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Jul 15, 2006 03:15 PM

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

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.


          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.

                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!