Personally, I have had a lot of the meat canned from our family farms and the local Amish farms. While I was hesitant about the quality of the meat at first, I must admit that some of the meat was excellent.

                                                                                                                  One advantage of canned meats is that it does NOT take a lot of EXPENSIVE electricity to keep and it does not get freezer burned as quickly. Also, the amount of loss (in case of an emergency) is very minimal.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                                    LOL... are you equating Amish home canned foods to Costco canned chicken!?
                                                                                                                    In my "good old days" , though my grandmother canned prodigiously, I don't remember any canned or bottled poultry. They kept chickens and rabbits, and it was butcher and eat the same day for supper...that's fresh!!

                                                                                                                    1. re: ciaolette

                                                                                                                      Many rural areas did not have electric service until the late 1930s or 1940s when agencies created under the Rural Electrification Administration extended power lines. Consequently, home canning (bottling)of meat was fairly common. This meat was boned and kind of risky unless a pressure canner was used. Canned meat was used in chicken or beef and noodles. Even after electricity became available, some people canned meat because they liked it or didn't feel the electric service was reliable enough to risk a freezer of meat. Note that general farms in those days tried to minimize the number of animals carried over the winter, so meat animals were slaughtered in the fall. Killing chickens for meat in the winter meant killing laying hens.

                                                                                                                    2. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                                      Nasty industrial chicken bits packed in a can is not exactly the same as home canning...

                                                                                                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                        All I could think of when I read your post was the first ingredient in Slim Jims -- "mechanically-separated chicken parts".

                                                                                                                        EW.

                                                                                                                  2. I agree that in many cases Mom's and Grandma's "home cookin'" may not have been that great. I have family that still make red eye gravy ... comfort food at this point ... and I bet it got served to kids too (don't tell the no-coffee-ice cream moms ;)

                                                                                                                    I do think it was an advantage to me to have been around good home cooking (Mom and other relatives), but my mother usually chased us out of the kitchen as she likes to cook alone. Her idea of helping was cleaning up after ;) That didn't stop me (or my sister) from becoming home cooks, though.

                                                                                                                    I remember a Thanksgiving where she wasn't happy with the gravy and called us in to determine "what it needs." Both my sister and I had ideas of what to do, but when we opened the spice cupboard ... she didn't have our stuff!! It was very funny.

                                                                                                                    But there've been plenty of good cooks (like Ruth Reichl) whose moms (and/or dads) were bad cooks. It's never too late to revive a lost art ... and there seems to be new respect for the art of cooking, and wider availability of excellent ingredients and tools and information to home cooks. All these bode well for the future ...

                                                                                                                    1. I'd just like to add that I've always thought that real cooking was extremely difficult.

                                                                                                                      Like calculus.

                                                                                                                      I mean, I can prepare a meal. I can roast chicken, make meatloaf, homemade chili, good omelettes. I can grill on the grill. I can prepare fresh vegetables and make some soups. There's probably a few dozen things I can prepare that I'd serve to someone else.

                                                                                                                      But I don't call that "cooking." I just make things up along the way. I just watch someone else do something, then try it.

                                                                                                                      But actually follow a recipe?
                                                                                                                      Actually measure stuff or saute something or mince something or fold an egg or beat something with a whisk or have to time out the preparation so that everything gets ready at the right time before you take the next step ... ?

                                                                                                                      I have deep appreciation for those of you who cook and for those who cook in restaurants. I don't know if home cooking skills are diminishing, I do know they shouldn't be taken for granted. Because cooking is -- for osme of us -- very intimidating and very difficult. Even for a food lover.

                                                                                                                      FWIW - I can change a tire and before engines became really complex, could change my oil. But I've never been able to rebuild a transmission. It's like that.

                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: PaulF

                                                                                                                        In acting there are actors who study their whole lives to act. There are community actors who do it for fun. There are (a very few) actors who study not at all but are immensely talented. And there are improvisational actors - I was always intimidated by what they do because it seemed so risky.

                                                                                                                        You, my friend, are an improvisationalist....but no less a cook. And rarer still - self-taught.

                                                                                                                        1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                                          Paul's post and your response reminded me of my daughter. She's 29 and bakes when the spirit moves her but steadfastly *refuses* to use a recipe. Some of her cookies are interesting. She often gets good flavor but the texture is eccentric to say the least. Nevertheless, she says that cookies come from people who didn't use cookbooks either and if they could figure out how to do it she will too. Forget that it was probably an evolution that took generations...

                                                                                                                          She's dyslexic and I'm sure that has a lot to do with both the fear of the cookbook and the stubborn need to master things in her own way. I gotta admire her sense that she's eventually going to break this code too! Someday she will be an awesome cook just like one day she got herself into Cal Berkeley. It just took her a longer time than most. ...but then "most" don't get into Cal Berkeley.

                                                                                                                        2. re: PaulF

                                                                                                                          See... I think the exact opposite! People consider me to be a good cook, but I always say I'm just a good recipe-follower! I *wish* that I was an improvisational cook... to me, that's talent!

                                                                                                                          1. re: Katie Nell

                                                                                                                            LOL ... I appreciate the comments from both Katie and krissy.

                                                                                                                            And I get what you are saying ...

                                                                                                                            But I still think there are so many (I wish we had italics) skills to cooking that I find difficult and intimdating. It takes organization and planning and patience and even some basic motor skills that I really lack. I walk through a store like Surfas that sells cooking implements and I don't even know what 99% of the gizmos do, let alone how to use them.

                                                                                                                            And there is also presentation. A bowl of chili looks like a bowl of chili, but really cooks ensure that their food looks good and tastes good. It's all really beyond me.

                                                                                                                            But thanks, I appreciate your point and feel a little better about my self ... (lol ... at me).

                                                                                                                            1. re: PaulF

                                                                                                                              I like to improv in the kitchen and I like to follow recipes - sometimes I like to toy with recipes. However, I'm the worst plater EVER. I wish I knew how to do this. I'm not a great decorator either (in my house) so I think those skills go hand in hand. I thought about buying a book about plating.

                                                                                                                              I think more imporantly - we know what are STRENGTHS are!

                                                                                                                              1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                                                There were some threads about Japanese cookbooks that mentioned their value for plating, besides just preparing Japanese food.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Katie Nell

                                                                                                                              Picking a good recipe is half the battle. The other part is knowing how to do the stuff involved, both the stated instructions and the unstated ones.
                                                                                                                              Along with this discussion and a couple of other current threads, I'll add this. In response to another query, I recently looked into the NYT Cookbook from 1961. I looked at a couple of recipes. They were terrible! Example: Spaghetti Sauce Bolognese. The ingredients are mushrooms, ground chuck, onions, prosciutto, butter, olive oil, canned plum tomatoes, and tomato paste. Please note, as a good cook, you could make this sauce from what I just wrote. It would be a decent sauce. People 40 years ago used this recipe and liked it. This is the fabled "ol' time cooking." Meantime, today's cooks are over on another thread about Bolognese Sauce arguing about should you add the wine for reduction or the milk for reduction first. That's before adding the broth for reduction. Wine, milk, broth? NYT Cookbook doesn't mention them. In fact, as a good cook, you would probably not make that NYT Cookbook sauce with out a few "improvements."

                                                                                                                            3. re: PaulF

                                                                                                                              I don't get the distinction--I would argue you are doing real cooking--how much realer can it get ;) I actually think it requires more skill to be successful without following a recipe. The recipe is the first level ... improvising beyond the recipe, or without one, are steps beyond ;)

                                                                                                                              PS A lot of those funky tools you're seeing are probably not considered necessary equipment by anyone you respect ... don't think your local gourmet store is immune to pretension :)

                                                                                                                              1. re: PaulF

                                                                                                                                The hardest thing for me while learning to cook was having everything be ready at the same time. This simply takes experience (and the realization that not everything has to be served piping hot).

                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                  I am an average cook at best and don't like to cook, but this is the one thing I am very, very good at....timing of the dishes. My husband is amazed at my ability to do this, whatever the dinner, number of dishes, etc.

                                                                                                                              2. As a foreigner, I am constantly amazed at the amount of food available to americans precooked, preprepared, etc. I feel that for most people who take the time to cook meals from scratch, it is an philosophical choice (based on enjoyment of cooking, or health concerns), and part of the reason is that it is more affordable and quicker in this country to buy frozen meals, chopped vegetables, etc. And this trend extends to wealthy, educated people too. Go in to sur la table, or Williams-Sonoma; most of the stuff on sale is not basic cookware; it's all time-saving devices. Special mango and avocado slicers, silcone-coated gadgets, etc. Expensive delis have made it easy for people to eat well without cooking, and with the current focus on fresh, good quality stuff, it's fashionable to have a hunk of cheese, artisanal bread, a rotisserie chicken and a salad for dinner.

                                                                                                                                So I don't know if the wealth of unused stoves is indicative of a lack of appreciation for decent food. It's just that American food culture and products have separated the need to eat (both poorly and well) with a need to spend time in the kitchen, cooking. Are home cooking skills declining as a result? Hell yeah.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                  Well ... I'm not sure. It all depends on whether the person buying the rotisserie, etc. knows how to cook or not ... is that a weeknight shortcut, or all they ever do?

                                                                                                                                  I'm an amateur pastry chef, and some of those specialized skills can get rusty ... but for cooking in general, I've never experienced that.

                                                                                                                                2. On the theme of "Not Enough Time", I find the lack of home cooking amongst people I know is very related to not finding time or knowing how to be efficient about the first part: grocery shopping.

                                                                                                                                  Even for myself, if I haven't managed to get to the store over the weekend and buy enough food for the week, my husband and I will order in or get quick food like burrtos on a weeknight. To go to the grocery store at 7pm then go home and cook for eating by 8:30 or 9 takes up the entire evening. I plot and scheme all the time how I'm going to fit in going to my grocery shopping each week, and I'm admittedly completely obsessed with food, more so than 99% of people I've ever met. Even then I don't always get it done with a busy work schedule etc.

                                                                                                                                  Most of my friends who don't cook much don't think about the food until it's time to eat it. Then it's too late and requires too much energy to go to the store and then prepare a meal. Cooking is not just the act of cooking the food, but putting yourself in a position to have the food to cook with.

                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: celeste

                                                                                                                                    I buy fresh vegetables that will last for a few days, and always have frozen vegetables, canned tomatoes, beans etc. for those days I can't get to the supermarket. onions, potatoes, garlic, parsley, and lemons last for much longer and one should always have them on hand. then you're just some butter or olive oil away from a good meal.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: celeste

                                                                                                                                      Celeste,

                                                                                                                                      I think you're onto something. As you say, even for those of us who are food obsessed and have some skill in the kitchen, it requires PLANNING and EFFORT to cook dinner at home for the whole week. 20 minutes of sitting down, mapping out the meals for the week and backing into a list of ingredients to shop for on Sunday (or whenever) is invaluable, as is stocking your pantry and freezer with staple ingredients. Since planning and effort are both things that many of our contemporaries and countrymen seemingly can't be bothered with, they end up trying to figure out a plan at 5 p.m. that evening, at which point it is hopeless. Maybe if they brought back "Home Economics" under another guise and dropped all the sexist baggage, . . . ?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: celeste

                                                                                                                                        My mantra is to decide what we are going to have for dinner the next night, the day before. You can always change your mind but if the decision has been made, its so much easier. I always have celery, scallions, lettuce, spinach and some kind of vegetable on hand - zuccini. Again if these are not eaten up they can be thrown into the soup pot -- or even chucked out. But you have them on hand and ones dinner is not dependent on a trip to the shop. I endorse Celeste's comment: put yourself in a position to have the food to cook WITH.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ZoeZ

                                                                                                                                          Cook a lot and then freeze it in dinner-size portions!

                                                                                                                                      2. From a recent article in "Shape" magazine:

                                                                                                                                        "Research shows only 52 percent of us use our stoves on a daily basis, compared to nearly 70 percent in 1985. People who do cook are more likely to opt for a frozen dinner (sales of those have increased by 22 percent since 1996) or a one-pot dish than bother making an entire home-cooked meal. Americans currently eat 54 billion meals out a year -- that's nearly twice as often as in 1955, when the restaurant-industry share of the food dollar was 25 percent, compared to today's 46 percent."

                                                                                                                                        Still think "...cooking skills are alive and well"? Perhaps re-heating skills...

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: sundevilpeg

                                                                                                                                          Look, people eat out more because they are richer than they were (on average) twenty years ago. The food we consume in restaurants is worse than ever before, but also much, much better than ever before. Cooking skills are also better than ever before and worse than ever before.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sundevilpeg

                                                                                                                                            What research? Who supported the research? Was it someone selling something that would be helped by this slant? Who was sampled, in what part of the country or world? There's no way to know from that one blurb if these stats are accurate. Marketing people LIVE for these kinds of polls that put the 'facts' in their favor so they can push a product (often in an article and you aren't even aware it's being pushed).

                                                                                                                                            This entire site is BASED on people who love to eat out - so yeah...there's a big following for people passionate about eating out and finding that special something.

                                                                                                                                            I am an avid homecook and I don't use my stove on a daily basis. Who does? Sometimes I just make a sandwich or a salad so right there (if that is the question asked of those being polled) you have a skewed question.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sundevilpeg

                                                                                                                                              So it begs the question... Is Chowhounding to blame?

                                                                                                                                              As I've been reading this thread, I was thinking about my own cooking habits - I cook almost every night for my family (uh, no puff pastry here, as I mentioned, I cook every night, this isn't a hobby with which I impress my friends with my mastery of haute cuisine - I'm a home cook with three kids and a husband, not a chef).

                                                                                                                                              I'd love to know if the average chowhound is really all that interested in learning to make salmon-basil foam (ugh on foams in general,but you get the point) or heading out to the new IT spot to try Famous-Chef-So-and-So's interpretation of said culinary invention... and coming back here and talking about the experience? (Posters here amaze me at times with just how much time and money is spent at restaurants.)

                                                                                                                                              I think the question of whether cooking skills are alive and well is definitely slanted - but not in the way that seems expected.

                                                                                                                                              When I was 20 I tended bar up the road from the CIA, and was part of this exact debate one afternoon. Two gentlemen, obviously instructors/chefs at the Culinary (the pompous German or perhaps Austrian one wore his toque through the entire time spent at the bar) were debating cooking skills in America. The German wheeled around, pointed at me and rather viciously bellowed "YOU!" (perhaps sensing weakness in my high heels, short skirt and overall 20yo-bartender-in-1990 rock-chick look) "How do you make French Toast?"

                                                                                                                                              The American was obviously pleased when I replied sweetly (after all, there was still a tip to be had here) "Crispy American style with white bread, or classic pudding-style with thick French bread?"

                                                                                                                                              If your definition of "cooking skills" equals knife skills or puff pastry mastery... well, in my not so humble opinion, the slant is professional cooking puffery, not puff pastry.

                                                                                                                                            2. My wife and children and I are almost the only non-relatives we know amongst our friends and acquaintances and the parents of our children's friends and classmates who make family dinners at home from scratch a majority of the time. So my anecdotal observation is that yes, cooking at home from mostly non-prepared, non-processed or non-manufactured foods is disappearing from the average American daily experience.

                                                                                                                                              1. I blame the lack of contact between the generations. If you've never seen your parents, grandparents, great uncles, aunts, and so on cook and eat non-prepared, non-processed or non-manufactured food at home, then you'll be at a significant disadvantage later in life.

                                                                                                                                                This is why there are some children out there who think that milk comes from a supermarket!

                                                                                                                                                I am astounded how many able-bodied, otherwise intelligent people I come across daily who state "I can't cook." Well, funny how you learned to chew with your mouth!

                                                                                                                                                TT

                                                                                                                                                1. Growing up, I begged my mother to buy Hamburger Helper and Manwich. She made our weekly dinners on the weekends, she worked full time, but everything was made from scratch. She left me a note to put the roast in at whatever time and make a salad. Set the table, and we ate at 6. This is what personal chefs basically do now for their clients, but in the '60's, I was the only one with a mom who worked full time.

                                                                                                                                                  Everyone in my family creates wonderful food. I think the familial culture of preparing your mother's recipes or grandmother's recipes, as labor intensive as they are, keeps those traditions alive. Granted, with all of the cooking shows and celebrity chefs, foodie interests have changed. Singles groups are centered around cooking classes, wine tastings, and fine dining. Las Vegas when I got married there in '97 certainly wasn't the food mecca it is now.

                                                                                                                                                  You have time to do what you find important. That can be shopping for the food, preparing it, working out or reading. I personally have been guilty of not wanting to cook at home because I do it for a living, so the key is to do what my mother did. Prepare things in advance if I'm short on time.

                                                                                                                                                  You can certainly make nice dinners in a half hour. You can prep things ahead and have them ready to cook which saves time when you want to eat at a reasonable hour. I honestly think the mindset comes from what we've experienced growing up.

                                                                                                                                                  When I interview families, I see parents who have fallen into the media hype which is coerced by their children. My own child asks me, just like I did my mother, to buy these things. Parents have gotten lazy with introducing new foods, or having a wide variety of foods part of everyday meals in their homes. I have always tried to make new things for people, many just don't want anything new, only what they know. I had a goal which was not to raise a picky eater, and we have always eaten all vegetables. Green salads with a variety of raw vegetables and fresh beets and brussels sprouts. My child has always eaten these things. But when parents themselves don't have experience with eating things of this nature, and are not open to trying them, their children cop the same attitude.

                                                                                                                                                  Back when I was born in the '50's and raised in the '60's, there just wasn't any other choice than to make things from scratch. I remember when Ragu was introduced, Manwich, Hamburger Helper, along with disposable diapers and paper towels! I'm showing my age, but certainly the availability of the disposable society has gained popularity, and is fueled by the fact that parents often subscribe to soccer, little league, music lessons, hockey, basketball, ballet, gymnastics and everything else they can cram into a day thinking they will have well balanced children. Mulitply that by how many children they have on different schedules.

                                                                                                                                                  To me, one of the most obvious and overlooked aspects of everyday life which has been ignored is sitting down to a family dinner with the televsion turned OFF. We have succumbed to eating in our cars, or slamming food on the run in this society, because we seem to occupy ourselves with all of these extra cirricular activities. This differs greatly from other societies. Other cultures value the mealtime, and everything else in their lives is centered around the mealtime. Unfortunately, I think many in this society have lost the true meaning behind the homecooked food and the planning and shopping for it. This used to be quality time I spent with my mother, father and siblings. Everything was savored and dinnertime was the highlight of the day.

                                                                                                                                                  When the maker of the meal is proud of what they are serving, and tremendous value is placed on the dedication that one has made in the time preparing it, it can only carry over to the people who are eating it. I wish we were more of a society that placed the value on the mealtime instead of everything else that seems to overtake our lives. It did seem to be a lot simpler way back when.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: personalcheffie

                                                                                                                                                    That was a very thoughtful post but I guess I come to a different conclusion.

                                                                                                                                                    I grew up about the same time. When new things like TV dinners came along I was captivated by them and begged for them. The food might have been inferior (well, that's a hard distinction to make because my mother's "homecooking" was undistinguished) but the *romance* was something else.

                                                                                                                                                    I didn't learn to cook from intergenerational interaction tho I saw my mother cook every day. I learned to cook instantly and out of absolute necessity when my then-boyfriend's mother died and left his father, his brother and him helpless. It took me a while but, thank god, I had had good authentic food on vacations when we visited my father's family in small town Maine where they relied on what they grew and what was available locally.

                                                                                                                                                    It was the quality of that plain food that has always animated my cooking and my wish to learn about food. Unfortunately, that doesn't get advertised and *sold* to us with all the romance of those TV dinners. As always, the American dictum to consume overrides everything that's authentic, superior and in our actual interests. I don't foretell any real general return to excellence in cooking, food or anything else until we reject all the commercialism that assaults us from TV and print and put ourselves and our neighbors (including small farmers and producers) first and stop letting advertisers set our priorities. Unfortunately, I don't think "our" government is an ally in this. We're on our own against Madison Avenue and the agricultural conglomerates.

                                                                                                                                                  2. There was no TV on during dinner in my family. The very thought was inconceivably rude to anyone present.

                                                                                                                                                    Mom did most (but not all of the cooking: Dad was usually charged with Sunday supper after Sunday dinner, and was in charge of the grill). We (the kids) set up and cleaned up. Mom & Dad taught all six of their children how to cook. Not puff pastry, but basic home fare. By the time we were teenagers, we were expected to be able to prepare certain meals as well. Mom wanted to ensure that none of her 4 sons would be a burden on their spouses of the future in this regard. To this day, when we get together, cooking together is a complete blast. And my parents, in their 80s, get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, as it were. Still, it's special when Mom (fairly crippled with arthritis) makes an entire meal for any of us. We are blessed to enjoy this, and cannot understand why anyone would forego these elementary but fundamental experiences.

                                                                                                                                                    1. I think cooking skill or lack thereof is all a matter of personal preference. If you like food, and you like your food to taste a certain way, it's natural that you learn how to make these things for yourself (maybe even experimenting and improvising). If you don't really care about food and only eat to survive, you're probably not going to be an ace in the kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                      I grew up with a stay at home mom who made awesome food. We went out to eat on occasion, but I basically didn't taste fast food until high school. Because I was a natural glutton when I was younger, I quickly learned how to use the oven and stove as a matter of survival, picking up tips from watching my mom and various cooking shows on TV. I liked to cook and was pretty good at it (my mom particularly liked it when I offered to cook dinner... I don't think she liked to cook all that much, she just did it because that's what mom's did back then).

                                                                                                                                                      Now? I rarely cook... I think the last sit down meal I made for anyone else was over two years ago. It's not that I can't, or that I lack the skill, it's just that I have so many other things to do with my time. I think the same is true of many people my age... It's not that people don't know how to cook, it's just easier to stop by at your favorite Thai place on the way home from work rather than spend an hour or so cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Eating out isn't terribly expensive nowadays. If you follow the Subway diet, for example, you end up spending around $5.00 for every meal... That's dirt cheap for a lot of people and it's relatively healthy (just an example... replace Subway with any of your cheaply had food). With the time you save grocery shopping or standing in the kitchen making the sandwich, you've gained that much time to spend on your other favorite things.

                                                                                                                                                      I must say that I find it amusing that people think you can work around time restrictions with preparation beforehand. I guess I could spend my entire weekend making soup stock and all the other things necessary for delicious meals during the week. Or I could go outside or something and actually get to see the sun. You can offset the time requirement, but it's still there. The opportunity cost of cooking is pretty high.

                                                                                                                                                      I will note that time priorities are likely to change once family enters the equation. Cooking with a significant other is more fun than cooking by yourself, and nutrition is easier to control when you're concerned about your kids' diets.

                                                                                                                                                      1. I am an executive chef. I subcontract everything. :hahahahaha:

                                                                                                                                                        I did more cooking when I was single, and all my girlfriends wonder how I ended up with the pick of the litter.

                                                                                                                                                        Once I had kids, also having a full-time career, my husband and I had no time for going out. Fortunately, my husband is an excellent cook. I told you I subcontracted everything. Well, I didn't subcontract breastfeeding.

                                                                                                                                                        I still learned the skills of an executive chef: menu-making, shopping lists, new product availability, nutrition, prep skills. With all the food shows on cable, you can learn just about any skill you choose, if you pay attention.

                                                                                                                                                        Now that we're retired, we share all these skills. It's cheaper than golf, and it tastes better.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I agree, home cooking skills/desire have been disapearing since the 1960's. Maybe its a sign of a more hectic life, longer commutes, etc.

                                                                                                                                                          1. I also believe the accessibility of ready to eat/fast food joints that really market the idea of convenience to the younger generation... the generation of immediate gratification. Why waste time slaving over a stove when it can be prepared for you? That mentality has been winning out of late.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Based on the number of nights driving home from work that I see restaurant lots full of cars, I'd say yes folks are def dining out more often. But, I also believe that we are getting more creative in how/what we prepare when we cook at home.

                                                                                                                                                              Culinary skills use to be taught in school but sadly, Home Ec as I remember it, has been replaced by Health and Living classes. So, unless you are taught my family/friends/professionals where are you going to learn how to julienne, carve, poach or roast?

                                                                                                                                                              1. I think people love to cook, but love to dine out as well
                                                                                                                                                                I love to cook. but i have been in the restaurant/wine business my whole life maybe thats why

                                                                                                                                                                1. I am 24, and work in an office with people whose ages range from early twenties to fifty. It is a small company, so everyone's pretty close, and for some reason everyone there is astounded that I cook - let alone almost every day!

                                                                                                                                                                  The students complain that there is no money or time between school and work. The parents complain no time because of kids. The other reason for not cooking is simply a lack of interest.

                                                                                                                                                                  I don't know where my love of cooking came from. My parents never cooked, and if I listened to them it would be a bothersome chore. I have one grandmother, who cooked, but I really disliked everything she made - poor ingredients, poorly made.

                                                                                                                                                                  Maybe it is -because- my parents didn't cook that led me to the love; five or six nights of the week were officially titled "Fend For Yourselves" evenings, beginning when I was around 11 or 12, where my brother and I would have to make our own dinner. My brother is two years younger than me, so I'd have to make stuff for him - and the more compliments he reaped on my cooking, the better I wanted to get. Not only did I want to get better, but I really enjoyed it - I liked the time spent in the kitchen with my brother, getting him to peel or shred, hey at least we were hanging out - and I still love that aspect of it to this day. Though I'm just as happy cooking alone.

                                                                                                                                                                  I think cooking will become 'popular' again, and soon. There is definitely a generation or two who look upon it as time wasting and unnecessary, but there will be those who just know something is missing from constant quick, paid-for, wolfed-down meals.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I cook most nights. Because it tastes better than frozen dinners or pre-packaged stuff. I don't like salt. Also, I like lots of garlic and lots of fresh veggies.
                                                                                                                                                                    I learned plain ole American cooking from Mom-- and how to press garlic, how to slice an onion, etc. The basics.
                                                                                                                                                                    When I got married, I bought myself a Joy of Cooking and taught myself stuff like cakes, pies, bread, pastries. My Cuban MIL taught me latin specialties.
                                                                                                                                                                    Then, I discovered ethnic restaurants! 'Nuff said!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I live in the Santa Clarita valley and am saddend by how many of my friends don't even know how to turn on their ovens!When I'm at the grocery store, I notice how full other peoples baskets are of frozen dinners, and boxed cake mixes.It's no wonder the obesity rate in this counrty is so high.It takes only a little while longer to cook something from scratch, and it's much tastier, has less sodium, and fewer additives.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Exhibit One = Sandra lee