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A decline in home cooking?

Not among Chowhounds, obviously, but a TV programme I watched last night here in the UK got me thinking.

I'm not sure whether you'll get it in the States but Jamie Oliver has a new show called "Jamie's Ministry of Food". In it he goes to a northern town (Rotherham) on a mission to teach ordinary folks to cook. The lack of basic knowledge among the people that he meets is gobsmacking. One woman isn't sure how to turn her cooker on, another doesn't really know what boiling water looks like. All of them feed their kids on junk food and takeaways. The idea is that he teaches a core group of eight some simple dishes, which they teach to their friends, and so on.

Now these may be extreme examples, but it does seem that we have created large swathes of people who simply don't know how to cook. I'm not talking about gourmet food here, but the kind of stuff that I would consider to be a basic life skill. After all, it's not rocket science.

Back in the seventies, when I was growing up, people had no option but to cook. Takeway/restaurant food was simply too expensive. My mother loathes cooking but still put a home-cooked meal on the table every night. Sure we ate a lot of mince (ground beef) and stuff with pastry but at least it was honest, if not gourmet, fare. We were a fairly typical working-class family.

But somewhere along the line that seems to have changed for a lot of people. What went wrong?

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  1. Great topic! This very subject has been on my mind a lot. Well here in the US I blame fast food restaurants and also the need for both parents to have a full-time job. In the introcution to Super Size me the director says that back in the day his family of origin had a home-cooked meal every night and eating out was for very rare occaisions. I could write a ton on this but I want to see what others thing. I have to ask what the eight basic dishes? I'm dying to know. And thanks again for posting this.

    6 Replies
    1. re: givemecarbs

      "I have to ask what the eight basic dishes?" If you parse the OP again I believe you'll find she is referring to eight people being taught, not eight dishes.

      I agree, we eat out a bit more than when I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, but it seems to me that's a question of having more disposable income now than anything else. We have more variety in our takeout meals (back then the only options were pizza or Chinese), but still don't make a dinner of that more than once a week or so.

      We have no kids still at home but when we did, everyone was here for (usually home-cooked) dinner every night - or better have a good excuse why not! I look at my younger sisters' families today and see pretty much the same thing.

      I'm not saying this phenomenon doesn't exist, I'm sure you can find plenty of people here who can't boil water either, but I wonder how widespread it really is.

      1. re: givemecarbs

        It's ten dishes, and last night they learned to cook spaghetti with meatballs and fish pie. More information here:


        1. re: greedygirl

          What a great idea. Hasn't he also been involved with changing school meals in parts of the U.K.?

          Most of my friends with children do eat with their children and make home cooked meals, even if they both work - though many of them do have help. However, I have two step-siblings, neither of whom can really afford it, who, more often than not, go out to eat for junky food, or order in almost every night.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Yes some people "cook supper" every night and eat at home mostly but if you actually see the type of food prepared in most kitchens, it is hardly healthy home cookin'.

            1. re: meditrinarose

              I cook every day for my self alone, but I share w/ my Dad & friends... Dad's on a diet now, so he doesn't get much!
              I cook with butter, cream, cheeses, regular old bad for you flour, meats -the fatter the better as far as I'm concerned. (I was stunned at the meat counter last spring when the man who helped me sliced off the beautiful ring of fat from the pork I'd chosen without me asking him to, and so quickly it was done before I could stop him. I had to settle for the second best piece. : p)

              Cooking is an art. There are different viewpoints, different art supplies. I get on a tangent and do something to death for awhile, then move on to something else... I enjoy the art of others. I wouldn't enjoy cooking vegan, but would love to try what others create! But not convert, for SURE.

              1. re: weewah

                I know what you mean weewah. Sometimes going grocery shopping feels like going to a toy store. My friend is testing for a gluten intolerance and assisting him in his endeavor has taken me on many adventures!

      2. This is so relevant for me b/c my best friend does take out for her family every evening. She literally struggles to do something as simple as boil water. She was stunned recently to learn that mashed potatos could be made with potatos rather than with flakes from a box.

        She also regularly complains that her kids "won't eat anything" or "try anything new" and that she needs to lose weight. But for some reason she never makes the connection b/w her eating habits and these problems.

        Growing up, we probably had enough money to do take-out every night, though my parents didn't see that b/c they were Depression-era babies. Even if they had, my mother would have cooked every night (except for special occasions) b/c in her mind, that's what mothers who loved their children, valued their family-life, and believed in good, healthy, well-rounded meals did.

        I do think the issue of both parents working (and more single parenthood? though I'm not certain that is the case) contributes to higher rates of eating/taking out. Even when parents do cook, there is less time spent on teh actual act of cooking/dining, and kids seem busier now as well. So those long Sundays (or Saturdays) that many of us spent in the kitchen cooking for the big family meal no longer occur.

        1. I disagree that it's both parents working that caused it. I think it's credit cards.

          When many of us grew up in the 60s and 70s, there WERE no credit cards to live off of so going out to eat, which is more expensive than cooking something at home from scratch, was a special and rare treat. Now people live off credit. most restaurants take credit, even fast food places (at least they do where I live), and that's part of the problem.

          I would also say the "I have no time to cook" argument is perpetuated by the soccer moms who are the ones who put their child in 15 differents sports and 12 different other activities each year, so all their free time outside of work is spent shuttling the children to rehearsals, games, performances, banquets, etc. When I was a kid, I had to pick ONE thing I could do when I was in elementary school (I picked music). When I got older, you could pick ONE sport in addition to the music. If you didn't like it, you waited another year and picked another sport. It was just too expensive and time consuming to do more than that.

          I think the "I'm too busy" is created by the parents themselves, and they justify takeout and fast food meals and charging their lives on credit cards because they're "too busy" to do anything else.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rockandroller1

            In general I agree. You're a bit sexist, though, I know plenty of dads who insist that their sons try out for the baseball team and take karate. Also know plenty of dads who cook.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              There are two other factors.

              First, families were a lot larger so that taking the family out was a LOT more expensive than eating at home. Also, since families were larger, there had to be limits to the number of activities that each kid could get into.

              Second, a LOT of families had ONE car so eating out was more of a logistical nightmare.

              When you see how willing parents are to outsource tasks they find unpleasant, including child care, why should cooking be different.

            2. I definitely think the two-income family has played a role. For the first 11 years of my life, my mom stayed at home and cooked all the time. But she did reenter the workforce (a college professor's salary only goes so far), and I noticed our meals not being as lavish. She still cooked, but cooked simpler food and there was a lot of meals made in bulk and stashed in the freezer.

              But it seems that trend is changing again. According to the Wall Street Journal, they say that there's been an increase in home chefs in recent years with more people cooking at home due to budget issues.


              1. I think there are several factors. First, I don't think wages have kept up with inflation, so many people are forced to work longer hours just to make ends meet. You have families with single parents working multiple jobs or with both parents working long hours.

                Fast food and some takeout places are relatively cheap compared to the prices 50 years ago, parents may only have time to grab that on their way home or between jobs. There are also many more cheap pre-made food options in grocery stores as well that only require microwave knowledge to cook. At the end of the day, a lot of parents are looking at what they can do to feed their children period, and in many cases that's processed food instead of ingredients that need to be cooked to make a meal.

                16 Replies
                1. re: queencru

                  I was going to say the opposite. It's AFFULENCE that has caused people to stop cooking. They can afford convenience products, they can afford take out and restaurants. Every body lives so much higher than they did a couple of decades ago.

                  In fact, i would say your second paragraph refutes (correctly) your assertion that wages haven't kept up w/ inflation. To say that food is relatively cheaper than 50 years ago indicates the opposite.

                  I can remember in the 70's I liked Arby's, but my Mom limited the times we could go there because it was "expensive". I'd say we were solidly middle class (a teacher and a banker) and can't imagine any middle class family considering any run of the mill fast food expensive today.

                  1. re: danna

                    No, I don't think so. Look at all the fast-food joints in poor neighborhoods. It's partly cultural. Just as formula companies convinced people it was better to use formula than to breastfeed, fast food/convenience food advertising has convinced people that it's more desirable to eat those foods. Since they're cheap and easy, that's what people eat.

                    People who are poor are especially vulnerable to the aspirational aspects of food advertised on television. They aspire to being middle class. They rarely see people portrayed as cooking on television, but they do see lots of happy, prosperous-looking people eating fast food/convenience food, so that's what they aspire to eat. This is gone on for a couple of generations in the US so there are now large groups of people who not only can't cook themselves, but whose mothers couldn't cook. What cooking is done is for special occasions and thus has become seen as something that is time consuming, elaborate and expensive, not something you would do on an everyday basis. Fast food has become the norm for them.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Ah, but middle class suburban malls are jammed with Cheesecake Factories, Outbacks, P.F.Chang's, Red Lobsters, Applebees, Chili's, Chevy's, Olive Gardens, Buca Di Beppos, etc., etc. which always seem to be crowded with families dining out - and the advertising is just as proflific. This "dine out - don't cook" phenomenon goes way beyond the MacDonaldizing of poorer neighborhoods; it's not just "them".

                      1. re: Striver

                        Agreed, I know plenty of people w/ granite counters who haven't spilled anything on them yet. I don't think it's a rich/poor issue.

                        I personally don't believe (as I'm aware many do) that suppliers/advertisers cause people to do anything. Companies fullfill the desires of the buying public. They don't create demand.

                        1. re: danna

                          "Companies fullfill the desires of the buying public. They don't create demand."

                          I really must disagree on this point. Companies with new products whether it be pre-shredded cabbage, blue ketchup or ipods put plenty of money toward creating demand. Their marketing departments are dedicated to creating the feeling that one can't live without a product that two months ago the public didn't know existed.

                          I agree that marketing doesn't "make" a person do anything. They simply make choices that benefit their company easier for the public to make than other possibly more healthy options. That's business.

                        2. re: Striver

                          I didn't mean to suggest that *only* poor people didn't cook, just that the trend of not cooking is not purely a byproduct of affluence, as the post I was responding to posited.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            not to belabor the point, Ruth, I suppose I mean "relative affluence". I propose that today's poor are quite affluent compared to the poor...or maybe even the middle class... of 1950. And thus able to buy the convenience products they couldn't in years past.

                            thinks too much: I see what you're saying, but I think the demand has to be there...even if it is previously unfulfilled...in order for the marketing to have effect. Let's say a company develops chocolate flavored water. This is not a product I've ever felt a desire for. But...i have a demand for chocolate and a demand for lo-cal food...so...i might be all over that product. However, they could pump me full of advertising day and night for blue cheese flavored water....and it's never, EVER going to happen.

                            So what I'm trying to say by this lame analogy, is that people WANT to be time efficient (or lazy depending on your value judgement) at the cost of eating crap food...McD's, Snackables, and all the rest, no matter how icky, can't be blamed for giving people what they want.

                            1. re: danna

                              I don't think you can argue that today's poor are affluent relative to the 1950's poor or middle class. Yes they can afford to buy products that weren't available in the 1950's, but being able to buy tinned spaghetti (which in the 50's was a treat relative to dried spaghetti) doesn't denote relative wealth.
                              Consider that recently the media has reported that the average cost of purchasing a house in the UK or Australia is ten times the average wage, previously (as in the 1950's) it had been closer to 3 to 4 times the average wage. Consider also that the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables has been rising (in Australia at least) at a rate greater than underlying inflation, making convenience foods the cheaper option. That poorer socio-economic groups can afford the 'convenience' foods is not a sign of comparative wealth but the manner in which the tables have turned.

                              Also the purpose of advertising is to create demand for a particular product by tapping into broader aspirations and desires that are not actuallyl affected or related to the product. For instance, a fast food chicken joint in Australia advertises its family meal by associating said meal with a convenient dinner that will make everyone happy (due to 'variety' of meal) allow harassed working mum to arrange dinner with ease (thereby fulfilling domestic goddess role) , and then the family will all sit around the table during dinner playing charades (thereby family gets to be a happy family).

                              The product in question is in fact that antithesis of all these ideals but by virtue of creating a work of fiction that speaks to the aspirations of a subset of society (harassed working mums feeling guilty at not being the happy homemaker, thereby creating a fractured and unhappy family that cannot bond adequately so ultimately at least one of your children will hate you/your whole family and may at a later date commit a horrendous crime but get off on the grounds of you being a preoccupied -with poorly completed domestic duties - mother who was incapable of spending sufficient time with them between getting home and dinner being on the table.) Hence deep fried chicken, with processed mashed 'potato', coleslaw and fries comes to represent the fulfillment of the aspirations to be a good mother, demand for product is thus generated.

                              1. re: irisav

                                You nailed it.

                                It's indisputable that the inflation-adjusted cost of whole foods has increased over the last several decades relative to the cost of processed foods.

                                It's also indisputable that marketing can create - or at least increase - demand for the advertised product. (Otherwise, why would companies pay for it?)

                                But what blows me away is that the government here in the US (can't speak to the situation in Oz) actually spends billions of taxpayer dollars every year funding the transition from real food to highly-processed crap by providing subsidies that make food-like products cheaper, thus creating additional room in their manufacturers' budgets for even more advertising. [Insert remainder of rant here.]

                                1. re: irisav

                                  Awesome post irisav! I hate the way advertisers use their empathy for evil purposes. Making career moms with young children feel guilty is like shooting fish in a barrel. I'm pretty sure Boston Market here in the US has done similar commercials.

                                  1. re: irisav

                                    In economic terms, the demand is not created. In your example, there is a value placed on (a demand for): a) a happy family, b) meeting the diferent needs or desires of each member, c) fullfillment of the motherhood role, and d) quality family time. These are goods desired by many if not most families. The fast food chicken joint recognized the demand and suggested that they have a way of providing such goods. The publics' response in terms of purchases reflects, to some degree, that it is getting what it wants.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Yes. Cleverly designed and placed advertising can get you to try something once.

                                      After that, it's entirely your decision - or, as Voltaire put it, "Once - a philosopher; twice - a pervert". He wasn't exactly talking about food, but the same general principle applies.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        I think the problem is the use of the word 'demand' and I very nearly didn't use it.

                                        I think demand implies that well a the specific 'need/want' already existed and that the companies are just meeting these needs. But I'm not convinced that this is true.

                                        Companies identify their market and then pitch accordingly. Yes it is the choice of the consumer, but how much of a choice is it? Marketing works by dog-whistling, it can be quite insidious in its approach.

                                        For instance a full time working mother is watching tv having had a long day, produced a dinner which was whinged about by the kids and then had to fight with them to get them do their homework/go to bed/have a bath etc. It hasn't been a positive day, the family wasn't a hallmark commercial of family bonding and then this ad comes on showing a mother who presumably works full time, and has two kids the same age as yours calling home to tell them she made the choice of fried chicken for dinner, and cut to family eating dinner bonding over charades.

                                        Clearly the message is that the commercial mum knows which decision to make, and if you make this decision maybe your hair will be this perfect too etc. Now imagine that that ad is repeated three or four times over the next hour or so, and this goes on for several weeks, I can bet you somewhere out there a mother gets turned.

                                        The purchasing public doesn't get what it wants which is a better work/family life balance (or a husband who pitches in - in the case of the ad DH already home but clearly not doing anything about the dinner situation).

                                        It gets a product that cannot meet these needs (fried chicken won't make your manager more flexible about working hours) but has nevertheless been made to appear as the answer to your woes through a piece of marketing.

                                      2. re: irisav

                                        I most certainly can argue that because it's a fact. I'm no expert on the Austrialian economy, but in the US, the price of food relative to income has declined. See this book if you like: http://books.google.com/books?id=2bdF...

                                        I have more respect for the working mother's (or anyone's) intelligence than to believe they can be influenced in the way you suggest in this post, and the follow up one below. People aren't victims - if they see crap food on TV and think the trade-off between cooking something decent and having extra time is a good deal - it's their decision.

                                        1. re: danna

                                          It's not really about intelligence, objectively and consciously they would know that it is an ad and that they are being marketed to and even made to feel bad. The problem is that subconsciously they may still be influenced - that is the next time they've had a long day and can't face cooking they opt for the fast food short cut and perhaps that becomes a habit whenever they feel this way.

                                          I recall an article several years ago reporting on a study that suggested that people with limited social life's were as satisfied with their social existence as people with extensive social life's if they watched a lot of TV as ultimately the human brain cannot easily distinguish between a perceived friendship with a character in a TV show and a friendship with a real person. While this may not seem immediately congruent with advertising, my point is that an individual in a vulnerable state of mind may be open to the suggestion of advertised product be it fried chicken, firming lotion or packages of processed 'side dishes'. I do not suggest that everyone will be turned, but some will (why on earth would companies sink so much money into advertising if it was not successful?).

                                          If you're interested in the messages that form the subtext of advertising I suggest you google (or youtube) the gruen transfer which was a program aired in Australia where a panel of ad industry experts dissected ad's.

                                          The example of the ad I provided was just one illustration of how food media pitches to one its prospective markets. That same company runs modified versions of this ad between 3 and 5pm pitching to children who are more likely to be viewing TV at this time, so pester power can also be added to the pressures of the working mother.

                                          Finally the reference you provided whilst interesting was published in 1997. Many of my lecturers and tutors have impressed upon me that for reference material of this kind it is best to source journal articles as the nature of publishing means that by the time a book has made it through the rewrites/editing/publication/distribution etc it is already several years out of date. With journal articles it is easier to find more recent material.

                                          In support of my position I offer:

                                          'Price changes in thrifty food plan versus the consumer price index for food: why the difference?', Family economics & Nutrition review, 16.2 (Spring 2004) p. 82 (2)

                                          "What price more food? It's the crisis the world should have seen coming", New Scientist, 198.2660, (June 14, 2008) p. 28 (6)

                                          "Markets and Childhood Obesity", J. Cawley, The Future of Children, Vol. 16 No. 1, childhood Obesity, Spring 2006

                                          I'm not sure whether or not these articles can be sourced free on the internet.

                                          From the Cawley piece I'l quote from the opening para:

                                          "...the real price of food fell, In particular energy-dense foods, such as those containing fats and sugars became relatively cheaper than less energy-dense foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables." (p69)

                                          My argument, re: decline in home cooking, is that it is a significant indicator of lower socio-economic status - so I'm largely identifying a group of people in low paying jobs with frequently significant hours, or people on either government income support or a full government benefit. The relative cost of processed foods to fresh fruit and vegetables is cheaper both in terms of monetary and time costs. Not only that but this expenditure is part of a constellation of other costs such as fuel and utility costs which have all significantly risen in the past few years. Hence, fast food and highly processed food become more appealing and much more the 'norm' the further down the socio-economic scale you go.

                                          The New Scientist piece argues that the cost of unprocessed produce fruit, vegetables, meat, cereals dairy etc are only set to rise in future years as world-wide demand continues to 'exceed' supply (this would probably be less problematic if distribution between developed and developing nations were more equitable rather than market driven). The supply is also subject to the pressure of prolonged drought in places like Australia and other climate and calamitous occurrences around the world.

                                          My point is that if an individual is already economically disadvantaged then that disadvantage is only set to grow in the coming years.

                          2. I would agree with those who have said it's the advent of fast food restaurants and pizza joints. Those burger places serving 99c meals are very much to blame, along with the dinner in front of the TV crowd, freezers, ready made meals in the supermarket, TV dinners etc. We only went out to eat for birthdays etc when I was growing up and my mum made a 3 course meal every night. But she didn't work. Working mums have added to this, the decline in cookery lessons at school have all added to this.

                            1. I find it interesting that none of the replies so far have addressed the fact that cooking highly processed meals and eating predominantly take away rather than cooking meals from scratch is actually a reflection of socio-economic status.

                              It might be unfashionable to suggest this but such poor diets are generally the product of (a) not having enough money to eat healthily (let alone well) and (b) not having the life skills to do so when there is sufficient money.

                              I'm willing to bet that the Jamie's program highlights the cycle of poverty that has led to such endemic poor diets. That is each generation loses the fundamental skills of ownership of ones life and therefore has less knowledge to pass on to the subsequent generation.

                              It is so easy in our modern capitalist societies to think that poverty is something that one overcomes to go on to bigger and better things but for many it's a trap and not one that they necessarily fell into themselves but are there simply because their parents were trapped as well.

                              People can have all the trappings of a middle class life - 2 cars, 1.5 kids, a huge house filled with technology but the the untold story is is that they are saddled with a huge debt that requires most of their income to service hence the giant stove and oven combo in the kitchen goes largely unused because they don't have time or the resources to provide a balanced meal for their family. This in itself is a poverty trap with a different face.

                              This is not a new phenomenon, and that is what makes it so sad. It is a cycle of impoverishment - not just in monetary and dietary terms but in educational and social opportunities as well - that has existed for generations.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: irisav

                                It's significant that one of the people featured most in the programme is a single mother on benefits. It turns out that she has a natural ability with food, and a large eight-burner cooker in her kitchen, but has lacked the confidence and skills to learn to cook. She is aware that she is failing her kids (her daughter has never eaten a home-cooked meal, and her favourite food is a doner kebab).

                                I understand that poor education and poverty is a big factor. And limited resources mean you're less likely to take risks with food. You simply cannot afford to buy things that children may refuse to eat, so pizza, chips and hamburgers are the "safe" option.

                                But the fact remains that previous generations learned to cook despite poverty and a lack of formal education. My mother is a case in point. Her mother was a terrible cook, and she was brought up in slum conditions in the north of England. She is neither educated nor particularly intelligent. She lacks curiosity and is not very interested in food. And yet she would regularly turn out a home cooked meal because there was no choice. Takeaway food was simply too expensive in the seventies, unlike now.

                                1. re: greedygirl


                                  I should have been clearer - the above link is an interesting article on the show and I would refer you to the section on Orwell in particular - i wasn't suggesting that the previous generation ate take away all the time - because you are right it was limited and expensive. What I was trying to get out (although I really wasn't explicit) was that for those trapped in the poverty cycle one generation's terrible cook is the next generation's dependent on take away. Take away is an inexpensive source of food for everyone but it seems to be most problematic for individuals who are least empowered from a social, monetary and educational stand point.

                                  The point that I would make is that children born into varying degrees of impoverishment don't get a chance to develop a palate for anything other than pizza, chips etc. A child brought up eating fruit, vegetables and relatively unprocessed foods accepts these things as part of their diet and generally continues those practices as an adult. But that requires that their parents possess the means to provide this environment for their children in the first place.

                                  So yes, the abundance of relatively inexpensive take away is part of the problem but I don't think it is the source of the problem. The root cause ultimately must be social/educational background leading to an inability to see other choices.

                                  1. re: irisav

                                    I thought the programme did do a fairly good job of showing the despair of living on a low income, and how it grinds the life out of you. There was one bit when the single mum was talking about how she'd given up because everything was just too much. She had pawned her jewellry because she had so little money, partly because she was spending too much every week on takeaway. These are complex problems that can't be solved by Jamie Oliver and his TV show.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      The problems certainly can't be solved by J O and his show, but he can certainly draw the government's attention to it's policy failures (much like he did with the school dinners program) and thereby with his and the public scrutiny combined the government may find the political will to address its short comings.

                                      I agree that eating take away is more expensive than grocery shopping and cooking at home - provided you know how to shop and cook. For instance I can make a dinner for five, of three different curries served with rice for under AU$5 a head, because I know how to make curries from scratch. That price would significantly increase if I didn't know which spices/ingredients to purchase and therefore purchased the shortcuts in jars, and significantly again if I had to buy enough for five from a take away place.

                                      I think it also highlights that a little knowledge (about food, produce and cooking) can equal a lot of empowerment.

                                2. re: irisav

                                  I disagree with this. I work with 2 people who are extremely well off - they buy their children every new gadget and toy that comes on the market. Both elementary-aged children have their own cell phones, their own iPods, their own game systems, they live in a huge, expensive house and drive expensive cars. The one mom regular buys purses that are several hundred dollars and wears very expensive clothes. If it was all credit, it would have caught up to them by now but they continue with the lavish vacations and toys and clothes and everything. They have plenty of money.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    Yes, the majority of people who lead that lifestyle would have the income to support that type of lifestyle.

                                    My argument was that not all people who lead this lifestyle can necessarily afford to do so and, therefore, to some degree can be considered impoverished. The point I was trying to make is that impoverishment its a complex issue and cannot always be identified by obvious indicators (such as lack car or home ownership etc).

                                3. i think it is because it's becoming more and more unreasonable to expect women to both hold full time jobs -- some of us more than full time, with 90+ hour weeks -- and put a meal on the table every night. if home cooking has declined in popularity, it's in part because many men haven't stepped up to the bat to share responsibility.

                                  one of the things i love about this board is that lots of real men julienne and that there are many other male posters like hannaone, sam fujisaka, bulivinaka, jungman, rworange, eat nopal, and others who enjoy cooking and understand that it's manly, sexy and cool to do so. hopefully the world will catch on to their fine example.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: cimui

                                    oh. . . i thought rworange was female. . .

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      She is -- and she doesn't much like cooking.

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        right on. scratch manly from her descriptor, then. and cool if she doesn't like cooking. ;)

                                  2. I don't know how much poverty has got to do with it. When I was a single mum (for 10 years), I was studying full time, working 3 part-time jobs and was unable to afford take-away, unless we "saved up" for pizza once a fortnight.

                                    When I can get 3 meals, for 3 people out of five bucks worth of mince and some random spices, pasta and a bit of imagination, I can't justify spending the same amount of dosh per person for one bloody McVom meal.

                                    I think people have been hoodwinked into thinking that "fast food" = cheap food. But it ain't so.

                                    I also think laziness/lack of skill/ belief that cooking is somehow difficult or time consuming, that is the biggest hurdle.

                                    I am amazed at how many of our friends will wait 45 mins for a pizza rather than throw a salad and some grilled chook together.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: purple goddess

                                      I hear you! So many times I come home after a 16hr day and think about getting takeout, then my husband makes me realize we could whip up a quick pasta in less time and enjoy it more. I also feel that cooking w/ my husband helps me de-stress after the day more people should try it. FYI late night pasta in our house is make from staples found in the pantry or freezer because after a day like that shopping is out.

                                    2. I don't really buy the both parents working thing. I work full time, as does my husband, and my kids (ages 2 and 4) eat my cooking at least 4 or 5 nights a week. When they go to sleep at night, I stand in my kitchen, after working all day, and cook. Whether it's cooking/preparing dinner for the next night, or cooking something that I will freeze for a later date, I refuse to let my kids eat chicken fingers or such every night. I am lucky, in that they are both excellent eaters (better than my husband!). But I also know that not everyone is as dedicated to and obsessed with food as I am.

                                      Don't get me wrong, I have chicken fingers in my freezer. Sometimes it can't be helped. But I feel much better when I can pull out a container of meatballs or something that I made and just make some spaghetti to go with it.

                                      That being said, there are a LOT more takeout options out there than there ever were. Not just fast food, but supermarkets, gourmet stores, all have lots of prepared food, much of it not so healthy. To me, most of it looks good and then never tastes so good. I (and my family) are much more satisfied with a meal that has been cooked at home.

                                      We generally go out to eat as a family one night on the weekend and the other night we bring in chinese , indian or sushi. I can't make those at home.

                                      And we rarely go to a fast food place. Last we went to McDonald's, we were on a road trip and there were no other options. My daughter (the 4 year old) kept calling it "Old McDonald's". It made me laugh because that is how unfamiliar she is with the place -- she didn't even know the name.

                                      1. Time and sloth.

                                        It takes time and energy to cook even the most basic of things.

                                        After a day at work, more often than not I'm more inclined to make dinner out of a box of cereal paired with some single malt scotch (neat) than I am to prepare something as "basic" as pasta or rice and stir-fry veggies.

                                        Also, it's not just the cooking itself -- it's everything else associated with cooking, e.g. the prep, the grocery shopping and planning, and of course the cleanup.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I agree with you, ipsedixit. Of course there are other reasons as well, but I think time and sloth have a great deal to do with it.

                                          This is a bit OT since it has more to do with entertaining than cooking for a family, but I had an eye-opening experience recently. A friend from London was staying with me. Two friends of his were in town. I suggested inviting them to dinner. My friend made it sound as though this was simply an extraordinary offer. Was I sure? Did I really want to bother? Wasn’t it too much money? Too much work?

                                          I overheard his phone call extending the invitation. It was almost embarrassing. He went on and on about my being a good cook, having some experience editing cookbooks, really enjoying entertaining—as though to convince them that the meal would be edible and they wouldn’t have to stop at McDonald’s on the way home.

                                          When queried about it later, he said that among his circle back home--friends who are mostly single and well off and have jobs in the arts that allow them more-than-the-usual amount of free time—friends might be invited over for drinks, but then they go out to dinner Dutch treat. It’s just too damned much work to have people over for an evening and none of his friends bother.

                                          I certainly don’t mean to imply this is solely a UK thing, it’s just that nearly all of my friends cook and entertain and it was the first time I’d seen/heard anyone so taken aback by the thought that cooking and sharing might possibly be enjoyable as opposed to a burden.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            None of my friends cooked when we were in our 20s. I ate out a lot more myself then too, and relied more on processed foods. I think some of it was just the nature of being social. People don't go to someone's HOME to be social unless it is a party, they go out. Now that I'm older, we dont' want to go out anymore, it's annoying, the food is bad, it's loud and there are too many people, not to mention the cost. yes, I'm gettin' old. :)

                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              I assure you my friend and I are NOT in our twenties. We're each almost old enough to have grandchildren in their twenties!

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                Interesting! As someone posted further down, I wonder if it's because of the nature of a lot of people's homes, being smaller and flats instead of actual houses, much like NY where everyone goes out and almost nobody cooks at home or entertains there, unless they are super rich and have a huge pad.

                                              2. re: rockandroller1

                                                Well, there's also the in your twenties effect of having TEENY kitchens.

                                                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                  And there is also the in your 40's effect of still having teeny kitchens, and making do inspite of that.

                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    I'm in my late 40's, and have a tiny kitchen. I was lamenting this yesterday, as I managed to whip up some really tasty chicken parmigiana and pasta with ricotta. My counter can barely hold the cutting board and two pie pans used to prepare the chicken for cooking. but I managed just fine! (My house was originally our 2nd home, for weekends and vacations only. I didn't care about the lack of kitchen space back then.)

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      Well yes, as I still have a tiny kitchen in my 30's, but I imagine I'd want to entertain more at least if my kitchen were larger/better equipped.

                                                  2. re: rockandroller1

                                                    Cheap ramen was a staple in my university days because of lack of time and money and it wasn't until my mid-20s that I learned to cook...I hosted a few dinners in those days but they weren't too involved..spaghetti and meatballs, chili, that kind of thing. Then after grad when I had more disposable income there were more dinners out with friends... now that I'm a mother of three (7, 3&1/2 and 2) we cook dinner at home most nights and go out maybe once or twice a month. I am lucky enough to have a DH who has recently discovered he likes cooking too so dinner responsibilities are shared.

                                                  3. re: JoanN

                                                    Being well off in London probably means you can afford to live in a relatively small one-bedroom apartment on your own. Most buildings are older and have been converted from houses or other types of buildings into flats. If you're living with a flatmate, chances are the living room and/or dining room have been converted into bedrooms and there may be space for a small (2-person) dining table and that's it. Food is also much more expensive in the UK.

                                                    This is not just a UK phenomenon though. In many cultures, inviting people over at all is just not the thing to do because living spaces are just not set up for entertaining and are considered private.

                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                      Point well taken. My friend's flat is indeed quite small. He can seat four, but only barely. The cost of groceries, though, has always seemed more or less comparable to what I pay in Manhattan, which I realize is often a good deal more than what people outside of the city pay .

                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                        I think that's a bit of an exaggeration and really depends on your age, tbh. I am in my thirties and am unusual among my peer group in London in that we have a whole house to live in. We are comfortably off but certainly not rich, just made good financial decisions in our twenties. Most of my friends live in flats, but they do generally have a dining table which can seat six. With relation to the cost of food, It's hard to make comparisons for all sorts of reasons but Brits and Americans spend a similar proportion of their income on food (about 10%).

                                                        Having said that, we rarely get invited round to people's houses for dinner, despite entertaining a lot ourselves. This used to really piss me off, but I've accepted it now!

                                                  4. The microwave. A useful appliance if used properly and with discretion (read Barbara Kafka on the subject) - but so many people don't know how to use it properly. The love of leftovers from restaurants is key to the love of reheating in a microwave (including reheating foods that should never darken a microwave or only be heated at 20-30% power max, and most foods should never be reheated more than 50% power).

                                                    There are people who are quite unfamiliar with using their ovens. And a vast number of people who have never used their broiler.

                                                    Also, there are fewer people who know how, and think they have the time, to buy and prepare raw ingredients (not just flesh but vegetables), and who really don't know how to season everything because their palates have been coarsened by prolonged exposure to processed foods (the growing overuse of chillies and hot sauces is replacing the former use of ketchup as the universal flavor bomb).

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      I love that bit about overuse of chilies and hot sauces - I thought it was just me who saw it as becoming so prevalent - and being used similarly to ketchup! I was driving past McDonald's and saw advertisied something called a "chipotle barbecue cheese Angus hamburger" and had to stop and say it over & over - waaaay too much going on there! I love chilies and hot sauce, but they are taking over the world it seems.

                                                      Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but what was MacDonald's thinking? Can anyone really taste a burger with all those flavors fighting each other?

                                                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                        Do you really want to taste the burger?

                                                        Sorry, I had to go there. I just can't stand the taste of a McDonald's burger so would have to have a lot of strong flavors to entice me to eat it.

                                                        1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                          Right on alliedawn! He he he! My thoughts exactly!!!

                                                    2. So many insights here, I knew this post was going to rock! I hadn't thought about the credit cards. I had another thought, how about cable tv affecting all this? And even the internet? And cell phones? From what I hear back in the day prime time programming didn't start until eight pm and even thought life always offers many distractions, people weren't tempted by so many tv channels, phone calls from people walking around or driving, and of course the glorious beautiful internet! There have been studies that show that somehow people don't count or account for the time watching tv in their daily lives. The studies put it much more elegantly than I can remember, but people just allow the tv to devour hours of their evening without them quite realizing it. I think the not cooking at home cuts across all social classes. It's hard for me not to be angry at parents who know how to cook but don't teach their kids. Being a gamer, I have many younger friends. I still remember teaching my eighteen year old friend how to use a gas pump. He talked to me extensively about his parents and from what I can figure they were very good at making things easier on themselves and avoiding hassles. And no, he doesn't know how to cook.

                                                      1. One factor that no one has brought up - there used to be a lot fewer restaurants! We simply didn't have the choices in this country 30 years ago when I was little. Now my 11 year old asks to go out for sushi and we've got three places to choose from within three miles of home. And I grew up in NJ right outside of NYC, not some small town.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: southernitalian

                                                          It's true! Was just thinking about an old rule from back in the day, and this is going way back but some families still follow it. If relatives or friends travel to come visit you it is/was expected that you serve a hot meal shortly after they arrive. I got hit with that from both sides of the family when I foolishly moved to Gainesville FL for awhile. My offering was almost always pot roast with the potatoes and carrots right in the pot to keep it all warm and ready to serve. Oh and for the younger relatives, chili. There were no cell phones back then so their arrival time was just an estimate. The idea behind this rule was that you didn't want hungry family members to be forced to eat at an iffy restaurant if it could possibly be avoided. The pickings might be slim and they would be at the mercy of random food and prices. I remember my Aunt Louise and Uncle Joe just showed up one night about six pm. My Aunt Louise was quite the trickster and immediately headed to the kitchen saying do you have anything to eat I'm starving! They arrive totally unannounced. But my mom had my back, she found out somehow and called to tip me off. One of my proudest chowhound moments was the look on her face when she saw the big pot of potroast and veggies simmering on my stove, just waiting for their arrival! He he he! But back in the day, and even now with some crazy families like mine, you were expected to have some yummy home cooked food in the house at all times. And hospitality was very big. Now it is just so easy to avoid all that and get take out.

                                                        2. I think 2 factors perhaps have led to this(although not in my house):

                                                          1) The necesity for 2 income families. If wou want a nice home, in a safe neighborhood ,with good schools, a decent car to drive, and to be able to raise children. Nowdays you typically need 2 incomes to do this. Back in the day one individual could stay home, and raise the kids while one was the bread winner. The individual at home would/should have the time to cook meals for the family. However in a household like mine we get up at 5:00 a.m., leave the house @ 6:00, get to work by 8:00, and then get home by 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. The cooking falls on my shoulders.. luckily it is my hobby, and how I unwind after a day of working and commuting. I am not cooking 3 course meals during the week, but am providing meat/fish/poultry, served with rice/pasta/potatoes, and a veggie or salad. On nights I am burned out, we order in pizza, or make grilled cheese, or something easy. I know alot of families/individuals that settle for the latter more than not.

                                                          2) Chain restaurants, and their invasion of all areas. They are all over, almost one on every corner in some towns, their ads run non-stop on t.v., and their cheap prices matchhed with their "convenience", makes them attractive to those who cannot cook, those whodont care what they are putting in their or their kids bodies, & those who allegedly have no time to cook. They are an easy out.

                                                          Just a reflection of the lazy internet influenced "now" world we live in. luckily there are folks like myself, and others who will buck the growing trend.

                                                          1. very interesting topic!!!

                                                            i am trying to get into teaching cooking classes, though i think i'm a little too flighty and scattered to be a good teacher, i'm trying to get better. it is rewarding to have a bunch of newbies staring at you and then 2 1/2 hours later have a meal everyone can share, that everyone helped make, and see people's confidence grow. . . anyway:

                                                            a while back dh & i taught our first cooking class together, and the class was to be for couples (or platonic cooking teams of 2), cooking a holiday meal for the first time together. the premise of the class was supposed to be like: don't be intimidated by this meal, if you can chop a carrot, you can make roasted vegetables. if you can stir, you can make gravy. if you can turn on your oven, you can roast a turkey. if you can slice an apple, you can make an old-fashioned fruit crisp. if you can do all these things together, you can make a wonderful from-scratch holiday meal for your whole family, and be proud!

                                                            sounds great, right? except, when the students showed up. . . they were "like, so how do you dice an onion, i've never done that before." married people with kids, here, taking a class at a gourmet cooking shop/school. everyone saying they don't own basic kitchen gear like knives and a pot bigger than a saucepan. . . i was so sad, i realized so much about "the way we eat" that i never knew before!

                                                            1. The obvious answers, as many have stated, is the need for both H and W to work in most cases, the availability of pretty decent and not too expensive take out or eat in. But it seems like this will have/has had a serious impact on basic cooking skills, which will just continue to worsen.

                                                              I have long wanted to open a basic cooking school for 20/30 somethings. No CIA, but just teach some basic techniques and then good, easy recipes. Work in teams of 4, bring wine and eat the food at the end. With some very basic skills and good recipes and ingredients, it really isn't that hard to make great food.

                                                              1. I read through this thread with great interest searching for the factor I believe is the primary reason for lack of interest in cooking from scratch...PROFIT. Hang in there while I explain.

                                                                There is far less profit in selling consumers raw ingredients than there is in selling them finished products, whether that is restaurant food, takeaway or pre-packaged prepared foods from a supermarket freezer.

                                                                Manufacturers, like Philip Morris (Kraft Foods) and restaurant chains (like McDonalds)know this. Their ads show over and over and over again the images that associate good times and good taste with their products and suggest with massive campaigns the 'drugery' that is avoided by purchasing that ready-made Boston Pizza special.

                                                                When enough young men and women grow up with these images drummed into them....the laughing family happy in the restaurant booth, the good father who picks up the KFC on the way home to 'save' his wife and the 'roast in a bag' brought to you by Swanson--all designed to let you be a better mom and dad while saving you precious time to spend with your family, it has a corrosive effect.

                                                                Add that to the natural rejection of the ideas of one generation and you get the multiplier effect. Learning to cook as a matter of course was already complicated by women's increasing participation in the work-force. It was very helpful to Big Business to have these seen as competing factors AND we had already denigrated the contribution of women who 'only' stayed home.

                                                                But having said all that, we still have a hardy, not-so-small and growing band of young people passionately interested in growing and cooking from scratch, so all is not lost.

                                                                BRAVO for Chowhound, the Slow Food Movement, real small-holding farmers, Michael Pollan, organics, Barbara Kingsolver, Jamie Oliver and my kid who wants my recipes so she can cook Thanksgving Dinner for the family all by herself this year!!!

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: LJS

                                                                  And speaking of anti-cooking commercials, have you seen the latest. Some frazzled woman with her hair all over the place trying to peel potatoes and having them drop all over the place. THe solution? A bag of pre-peeled and cubed potatoes that you steam in the microwave, add some butter and cream and mash. How ridiculous...

                                                                  1. re: bnemes3343

                                                                    OMG! dh fell over laughing at me because the first time i saw that commercial a seven-minute string of expletives spewed out of my mouth and my hair looked like the chick on the commercial, i even stomped my foot a couple of times. i must look really funny when i'm angry. i've seen it a couple of times since, and i *must* shout a couple of profane words each time. good thing the windows are closed and the neighbors can't hear me any more, i think i must live in "the crazy lady's house" LOL.

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      Well, I rest my case...what is ridiculous to us will seem like received wisdom to a 10-year-old...on one of Jaime Oliver's school programmes, there were a number of kids that didn't recognize a potato and were quite grossed out at that thing that grew in the dirt was the source of the chips/fries that were the staple of their diet....there's gold in that kind of thinking. Less than a dime for a raw potato and a dollar for the fries.

                                                                    2. re: bnemes3343

                                                                      I have seen a few different versions of that same idea (chopping veg in the car, peeling potatoes in the office) because veg prep takes sooooooo long.

                                                                      For some reason, those commercials called to mind an old commercial for a spray on grease and flour product for baking. The commercial had a struggling woman in her kitchen, she and the kitchen covered in flour and she said (and I don't know why this line stuck in my head) 'grease the pan, flour the pan, what a mess'. Even as a child I would yell at the TV, 'it's not that hard!'.

                                                                      1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                        I remember that commercial too and being astounded. grease/flour the pan was one of the things I remember my mom teaching me when I was a really, really little kid. it's not that hard!

                                                                      2. re: bnemes3343

                                                                        The newest product to stun me is frozen rice. I kid you not. Plain old white rice frozen in a bag. I think I might have stood in front of that case totally gob smacked for 5 minutes just simply unable to believe what I was seeing.

                                                                        1. re: Candy

                                                                          So, frozen white rice would be somehow easier and faster than Boil-In-A-Bag? LOL!

                                                                    3. Where's the personal responsibilty? You can blame fast food, 2 working parents, limited kitchen space, income, microwaves or anything else you want, but I think it's plain old laziness.

                                                                      The tragedy here is the decline of the Family Dinner. Just by getting the kids involved in cooking dinner, turning the t.v. off, sitting down at the table and dining together things would be drastically different. Kids might actually grow up to cook for themselves rather than abuse the dollar menu, have manners and possibily communicate with their parents since they were required to do it every night at dinner. That's worth it to me.

                                                                      The best part of Oliver's program is that the core group is supposed to teach their friends what they learned and so on. It's Pay It Forward, culinary style! He's done so much for the school lunch program and it's great to see him doing the same thing for dining at home.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: oldbaycupcake

                                                                        Ah laziness, that’s when I squander the one free hour a day I have by reading. (too bad those 60 minutes aren't consecutive)

                                                                        It’s not that I don’t agree with what you are saying, I do. Dining together and having your children participate in dinner prep is very important in the education of your children and leads, I believe, to a closer family with good communications skills…but laziness? That’s a little harsh. Did you read swsidejim’s description of a typical day? You can even toss in a single parent into the equation or one that travels a lot (my case). I grocery shop over my lunch, I cook in advance on Sundays, my two year old helps me stir sauces, but you know what? I also always have some Stouffer’s mac & cheese in the freezer and a flyer from the local pizzeria on my fridge.

                                                                        Now, I’m lucky. I had a Mom who cooked and who taught me to cook, at least the basics. I really don’t know that many other people who had that benefit. A lot of the people I know who cook now came to it ‘late in life’ – in their 30’s and it’s become a hobby. But what happens when you’ve got three kids and a limited income? What happens when you don’t have the luxury to learn, to take classes, to teach yourself?

                                                                        Maybe they SHOULD bring Home Ec back to the curriculum...Hell, Industrial Arts too.

                                                                        1. re: sebetti

                                                                          Harsh, maybe. Accurate, possibly. Perhaps it's more about priorities than laziness. Like you, my priority is to use what little time I have to provide home cooked meals within my ever shrinking budget. It's hard and like you, I travel alot for work (50% of the time out of state). When sitting in an airport, it's nice to think about the SO and the 3 kids being able to sit down together and dine on a meal I prepared on my day off.

                                                                          Being able to cook the basics isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. We are talking about adults, here, not children. So the fact that some people didn't have a parent that held their hand, doled out positive reinforcement and taught them to cook the basics, doesn't really fly with me. These are adults that presumably have the skill set to follow a basic recipe. They just choose not to and opt for the easier alternatives of carry out foods and Hot Pockets. You don't need cooking classes to make a Turkey meatloaf or bake chicken breast. With technology today they can learn to cook by hitting the internet & watching videos or turn the channel away from reality shows and watch one of the million of cooking shows.

                                                                          I'm Sharing My Strength by supporting Operation Frontline & trying to make a difference. No matter what your income or situation shouldn't it be a priority to priovide your family with healthy meals?

                                                                          1. re: oldbaycupcake

                                                                            I think, Oldbaycupcake, that we agree about 85%. I just know,that even with all of my 'advantages', I still have a hell of a time getting it all done and I can't really think too harshly of those who just can't handle it and don't have the skills to back them up...and their situations really, in my opinion, are just sad.

                                                                            BTW, I'm the one at home making dinner during hour 16 of my 18 hour days. I wish my husband were at home rather than sitting in Denver during a layover but we do have the mortgage payment to make.

                                                                        2. re: oldbaycupcake

                                                                          I don't know that it's just laziness. As irisav pointed out, George Orwell was writing about the correlation between food/diet and class back in the nineteen thirties.

                                                                          "He was appalled by the quality of their diets. "A man dies and is buried and all his actions forgotten but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children." Orwell wrote down detailed accounts of how unemployed working-class people on welfare spent their money. He doubted it was even theoretically possible to live on their allowance. "The basis of their diet is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea and potatoes. Would it not be better if they spent more money of wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread?" Yes it would he answered, but "no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots ... A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita, an unemployed man doesn't ... When you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you don't want to eat dull, wholesome food. You want something a little bit tasty. Let's have three pennorth of chips! Put the kettle on and we'll all have a nice cup of tea!"

                                                                          Unfortunately, this has all too much resonance in Britain today, and probably America as well.

                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                            Hell, it has resonance to me (two years after the original post, no less)!

                                                                        3. I had a bit more of a think about this and believe it might have something to do with the previous generation did not teach this generation of 20 somethings to cook. People are getting married later and sharing flats/apartments and are totally clueless about cooking. They haven't seen their mums cook and they don't know where to start. One of my daughters' just went off to Tallahassee and I spent the last few months teaching and showing her how to do easy things like make a pasta sauce, roast a chicken, make soup, quiche, shepherds pie etc.

                                                                          Nowadays there are so many gadgets and easy meals that kids put a popover in the toaster, use a Brevill for a grilled cheese or stick a frozen pizza in the oven or microwave. i didn't grow up with those machines or easy meals, my mum had to cook everything, there were no jars of pasta sauce, frozen meals, peeled spuds, microwaveable meals. You couldn't buy ready mashed potatoes or gravy, pizza. Our freezer was tiny and just about held a bag of peas and some ice.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                                            Yeah, I don't know about this either. The girl across the way from me in my office, we are exactly the same age. She doesn't cook a thing, everything is microwaved. Cooking for her is hungry jack pancakes in a teflon pan and HFCS syrup. Her mother, who I've met several times, is a wonderful woman and an awesome cook. I cannot imagine she didn't show this girl some things about cooking.

                                                                            My mom had me by her side and showed me many things about cooking, but it didn't hit me until I was in the middle of college and I couldn't stand the rotten junk food anymore and I called her, crying, asking her to please tell me how to make a certain favorite dish she used to make, and then I sold my food coupons, took the bus to the grocery, bought the ingredients and a dish and made it, and it was wonderful. I think you have to get to the point where you realize the stuff you're eating is not only not good for you, it doesn't taste very good and you don't feel very good afterwards, before you make a change.

                                                                            Since the girl across the way only eats weight watchers products and STRICTLY only eats salad with no dressing for every single lunch every day, she probably will never get that urge to make food good and tasty.

                                                                          2. There are a lot of generalizations in this thread that I believe are inaccurate. I grew up in the 50's/60's. Families were marginally larger than today, but not much. My mom was a great cook and put dinner on the table six nights a week. All of us (3) kids were expected to be there. We went out to eat at a nice restaurant once a week. This is basically how we have done it with our own (2) kids. No radical generational change.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                              Pikawicca you rule! That is awesome! I hope your are right about this snapshot of eating in 2008 being blurry and out of focus. But I know a lot of people in their teens and twenties and I can't help asking them about what they eat for dinner. Here in the suburbs of Philadelphia Pa it seems like the cheap frozen pizza reigns supreme. When I read your post it made me happy but in a bittersweet kind of way. The quote "it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" came to mind.

                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                I may be wrong, but I think that being able to do this is a sign that all the horses are pulling in the same direction with the same goals and everybody pitches in. And no selfish prima donas

                                                                              2. Fifty responses in about 24 hours! You really hit a nerve greedygirl! With us being all chowhounds we are preaching to the choir here. One thing we seem to all agree on is that family dinner is a good thing and so is home cooking. Not everyone agrees with that, but then mostly those folks don't read or post on chowhound. Or do they? Cue scary music. I was reading some magazine in the dentist's office, can't remember which one, but there was a picture of McDonald's on the cover. Think it was a business magazine about a year ago. It was talking about how the chains were dismayed that people still actually eat breakfast at home mostly and their plans to put a stop to that. Advertisers are evil and they may be reading chowhound to get some ideas on how to get through our defenses. Not much we can do about that. I did see a truely evil Stouffer's commercial quite awhile ago that had a woman singing in the background about more time to spend with her family as she pops a huge stouffer's lasagne or something in the microwave and joins her family outside in a game of touch football. How cruel. Somehow if you cook dinner you are depriving your family of your time and attention. I really do think moms with careers outside the home (and stay at home moms) get bombarded with crazy mixed messages eight ways from center. But to the mom who has a back up stouffer's mac and cheese in the freezeer, that is just good planning. Better a microwaved diinner or a pizza than no dinner at all when the salsa hits the fan!

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                  I've always wondered when watching those commercials how you're saving so much time when that lasagna has to cook for around an hour. You still need to make some sort of sides........fruit, veggies, salad maybe? In an hour, I can cook a really good meal from scratch for my family. Bring the kids into the kitchen to help so they're not only learning about nutrition but also math, reading, and more. Then after you eat together, work together to clean the kitchen in 15 minutes and be off to do more fun family things.

                                                                                2. Hooray for Jamie! He is such a good cook and is so natural at it. On the other subject, the fact that people don't seem to know how to cook anymore -- please don't get me started. This is one of my favorite subjects.

                                                                                  The variation in my neighborhood is the large, expensive gourmet kitchen, complete with dual fuel appliances and built-in fridges that no one ever uses. The only appliances in use are the microwave, coffee maker and, maybe, the oven to "reheat" prepared food or whip up a boxed cake or brownie mix. I have even heard realtors tell me that some of these homes still have the instruction booklets in the ovens, still in the little plastic bags, when they are put up for resale!

                                                                                  Yet -- the one thing these people do see to be able to make are goodies. Yes, they can't make a chicken, prepare a fresh veggie, or make a pot roast, but they sure can and do love their Duncan Hines cake mixes, which they are always volunteering to bring to your next party. I usually accept their offer, because it is a nice gesture and I do appreciate it. But I can't help but feel sorry for their families. It seems their sweet tooths have managed to get them to consider breaking an egg into something, as long as it is chocolate. None of these woman seem to know how to make real food, and raise their children on mac and cheese (from the box), chicken nuggets (precooked and frozen, or takeout from the local Mickey D's) and pizza, which has been elevated to the level of ubiquitous "party" food, and is fed to everyone under 18 several times a week, whenever and wherever they are gathered for a meal and social night. It is not a money issue here. Like I said -- the kitchens and homes are very high end. Oh, and almost none of them work outside the home, so I don't buy that excuse either.

                                                                                  Their kids? Either they have adapted and can order everything off a restaurant menu with the best of them without reservation, in which case the parents have accomplished something good in spite of their lack of culinary efforts, or they react as though you are serving them poison when you offer up a green vegetable as an addition to their meat/potato/bread diet. This is still occurring even as they are old enough to drive.

                                                                                  No, don't get me started. I was skewered once on these boards for complaining about the pizza meals being force-fed to these kids. Actually, my theory at the time was that I struck a raw nerve, which prompted defensive responses. :)

                                                                                  1. I have bemoaned this fact for years but I think now with this economic situation more people will be forced to learn to cook or even less healthy prepared food will be the norm.Time seems to be so accelerated that the day is just not long enough to do everything you need to do, much less what you want to do. I think my age and background has trained me to dislike prepared food so I made the effort to cook or to eat out where the food was 'real food'. All my children know how to cook and two of them are whole food vegetarians and their children know where their food comes from and what to do with it. But I see how hard people work and I certainly don't blame them for not wanting to grocery shop at 6 pm after working all day or to sweat in the kitchen for any length of time. I think that starting in the 70's it became economically possible and more convenient to eat out and people developed an appreciation for restaurant dining which has steadily improved. At the same time fast food was also the norm and home cooking was less popular. And while we're at it we might teach the children how to eat as well as what to eat. So many of them eat alone or in front of the tv or computer. Much of it is finger food. They don't know table manners or the joy of a leisurely dinner with good conversation. I recently retired and have a neighbor who works long hours and eats very poorly and consequently, is overweight and has other related problems. I found it inconvenient to cook for one so we have worked out a system that benefits us both. We each ante up $30 a week and that is the grocery fund. I do the meal planning, shopping and cooking and have time to be experimental. I asked which foods are not tolerated and they were very few so I get no complaints. The neighbor likes good food and remembers it from her childhood but doesn't have the time, energy or inclination to cook from scratch, especially as fast food is so convenient. This gives me a creative project to work with. We eat our evening meals together instead of alone and on the fly. I have enjoyed cooking but only when I had the time so now it is a pleasure.

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: P Macias

                                                                                      What a great idea P Macias. And your lucky neighbour gets a personal chef for $30 a week. I hope she does the washing up!

                                                                                      1. re: P Macias

                                                                                        What a wonderful arrangement! I'd be VERY curious to know if your neighbor's health improves after you've been doing this awhile.

                                                                                        1. re: optimal forager

                                                                                          I will report back to you. I'm hoping for good results.

                                                                                        2. re: P Macias

                                                                                          Wow - won't you be my neighbor? :-) This sounds wonderful! As someone who works 60 hours a week minimum and has limited $$ for groceries (I very rarely eat out), I would love love love an arrangement like this one. I drag myself through the grocery store once or twice a week, usually around 7:30 or 8:00 at night after a long day, and just don't manage to summon the energy to conceive of good meals and the ingredients to create them with. And when oh when am I going to cook the stuff I buy?

                                                                                          On my (rare) days off I cook a couple of big dishes that I can portion into individual meals. I love my crock pot for this reason - I can throw stuff in there in the a.m. and do other things until late afternoon when I find at least 5 or 6 meals worth ready to go!

                                                                                          Sorry, got OT, but I really do love this idea.

                                                                                          1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                            I'm joining the club. I live alone and would be happy to try to cook for more than one person, but it's just so pointless to cook for one. I would love some sort of tradeoff situation where I could pool money with a friend or two and switch off cooking every few days.

                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                              Coming in late to this thread (major computer issues at work for the past few weeks, where I do a lot of my reading/posting <g>), but I'm going to have to disagree with you. I live alone, and to me, it's not pointless to cook for one. I do it all the time. Usually making enough for a work lunch or two.

                                                                                              But I definitely think you need to enjoy cooking as I do (although there are often those nights where I don't feel like it and just heat up leftover rice and peas and call that dinner!).

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                I didn't notice queencru's statement earlier but completely agree with you, Linda. I lived alone for many years and nearly always cooked a "real" dinner for myself - at a minimum some quick-seared cut of meat with simple veggies, often making a larger dish that I could freeze in portions, like pasta or a casserole.

                                                                                                Now I'm married and still do 90% of the cooking in the house, mainly because I work from home and my wife has a commute.

                                                                                        3. Some people who love food are simply not meant to cook. I would name some, but I found out they occasionally read my postings....

                                                                                          One I know can follow a recipe scrupulously, but if it is something baked, call for pizza 30 minutes before the baking is done. Another is apparently unable to read a cookbook. Recite poetry or Shakespeare, no problem - but apparently there is no poetry in cooking instructions. A third just can't resist adding a last minute twist to whatever it is (soy sauce on cheesecake - it wasn't good.) A fourth can make a disaster of a kitchen preparing something as simple as eggs and toast. Honest, you wouldn't believe it if you watched it happening. The last has a penchant for heating up the pan, and while waiting makes a phone call or decides to turn on the news. Three sets of cookware later... and rarely has the food even made it to the pan, they simply sit on the hot burner and burn (which is better than the times the food burned too. First name basis with the fire department).

                                                                                          Just as not all are called to eat, others are not called to cook. I don't see why that has to be viewed as such a mortal sin.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                            Oh KaimukiMan, I love your post. And how true it is. We don't view it as a mortal sin but were merely saying that the majority of people no longer enjoy home cooked meals for a variety of reasons and their children are following suit. I only hope those who don't like to cook don't have to and perhaps are lucky enough to have someone cook for them. I bet you are a good cook, right?

                                                                                            1. re: P Macias

                                                                                              thanks PM. I get by OK most of the time, but have had my food disasters now and then. I went through a lot of ketchup, tabasco, and gravy - not to mention frozen pizza when i started to cook. I have the luxury of cooking pretty much just when I feel like it, which is about half the time, and I have no aversion to my own leftovers, which makes cooking for one much easier. I also invite friends over fairly frequently.

                                                                                              It seems to me that there are a lot of CHer's that do feel there is something wrong with people who don't prepare most of their meals or who "stoop" to the use of cream of mushroom soup or store bought pasta sauce. We all live such different lives, with so many different constraints.

                                                                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                              I'm a Chowhound who doesn't enjoy cooking for the most part. I am not an inspired cook, find the work-reward ratio inadequate, and find that food tastes better when someone else makes it. I am passable and have some dishes I do very well, but at the end of the day, I'd rather eat out or bring in take out.

                                                                                            3. I am evidently in some wierd time warped anomoly here in the UK... my friends and I all cook at home, from scratch, and we regularly dine at each others homes. Many grow their own vegetables. (None of us are vegetarians and our ages range 40 - 60).
                                                                                              I guess we are the exceptions to the rule.

                                                                                              My own take on the lack of 'proper cooking' is that supermarkets are full of 1001 kinds of ready meal and frozen junk food. (I don't think there is the preponderance of dining out in the UK that there is in the US - I'm sure I will be corrected if I am wrong).
                                                                                              Also, young parents today are the children of those who had the first 'convenience' foods available to them and we tend to provide foods along the lines that our parents did. Maybe this is the genuine 'beginning of the end' of home cooking - the children now being fed on microwaved ready meals will not have 'quality' home eating experiences to guide them in later life.

                                                                                              1. Apparently there's no decline in home cooking in the US

                                                                                                McCormick's sales got a boost in the third quarter as shoppers spent more in grocery stores to save money by eating meals at home.


                                                                                                1. And then there's this, which could be inserted into this discussion from a number of angles: people poisoning themselves with salmonella because they microwave frozen dinners that say they have to be done in an oven.


                                                                                                  1. Oh I meant to watch that but forgot. Thanks for reminding me. Maybe it's on the watch-again!

                                                                                                    As to "what went wrong," I think you nailed it right there in your post: some people don't know what boiling water looks like. Some people never learn. Their families don't teach them. They don't learn it in school. Ingredients in the supermarket are a mystery.

                                                                                                    Yes, there's laziness. Some people get into the habit of doing the easy thing--picking up a kebab or chips and calling it a day. And some people are genuinely overwhelmed by jobs that demand most of their time. But I wonder how many of those people know how to cook a quick yet balanced meal, or even how to put together a decent snack like a good salad.

                                                                                                    I don't think money is the direct issue. In terms of home cooking, we can all cite cases in which Mom (or Grandma, or whomever) managed to put a decent meal on the table every night despite being dirt poor. Heck, RWOrange did a whole impressive series of meals for (I think) $3/day. Again, I think it comes down to knowledge. If you don't know what boiling water looks like, you certainly aren't going to see the potential of that bag of lentils or that bunch of spinach or that package of chicken livers. Somewhere along the line, the knowledge got lost.

                                                                                                    1. I think it's a combination of two things: time and money.

                                                                                                      As regards time, the days are long gone where most mothers were homemakers and could dedicate significant time and effort to sourcing and preparing food. When you left the house 9 or 10 or more hours ago for a full day of work, the kids just called on the cell phone to tell you they're starving, and you know there's nothing in the fridge because you haven't had time to get to the grocery, that drive-through window starts to look pretty appealing.

                                                                                                      And affordable. The cost per calorie of the highly-processed, nutrient-dense foods that dominate the menus at most restaurants (especially fast-food places) and the prepared foods section of the grocery store is astonishingly low. You can get a McDonald's double cheeseburger, a small fries, and a couple of packets of ketchup - 670 calories - for $2. That's $2.99 for a thousand calories.

                                                                                                      You can' t come close to that number buying things like fish, whole grains, and fresh vegetables. Even ground beef - the prototypical "cheap" food - is $3.75 per thousand calories (assuming $3 for a pound of raw meat that will deliver four 200-calorie cooked servings). If you're strapped for time and money, why would you pay a 25% premium for food that you still have to cook yourself?

                                                                                                      Taste, of course. But not everybody places as high a premium on flavor as the denizens of this board. And not everybody is confident that they can make food that tastes as good as what they can buy at a restaurant or in the prepared-food aisle of the local grocery.

                                                                                                      Worst of all, it's a self-reinforcing process. People who don't cook can't teach their kids to cook, and even rudimentary skills are lost within a generation or two.

                                                                                                      In my opinion, what went wrong - at least in the US - is that the manufacturers of food-like substances have leveraged extensive government subsidies to price their products cheaper than real food. They've used the savings in production costs to mount massive marketing campaigns that have convinced many of us that what they're selling is as good as or better than real food. (When was the last time you saw an ad for carrots? Or lentils?) And we as a nation have lined up like pigs at the proverbial trough to eat the slop that agribusiness has decided to feed us. In the process, we've lost not only our cooking skills, but also our our palates and our waistlines.

                                                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                        I think you have nailed it...now, how do we get out of this mess?

                                                                                                        1. re: LJS

                                                                                                          How about a global recession, where all the big food corps go bust and people HAVE to buy lentils and carrots because there's no pre-made food left on the shelves.

                                                                                                          1. re: Peg

                                                                                                            More likely a global recession where folks will have to think of the financial value of making their own pizza, burgers, pasta, salad, and soup.

                                                                                                            1. re: Peg

                                                                                                              Peg, that will only work if the opportunity costs of peoples' food prep times approach zero -- meaning that they are all out of work, have time to cook, and lack disposable income to buy fast or processed foods. That is, people have to go bust before "all the big food corps go bust ".

                                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                Well, Sam, "many of "the big food corps" are in danger of going bust, since they can't borrow money from the banks to meet their expenses. It's a whole new ball game, and God knows what lies ahead. I've stocked my pantry to the gills and laid in a huge supply of wood. I figure I can feed my family for the next 6 months, regardless of what the economy does. Since you are in an area where most food is locally grown, you'll probably do better in the coming economic mess than those of us in suburban U.S.A. Keep your head down, and your powder dry.

                                                                                                          2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                            Good points. But above I think you meant "calorie- " rather than "nutrient-dense".

                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                              Oops. So much for proofreading. Thanks for the catch.

                                                                                                            2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                              I agree, except the notion that the norm has always been that women are homemakers is not true. In fact, women have worked -- either outside the home or in family enterprises (a farm, a small business) -- throughout most of human history. The phenomenon of middle-class women with nothing to do but keep house is limited to the developed world in a fairly short time frame (from after WWII to the mid-'70s). That this historic cultural anomaly is now considered to be "traditional" and "the norm" is a product of the fact that mass media really flowered at that same time.

                                                                                                              Billions of women around the world both work and cook every day, as they always have.

                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                I didn't claim that the woman-as-homemaker model has been the global norm for centuries. It was, however, fairly typical in the industrialized world in the 20th century. That's extremely relevant here, since that's the time and place where the attitudes of those we're discussing were formed.

                                                                                                                The person in the original post who doesn't know what boiling water looks like obtained her sense of what's normal from her English parents, grandparents, and peer group. I'd be really surprised if the lifestyle of a Bhutanese rice farmer, a Tunisian goatherd, or a 19th century American pioneer has much impact on her opinion of the best way to feed her kids.

                                                                                                                Also - and I don't have anything to back this up, so take it with a grain of salt - I suspect that in the industrialized world in the 21st century the average amount of time spent away from the home by the adult members of the typical household is just as much an anomaly as the June Cleaver model. It may be an unavoidable incident of a highly-specialized cash-based economy, but I wonder how well it will hold up over time.

                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                  In Bhutanese rice farming in the Wangdi - Punaka areas (traditional higher altitude rice areas of Bhutan) women put in more work in the rice fields and are responsible for cooking, child care, water, fuel gathering, gathering leaves for composts, and most of livestock care.

                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                    I'm a single parent and I cook "from scratch" nearly every night. If we do get take out, it's ethnic (thai, mexican, african) that I neither have the talent nor knowledge of ingredients to make. We have the luxury of living in a large city and having a variety. We do splurge on sit down restaurants, but they're local and never chains, and often ethnic as well, maybe a couple times a month. I will buy roasted chickens from the grocery but I can get at least two meals out of them and I don't think I've ever bought instant mashed potatoes in my life and my freezer is practically empty. I can't remember the last time we were in a McD's and I think I ordered pizza 4 or 5 times in the past year.

                                                                                                                    My daughter brings lunch to school, sandwiches on whole grain breads, soups, always fresh fruit or veggies, not because of cost but because the school lunches (at a PRIVATE school) are such garbage. I can make most weeknights dinners in about 30 minutes and I enjoy making nutritious meals together and having dinner together. And yes, there are sports and music and dance lessons and that kind of thing. I have the luxury of telecommuting a lot of the time, but I also don't get paid if I'm not working, so it's time consuming and besides I did it when I was a 9-5er.

                                                                                                                    I guess my point is, if I can do it, anyone can do it and I am statistically one who should not be doing it and I do. It's healthier for both of us and cheaper in the long run--you have to be a smart shopper in a bad economy and you have to want to do what's best for your children.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                      Love your username whosyerkitty! Great post! I worry about the people who don't read chowhound. Maybe I'm prejudiced but I think chowhounders are some of the most enlightened people on the planet. More excuses for not cooking at home: weight loss diets, and not wanting to mess up the beautiful perfect kitchen. I wanted to teach my friend John how to make a dish at his house (at his request) but his mom gave him nineteen dollars for pizza instead as long as we promised not to do any cooking. I have shown John how to make other dishes and we have always left everything exactly as we found it when we were done. I think this was a turf issue. Shrug.

                                                                                                                      1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                        My auntie recently got a brand new fancy kitchen, and according to my parents won't cook in it for fear of messing it up! She's not much of a cook anyway (I have childhood memories of soggy cauliflower and overcooked sprouts) but that's just ridiculous.

                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                          I have an auntie who had the same "problem"- kitchen too nice for fear of messing it up, house too nice to smell up with garlic and oil - so she screened in her back porch and built a second kitchen. A show kitchen and a work kitchen, dontcha just love aunties?

                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                            Years ago my aunt had her kitchen redone, and all I remember is her telling me to be careful not to drop anything on the good wood floor. I was about 15, but I just thought, are you kidding me? What is it with aunts??

                                                                                                                          2. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                            I wish my kitchen was perfect and beautiful TO mess up. What a waste!

                                                                                                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                          My point was the home cooking and working are not mutually exclusive, and there's no direct correlation between how much women work and whether they cook (traditionally upper class women don't cook -- they have cooks).

                                                                                                                          You know, sometimes I come home from work and don't feel like cooking. But when I think about the time and effort (not to mention expense) of getting food -- even delivery -- I decide it's quicker and easier to cook some pasta or nuke some potatoes and throw in whatever proteins are in the fridge instead.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                            I couldn't agree more with your point that home cooking and working are not mutually exclusive. Even with a short chromosome and a full-time job, I've always cooked for my family on an almost-daily basis.

                                                                                                                            But you, I, Whosyerkitty, and other Chowhounds are the exception. We actually care - a lot - about what we eat and what we feed our families. We're not a representative cross-section of the public at large.

                                                                                                                            In the vast majority of cultures over most of human history, people have cooked because the alternative is starvation. In our culture, at every socioeconomic level, that's no longer the case. Now it's cheap and convenient to buy and eat processed food. There's no need to know what boiling water looks like. Maybe - because people are so busy - that's a good thing.

                                                                                                                            But I don't think so. Sure, specialization and a cash economy have their benefits. It's just more efficient to have somebody else sew our clothes and grow our vegetables (at least most of them). Delegating the cooking, on the other hand, just bothers me. Sounds like it bothers you too.

                                                                                                                            Maybe it's a futile fight. Maybe we're just taking incremental steps toward the Jetsons' meal-in-a-pill, which will eventually replace home-cooked food entirely. I sure hope not, and I'm going to fight tooth and nail against that trend.

                                                                                                                            Thanks to the Pollan, Kingsolver, the Slow Food folks, and a whole lot more people with much lower profiles, there's some evangelism going on for real food. Count me among the choir.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                              I won't repeat what I said in my post upthread, except that I, too, work full time and cook almost all the meals that my kids eat (my husband too but he is actually the picky one in the family).

                                                                                                                              I think this whole matter is, like alanbarnes says, that we, as Chowhounds, are the exception to the rule. Most people don't give food that much thought. They just want to feed their kids and families, but they don't necessarily care what it is that they feed them. And they certainly don't obsess about it like many of us do.

                                                                                                                              And it's a matter of priorities. To me, even after working a long day, it is my top priority at night to make my pre-school daughter and good, nutritious lunch for the next day. And then I make dinner for the next day, and last night I also made a strawberry bread for my kids to eat for breakfast today...and so on. Honestly, if food wasn't such a top priority in my life, maybe I would get more sleep!

                                                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                meal-in-a-pill reminds me of my xSIL trying to sell these vitamin supplements and other similar type stuff maybe amway? by saying to me "it's great you don't even have to eat; as if that option would ever be attractive to me!

                                                                                                                                1. re: betsydiver

                                                                                                                                  That's way too much like "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans. :-)

                                                                                                                        3. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                          What a thought-provoking post! Thank you for seeing another side to this. I certainly had many nights when the drive-through seemed to be my only option to feed myself and DH - I had a demanding job and a hellish commute that consumed most of my time. I blush to recall the many nights BK was my answer to "what's for dinner?"

                                                                                                                        4. I am an excellent cook -- I can boil water and more. Seriously, I would consider myself a very good cook, but our weeknight dinners feature a fair amount of convenience foods (usually purchased from Trader Joe's, so at least relatively free from scary additives) because my husband and I both work LONG hours, and don't get home until well after 7. Sometimes we even get takeaway. I have a repertoire of easy meals, but I do use some premade and convenience foods, and even spend a little extra on premade vegetables. I'd love to get a job that had me working more reasonable hours, but it's really hard in my field.

                                                                                                                          1. Just to put a new face on this, maybe people today are too selfish to cook for family. Cooking for family is a very unselfish act.

                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                                              Good point yayadave. I don't know about other chowhounders but I have been kind of tap-dancing around your point and not wanting to come right out and say it. Thanks for getting to the heart of the matter. I don't know exactly when it started but the mantra seems to be "I don't feel like it." Doesn't just apply to home cooking of course. I never say anything when I hear the mantra, I just smile and nod, but I'm thinking wait, you get to do things when you feel like it???

                                                                                                                              1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                                                Cooking for martyrdom...okay. My daughter, like me, prefers in general non-homecooked food. The reasons vary but selfishness doesn't make the short list.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                  But Janet, could that be (in part) that that is what she has gotten used to, since you and your DH eat out so often? Often those kids who enjoy cooking are those who have learned by example. If their parents cook a lot at home (and enjoy it), kids are bound to experiment and be willing to cook at home as well.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                    I agree Linda. I was lucky enough to have my grandmother and my mother make wonderful mashed potatoes for me. (just one example) So now I can't bear to go a whole week without eating mashed potatoes. That alone would keep me cooking at home. I guess it depends on the quality of the home cooking you got growing up. Or lack of it.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                      I don't think so....like me she likes the experience of eating out and likes food that is well seasoned, ethnic foods, seafood, etc. And we each like what we like when we have a particular craving and both prefer food made by others in general. Dh prefers to home roast a chicken, when the reality is the local Pervian place roasts a much better chicken and it's less expensive and there is no roaster to clean up. And when she was young, he cooked for her nearly every night. But neither she nor I get all fuzzy about the "home cooked meal" or see it as a symbol of love. We see it as something to appease Dh....LOL.

                                                                                                                                2. I think we also need to consider what "home cooking" actually means.

                                                                                                                                  It no doubt means very different things to different people.

                                                                                                                                  Folks here on this board no doubt have some sort of definition of home cooking as making a meal (mostly) from scratch.

                                                                                                                                  Not surprisingly, there are many out there that consider adding fresh olives to frozen pizza as "home cooking" or adding avocado slices to a Whopper as "home cooking" or better yet, plating a grocery store rotisserie chicken as "home cooking".

                                                                                                                                  For those that fall in the latter group, there probably hasn't been a decline in "home cooking".

                                                                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                    Fresh olives? That would turn me away from eating, let alone cooking.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                      Aha, Sam got you! Surprised you didn't catch that one, my dear attorney!

                                                                                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                      For some people "home made" means it made it home!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                        My one young friend told me proudly that his family feasted like kings on pork chips and mashed potatoes. He was so happy about it that I bit my tongue and didn't ask if the potatoes were instant. I slipped it into the conversation later in the week and they were instant but I just said something non-commital, why rain on his parade? Since then two or three other people have bragged to me about an awesome dinner of pork chops and instant mashed potatoes that they really enjoyed. I always act happy for them because at least it is a start and sort of qualifies as home cooking. When people who rarely cook anything at home manage to slap something together they generally get mad props from their family. Those families do well to be enthusiastic, maybe the trend will continue for them. My friend John is delighted when he gets freshly grilled hot dogs or better yet a take out pizza because his mom's default dinner is to hand him a cup of yogurt. It is what she generally has for her own dinner.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                          Ok I am a serious hound but I will admit to liking instant mashed potatoes. They are NOT like the real thing of course, but it's kind of like spaghettios vs. real spaghetti with real sauce - sometimes you just want the fake tasting product. I know it's weird, but I don't eat them for convenience, I eat them because I like them. On holidays or special events, I always serve real mashed but for a quick weeknight din accompaniment, I seriously don't mind them. I would never serve them to guests of course.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                            Kids need balanced meals, and that's it. So I'm sorry, but that yogurt thing is ridiculous. If she's on some weird diet or has digestive problems, she could at least nuke the poor kid some broccoli.

                                                                                                                                            I told my daughter a long time ago that it's a law that people under 18 have to eat a green vegetable daily. I don't know if she still believes that, but she still does it. Sometimes the green veggie is somewhat of a stretch, like cucumbers or celery sticks, but it is a green veggie nonetheless.

                                                                                                                                            I also don't get, for the record, this whole instant mashed potato thing. Potatoes are still one of the cheapest things around and you boil them--you can even NUKE them-- and mash 'em up with a little milk and butter (but you can get really creative with them, too). I often don't even peel them because I like them with peels. So what's the big deal?

                                                                                                                                            Maybe people are just somehow intimidated...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                              Like I said, it's not a convenience thing so much as the fact that I like the way they taste. And most of the time, I don't keep potatoes in my pantry because they rot quicker than I can use them. They're just not a go-to item I have on hand all the time.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                But you know the difference and have made that choice. My kid, unfortunately, prefers the Blue Box, which she rarely gets as a treat, to some of the most kickin' from scratch mac and cheese on the planet. Which I never make, but a friend does and we've had it from upscale Southern cuisine restos.

                                                                                                                                                Somebody told me the other day that they PREFER canned peas and green beans. So in some cases, I guess it's to each their own.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                                  Personally, I think canned peas and green beans might be some of the most gnarly food items one can have in the pantry.

                                                                                                                                                  Canned corn? Great.
                                                                                                                                                  Canned peas? Not so much.
                                                                                                                                                  Canned green beans? Disgusting.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                    It's all a matter of taste...but those cans of veggies are still a more nutritional meal option than kraft mac & cheese.

                                                                                                                                                    Canned green beans - ok
                                                                                                                                                    canned corn - not so much
                                                                                                                                                    canned peas -DISGUSTING!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sebetti

                                                                                                                                                      I agree with you. But I hide it on the top shelf of the pantry in case there's a snowstorm. :)

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                                    Guilty as charged with the canned green beans and the blue box, although I love any type of mac and cheese. I'm a terrible, terrible person, I know.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                                                                  The funniest thing I ever read in the food pages of the newspaper was about potatoes. The writer said that you might be tempted to buy a five pound bag of potatoes but then you wonder how a family of four would ever finish them, here's some ideas on how to use them up. I laughed out loud. Potatoes never go bad at my house. Maybe it is because I am of Irish descent. But reading all of these great posts just makes me feel lucky that my mom and grandmom taught me to cook. And if the economy continues the way it's been going I'm thinking I'll be feeling more grateful than ever.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                                    Goodness, I have a family of four and buy 10 pound bags of potatoes! We eat them baked, fried, roasted, boiled and mashed, in salad, you name it. The potato is so versatile!

                                                                                                                                                    I don't know what contributes to people not cooking. I have neighbors who "say" they are great cooks. I even passed on some cookbooks I didn't need or like. For all the talk, they met up with me in the grocery store yesterday buying my week's worth and their eyes bulged. They couldn't believe the amount of food I was buying. What gets me is they are constantly going out to eat. They have 3 children and you can't convince me that it's cheaper for them to eat out than to cook at home. Time "shouldn't" be an issue as right now, neither of them are employed.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                                                                                                      Right on alliedawn! Some people talk the talk, we chowhounds walk the walk! I could eat potatoes every day and not get tired of them.

                                                                                                                                            2. I see the lack of home cooking all the time. I am continually shocked by how few people do it anymore.

                                                                                                                                              We just got back from Vegas with another couple, where we went out to some fancy restaurants of my husband and I's choosing... the husband of the couple told me that he couldn't believe how good the food he was eating was, and that he thought it must be that they use "fresh ingredients", unlike what he and his wife do at home... No, really????

                                                                                                                                              I am a mom of two little ones, who has a home cooked meal on the table every night, even when I was working full time. But, this is a priority to us. We make the time. So many people have their priorities elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                              I find that at times I have been almost mocked by other moms, as having "too much time on my hands" or "spoiling my husband" because I make cooking for my family a priority. This drives me crazy. Has anyone else had this happen??????????

                                                                                                                                              31 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Finsmom

                                                                                                                                                Yes. Finsmom, I went on a camping trip with my best friend and her family and I asked if there was anything she'd like me to bring in particular besides the usual request of stuff to eat and drink. She asked me to make homemade tollhouse cookies and I was pleased because I hadn't made them in awhile and we'd all have something really yummy to munch on that didn't need to stay in the cooler. When we got to the campsite and were relatively settled in I happily presented her and her sister in law with one of the three huge tins of cookies I'd made. She took the cookies, peered inside, (they smelled really good when she opened them) and said "well you have the time to make stuff like this." Her voice was dismissive with a hint of contempt. I just froze for a moment. I think I managed to smile and say "yeah, really." in a light-hearted way before I retreated for a nice walk. I was so hurt.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                                  On the "foods that make you sad" thread I mentioned food made with love and then not appreciated. Your tale is very saddening - but your friend is even sadder. Be happy and confident in your life choices. I'm with you here and along that walk you took.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                    For all of you Hounds who think that advertising cannot create a demand, I draw your attention to "Fizzies," an abomination perpetrated on the American consumer back in the 60's. These noxious pellets were designed to be plopped into a glass of water to produce a soft drink-like product. They were vile, but were so hyped that millions of consumer bought them, despite the fact that there were much more palatable soft drinks on the market.

                                                                                                                                                    Rice a Roni?
                                                                                                                                                    Fruit Loops?

                                                                                                                                                    These are but a few of the products for which a demand did not exist before they were aggressively advertised.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                      I guess I shouldn't tell you about how my sister and I were so deprived of junk food as children that we took the alka seltzer we found in the medicine cabinet and made "coke"!

                                                                                                                                                      re: creation of demand, demand was created for all cold cereals, not just fruit loops -- and really, it is created for all processed products. people didn't really eat cold cereal until the turn of the last century after post began heavily marketing grape nuts. cold cereal as we know it (i.e. not just cold oatmeal) didn't exist before the 1860s.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                        I beg your pardon, but as a previous 50s Fizzy consumer, Fizzies were somehow allowed and soft drinks not in our house. Fizzies then met my demand for soft drinks. We Japanese ate rice then and now; but rice was looked upon as "Jap" or "Chink" food back then by the hakujins. Rice a Roni gave Americans a way to consume rice (something that people wanted - look at rice consumption without stigma today). Friut Loops is a candy, candies have high demand; as do new candies - Fruit Loops met a demand.

                                                                                                                                                        Your argument would hold water if consumers started buying dog turds in response to an agressive advertising campaign.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                          sorry if i'm misunderstanding either of you -- i didn't follow a good chunk of the debate in the middle of this thread -- but my impression was that pikawicca meant that companies can create targeted demand and shape preferences. of course, companies didn't create a demand for sugar/candy, but one did create a demand for sugar/candy in the form of fruit loops. companies didn't create the demand for breakfast, but did create a demand for breakfast in the form of cold cereal.

                                                                                                                                                          i don't know if you can fairly say that there was a demand for rice among narrow minded hakujins if they didn't eat it, and that rice a roni merely filled that demand. you might more easily say that there was a latent demand for non-asian style rice that rice a roni helped fill.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                            Well, Sam, people bought pet rocks and sent them to camp!

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                          Thank you Sam. That means a lot to me.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Finsmom

                                                                                                                                                        Yes. My sister in law is convinced I am an unrealized woman with low self esteem because I'll spend a couple hours cooking dinner for my husband and myself.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: yamalam

                                                                                                                                                          I'm a stay at home mom. To enable me to be home with my kids before and after school and take care of the meals, laundry, etc. while my significant other works long hours and is sometimes gone for days at the time, we've made a LOT of sacrifices. We live on a strict budget, eating out is a luxury, and we watch every dollar we spend. I still get people acting like my family is spoiled and I'm just lazy and worthless. Really, it takes a lot to be able to live in the manner we do and not fall back on eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. I spend a lot of time planning meals and grocery shopping to do the best I can for my family. The thing is if I was working and had that second income, I wouldn't have to spend nearly as much time finding the deals on the food we eat. I'd just go in and buy what I wanted. I'd still cook as much as I do now. When I was a working mother, I came home and cooked after 8-10 hours on the job. Lots of times, I had to go grocery shopping after work as well. Back then, we only lived 3 blocks from the grocery store so it was more convenient. Cooking was relaxing for me. After a stressful day, nothing beat coming home and chopping veggies. Those would usually be stirfry nights so I could get the frustration out before settling down to spend time with my family.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                                                                                                            Chopping veggies -- or better yet, getting out the butcher's knife! -- is one of my favorite post-work stress relieving activities, too. Actually, even the attention and focus you need for julienning is stress relieving, since it takes your mind off everything else. Almost like meditation.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                              Didn't you mean "almost like medication" ?!

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: yamalam

                                                                                                                                                            I also enjoy cooking and cook frequently for my SO and me (and our dog). I absolutely do not think you or I are unrealized women with low self esteem.

                                                                                                                                                            However... don't you think it's interesting that so many of the people who are accepting responsibility for not cooking on this thread are women? Don't you think it's interesting that many men, who often do not work longer hours than women outside of the household, aren't stepping up to take responsibility for not cooking?

                                                                                                                                                            I'm not talking about Chowhounds, many of whom are men and fine cooks from whom I learn a lot. But in the overall population, how many working men cook versus how many working women? I think some more parity would be nice.

                                                                                                                                                            I'd never fault you or other working mothers for cooking; I do fault men and other partners in these relationships if they don't attempt to share this responsibility.

                                                                                                                                                            My SO hates to cook and is not particularly skilled at it. But he is extremely considerate about grilling or ordering takeout or at least making omelettes when I come home too late and am too tired to put something on the table. In a previous relationship, I worked far longer hours than my SO, but still ended up cooking for both of us because he would always end up junking out if I didn't and that was painful for me to watch.

                                                                                                                                                            I don't know how to address the problem of too few working men learning how to cook. Perhaps the best we can do is to try and teach our sons (as well as our daughters) these basic skills in hopes that the next generation won't have this problem. As it is, it's not surprising that fewer working women are not cooking and that home cooking is on the decline. What is surprising from a logical standpoint is that women are taking more than half of the blame for this decline.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                              I can' usually get my husband to cook if he gets home earlier than I do, but frankly I'm better at it and it's easier for me (my family is a family of cooks, his is definitively not). In the balance, I'd rather do the 90% of the food planning and preparing that I do than do the cleaning and laundry (and filing! I hate filing) that he does.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                                                                                                                that's a really good compromise, amuse bouches, and it makes great sense given the premises we're coming from (both of us are better cooks and enjoy it more than our SOs).

                                                                                                                                                                i guess that's partly a result of the more systemical problem, though, that lot of guys aren't good at and don't enjoy cooking because they (1) weren't taught by their parents when they were younger because their parents never thought they'd need to know how; and (2) didn't later become motivated to learn how because it's supposedly not manly (of course we know differently!).

                                                                                                                                                                i know there are plenty of women who don't enjoy cooking -- i.e. rworange, as someone brought to my attn earlier in the thread! i guess my only point is to say: if working women who don't like to cook are judged for not putting a meal on the table for their kids, why aren't working men so judged?

                                                                                                                                                                i do think expectations re: men and cooking are slowly changing, btw. i just had a convo with a bunch of work buddies, today, about how / whether they found time to cook. a lot of the guys i work with (in their mid to late 20s like me) apparently love to cook, as well. and so does my boss, who's in his 50s or 60s -- who raised his kids mostly as a single dad. an incredible chef, that man. and quite good at doing what he does professionally.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                Not to be crass, but there's a really good way to get adolescent and post-adolescent guys to learn to cook. Just point out how it will inure to their benefit - in that area that they think about during all their waking hours - if they are able to prepare a good meal.

                                                                                                                                                                A couple of girls in college made a fuss about my (then-mediocre) cooking, and the light bulb came on: knowing how to cook tasty food is a guaranteed way to get more female attention! And if you're eating at home, there's no server hovering in hopes of turning the table - just carry the wine bottle over to the sofa and let the conversation go where it may...

                                                                                                                                                                Years later I apparently perfected my pasta with salsa cruda; I made it for a beautiful woman on our third date and she decided she had to have exclusive rights to my cooking. We just celebrated our fifteenth anniversary.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                  *laugh* that's brilliant. that's pretty much what got my little brother in the kitchen, too. he's doing pretty well for himself -- both in and out of the kitchen. :)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                    Worked for me too - been cooking since I was a kid, and I can't tell you how many "let me make dinner for you" invitations in my single days were gladly accepted and turned into breakfast... (of course that was in the golden days pre-AIDS).

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, but what if she never leaves???

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                                                                                        Depends. If you sorta like the idea, you see if she can cook, too. If you don't like the idea, you serve a lot of McDonald's take out.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                                                                                          Thats' why you go over to HER place...

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                                                    Study after study shows that in families where both partners work, traditional "women's work" still defaults to the women. And when both partners do it, just think about the way people talk about it: "isn't it great that he helps with the housework?" No one ever says "isn't it great that *she* helps with the housework." Housework is still considered to be a duty for a woman and an option for a man.

                                                                                                                                                                    In most homes, it's still the case that he cooks because he chooses to, she cooks because she's expected to, regardless of whether she enjoys it. In most cases even men who've been on their own for a long time still -- consciously or unconsciously -- expect when they have a wife or live-in girlfriend that she'll do household chores he had previously done for himself.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                      That why, when we moved in together, we got a cleaner. We're lucky enough to be able to afford it, and I knew that otherwise I'd end up doing most of the housework. As it is, I still do most of the food shopping, pay the bills and do the laundry. I also do all the cooking, but I enjoy that.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                        There is also the standards factor to keep in mind (it's not a complete explanation by any means, but it does obtain at a certain level in many relationships) - that is, the problem Partner A with sharing responsibilities with Partner B, when Partner A perceives that Partner B can't or won't do the job as well as Partner A would.

                                                                                                                                                                        In that case, Partner A has to learn to detach from micromanaging Partner B into do things his/her way, or will do it himself/herself. Many Partner As do the latter, and whine. Wrong move.

                                                                                                                                                                        (I've seen this dynamic work on both sides of the gendershed, as it were).

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                          Yup. I've been in that relationship, albeit with a roommate, not a partner. That's why when I got a new roommate, I included twice-monthly housecleaning in the deal.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                          My Dh is the exception to this rule. He does 50-60% of the cooking, nearly all of the 'in between cleaning lady' cleaning, grocery shopping, Sam's Club/Costco shopping, decorating stuff, etc. And he makes aobut 10X what I do.

                                                                                                                                                                          Life is good.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                            "In most cases even men who've been on their own for a long time still -- consciously or unconsciously -- expect when they have a wife or live-in girlfriend that she'll do household chores he had previously done for himself."

                                                                                                                                                                            Hmm...and here I am with four loads of laundry going, about to go do the shopping for the meal I'm cooking tonight, having already fed the pets and taken the trash out to the curb for the pickup.

                                                                                                                                                                            Forgive me if I disagree with that statement.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                              "In most cases even men who've been on their own for a long time still -- consciously or unconsciously -- expect when they have a wife or live-in girlfriend that she'll do household chores he had previously done for himself."

                                                                                                                                                                              That's not my experience. My parents' generation - sure. But most people my age (40s) realize that in a two-earner household, work at home has to be divided up, and dividing it more-or-less equally is only fair. Maybe more guys mow the lawn and more women clean the bathroom, but I can't imagine anybody born after the baby boom having that kind of expectation.

                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, my opinion here is based entirely on personal experience. Maybe I just hang around with a crowd that's more progressive than average. If so, let's hope that we're on the leading edge of a trend that will become the norm over the course of the next generation or so.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes I think you have the good fortune of being among a more enlightened set of people. Sadly the statistics from population census' generally portray a different tale. So while things have moved on from the 1950's I don't think that we've reached a point of household equality in terms of domestic duties.

                                                                                                                                                                                Another thing to remember is that chowhound attracts people who are interested in food, hence more males on this site will cook regularly (or entirely) than what may be the incidence in the general population.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler


                                                                                                                                                                                Obviously they haven't studied me and mine. My wife and I have both worked since we got married. When I am off I cook, clean, do laundry, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                When she is off she does the same. When we both work the same days we trade back and forth. Scandalizes her mother though as Korean tradition (older tradition) is for the wife to do everything without complaint.
                                                                                                                                                                                When we both get a day off it's the kid's turn to treat us.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                  Can't argue with your point in the Asian context especially. I do all the cooking at home and our Thai neighbours are quite intrigued at this foreign man who does the cooking while his wife watches TV, something they comment on when my wife chats with them. To them, I come across as rather eccentric, to say the least.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Our 'arrangement' used to be that I would cook and she would wash up and clean the kitchen after. But seeing her face all that alone after dinner became too much after a while so now I help her with all that also. Let's face it, who wants to wash and clean after a long day when you have just finished a nice dinner? But, it has to be done so, many hands make light work.

                                                                                                                                                                                  But she still is not allowed to help me cook. That's my quirk, which I wrote about in the other thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                  As for why cook when there are convenience foods, I'll go with the freedom it gives you. I cook a really diverse range of dishes and its like eating out at a different restaurant every night, minus the high cost. My wife would add about the associated health benefits, as she pays attention to that, but to me convenience foods are just plain boring.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I would hazard a guess that a lot of people do not learn to cook because they think it is too difficult and time consuming. If anyone feels that way, there is only 1 cookbook I would recommend to them - "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Quote from his book - "Time is a precious commodity, no question about it. But there are few better ways to spend it than by preparing high-quality food for yourself and those you love."



                                                                                                                                                                          2. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and cooked dinner for our family every night, which we always ate together. I don't live at home anymore but when I visit we usually have dinner together, although sometimes it's hard to pull my twenty-one-year-old brother away from his computer games. My dad also cooked on the weekend, usually more elaborate dishes and/or things that required the barbecue (as I don't ever recall seeing my mom use it).

                                                                                                                                                                            Now, all that being said, I was NEVER allowed in the kitchen to help with dinner. My parents told me I just got in the way. They also catered to a lot of my pickiness, which probably wasn't the end of the world but I do think I would be twenty pounds lighter today if I'd eaten better as a child. When I moved out at eighteen I had NO idea how to prepare food. None. One of my most defining moments occured a week or so after I'd moved out, when I realized I had NO idea how to cut a tomato, but tried anyways and ended up almost cutting my finger off. My roommates thought it was HILARIOUS that I didn't know how to cut a tomato, and couldn't stop laughing as they bandaged my finger. At that moment I realized I needed to learn how to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                            It took me a while to get it together, but I finally learned how to cook for myself. I became a vegetarian because, while I'd never really been fond of meat and hadn't eaten red meat in years, the actual process of cooking my own meat absolutely repulsed me. I was wracked with guilt. I've been a vegetarian for about five years now. I'm now known as something of a chef (at least compared to my friends) and I cook all of my own meals unless I'm eating out. I don't do takeout and I don't do processed, packaged, microwaveable or instant meals. I make my own salad dressings, salsas, hummous and other condiments. I started by cooking from really simple cookbooks and then worked my way up to more complicated ones. I started seeking out unusual ingredients, especially once I cut out meat (as I realized that there is almost nothing that I find gross other than meat). There are times when I still have to phone home ("Dad, how do you cut a cabbage?") but for the most part I've got my own cooking under control. I'm not sure if I'd be better or worse off today if I'd been involved in the family cooking as a child, but I think that my ability to cook proper food for myself now can be contributed to two things: my vegetarianism and my committment to avoiding processed, refined, unnatural foods. If you're happy eating Lean Cuisine every night, and you don't care whether or not it's good for you, you've got no motivation to cook for yourself.

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                                                                                                                              Congratulations! Well done.

                                                                                                                                                                              Re: "I'm not sure if I'd be better or worse off today if I'd been involved in the family cooking as a child,.."

                                                                                                                                                                              Unlike you, all of us--cousins, male and female on both sides--were expected to cook and clean (and much else). I left home knowing what to do in the kitchen. Similar to you, I don't eat processed and prepared foods, rarely eat out when not traveling, don't do take-out, don't normally eat fast foods (I have fun making exceptions when traveling, however, and have posted such adventures on these boards). I do eat meat, but very little. Do eat as much fish as I can.

                                                                                                                                                                              I really thank my extended family. I left home thinking of cooking as neither skill nor chore - just something that people do. I certainly have since reallized that I love cooking, love cooking for others, and that continuing to learn new cooking skills is a great part of the satisfaction.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. The same phemonenon is happening in all areas of Western life. People are getting away from doing for themsleves. Is it a desire to appear to be well-to-do in that you can afford to pay someone else for the service/product you desire? A desire to free up time for other activities? I think so. But at what cost to future generations?

                                                                                                                                                                              Unfortunately in the Western World, basic knowledge of self-care of all forms ( growing food, preparing meals, making clothes, creating shelter, making and using household tools and machinery, etc) is being lost at a horrific speed. The much lambasted Boomer generation is probably the last to have grown up in a (Western) society where the basics were taught directly by example.

                                                                                                                                                                              Lesson? TEACH! whatever your knowledge, give it to others, especially those younger.

                                                                                                                                                                              Jamie Oliver should be recognized for his work--"Sir Jaime"?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. The second episode of Jamie's Ministry of Food just aired in aust.

                                                                                                                                                                                SInce his school dinners everything Jamie's involved himself in has really impressed and this is definitely no exception.

                                                                                                                                                                                How touchingly positive was the miner who discovered a love for cooking?!! I also really appreciate the way Jamie is passionate about good food, and certainly calls a spade a spade but is never condescending to any of his charges because he wants them to change and feel good about their choices rather than crap about their lives. What a decent bloke!

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: irisav

                                                                                                                                                                                  We're on episode three over here and I agree that the miner is fab. I also really like Tasha, who is now so keen on cooking that she is growing veg in her garden, and Claire, who used to live on crisps but is now whipping up shepherd's pie for her family. It's debatable whether Jamie is going to be able to make a real difference to the whole of Rotherham, but he's clearly changed the lives of the people he's mentored. Their increase in confidence is a joy to behold.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. People are surely going to have to learn cook now, with the present state of the US economy.

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chew on That

                                                                                                                                                                                    I was just having that discussion yesterday. Someone brought up the fact that grocery chains are seeing declines in profits. I contended that it is because people cannot afford to purchase pre-prepared food. They are having to start from scratch.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Growing up in 50's-60's family of 6 my father was an AF pilot and my mom a teacher. She preferred to teach and hire household help, but she cooked. She would frequently cook on weekends for the coming week. When we lived over seas we occasionally had a cook among the household help. My parents were foodies and made sure we were introduced to everything possible. We did dine out with some regularity and it was best behavior in a white table cloth establishment or sometimes more casually at the Officers Club. But, my mom cooked with interest and passion. All of my friends mothers cooked too and when i entered junior high, 7th grade all female students took home ec classes. The guys had a couple of weeks of it each year and the girls had a couple of weeks of shop while the guys took home ec. This was not an elective option.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I ended up a home ec ed major. I never taught in a school and now I think there are fewer and fewer home ec options in schools and in some schools non at all. It simply faded away. No wonder there are people who don't know what boiling water looks like, cannot feed themselves a decent simple meal that they prepared with fresh raw ingredients, are clueless as to setting a table properly, clueless on how to hold their flatware, what fork to use when. It also extends to many other life skills. Threading a needle and sewing a button back on for instance. I live in a university town and many of the sororities and frats, sometimes a particular school like business will have etiquette experts in for crash courses. In many cases the current generations parents are also clueless. Okay enough of my rant. The whole thing just irks the hell out of me. I have had people tell me "I don't cook." The really sad thing is that they are proud of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                                                                      Candy, I've heard that said proudly too. I always cringe a little inside. Cooking gives you such flexibility and choices, it's empowering. And there is always something new to learn. Plus I tend to keep an erratic schedule at times and I'm so glad I can whip something up for myself whatever the hour. I swear for half of the people, they just don't like cleaning up a bit afterwards, they like their kitchen sterile and pristine. I sure hope I'm wrong about this though.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                                                                        Not to mention that take away isn't generally healthy. There are healthier options, but if you skip the ultra convenient dinner mixes and what not at the store, you can make a very healthy and balanced meal yourself that you could not get at most take out places. when I take my child to school, 1/2 the kids are overweight. I also hear kids saying that they are too tired to do xyz. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.
                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't see eating out as a freedom/choice that is empowering. I see it as ruining our health and waist lines.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                                                                        When I went to school, home ec was girls only and shop was boys only. But many women my age (mid-40s) have a good amount of skill with power tools and many men my age have decent cooking skills. I agree with you (and givemecarbs) that cooking IS empowering and gives you choices, but one of the choices would be to NOT cook if you don't enjoy it. My own mother never liked cooking and while we always had a hot meal on the table, often it was Hamburger Helper, the Thursday night TV dinners (I loved the LibbyLand dinners), Chef Boy-Ar-Dee products. She had the choice to do this, unlike her mother (who also disliked cooking, but had to do it anyway and from scratch). So she chose to do the type of "cooking" that she wanted to do (to this day, though, she can't understand how my sister and I can enjoy cooking so much and why this is our hobby!)

                                                                                                                                                                                        That said, she could sew and while I can do the button thing, I choose not to do anymore than that. Don't ask me to hem anything! I'm neither proud nor ashamed of this.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Technological advances always bring about a reduction in labor-intensive activities. Storage, preservation, and transport technology have allowed food to be packaged for easy preparation and clean-up. Of course there has been a decline in home cooking, just as there has been a decline in sewing your own clothes, building your own furniture, harvesting your own food, and making your own candles. It's a natural progression.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Food snobs like to assign it to laziness, stupidity, or bad culture, but the truth is that this is the way the world marches on. I like to cook and I cook all the time, but I don't think there is a character flaw or lack of education going on if others don't. It's really none of my business what other people decide to invest their time and energy in.

                                                                                                                                                                                      T.V. shows always spotlight the worst group of people they can in order to make a point. Jamie Oliver can only justify teaching food basics on his show if he can first show that there are people out there who need the information. Interview a bunch of people and select the ones who most egregiously seem to be lacking and you've got a nice bit of distorted reality to help validate you choice of material.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                                                                        Orchid, you do realize this is chowhound right? I think it is our business when kids are involved. The way things are "progressing" I'm relieved that between my friends and I we can do all of these thing you mentioned. Also for the poster who doesn't enjoy home-cooked meals, and neither do her children, it's still nice to have something to fall back on, I hope you always have the choice financially to eat out or get take out. I don't know if this is slightly off topic or not but when I read your post I remembered how feeding babies formula instead of breast milk was considered progress as well. I know bottle feeding is still a really good idea in some cases but the things they are finding out about breast milk amazes me. We are not so isolated from our fellow human beings. For one thing we all pay when people eat themselves into chronic bad health.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                                                                                          I can cook (since I believe I am the poster you are refering to) and when first married, lived off $10/week food budget and could do more than you can imagine with few ingredients. 20+ years later I am in a position where I don't "have" to cook (or clean my house) for economic reasons and if economics change, I will adjust accordingly. As of right now I cook about 2 nights a week on average and that works for me. Nothing to do with being "houndish".

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I watched the concluding episode of "Jamie's Ministry of Food" last night and I have to say that I was impressed with what he managed to achieve. He turned several individual's lives around (most notably the single mum, Natasha, who he surprised with a place at catering school), which is an achievement in itself. But he did also manage to persuade Rotherham Council to keep his "Ministry of Food" open for another year, as well as getting several other councils on board.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Jamie Oliver has his detractors, but I think he did a brave and exciting thing here.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                          Awesome! You started a very thought provoking thread and also gave it some closure. I've learned so much from all the comments. Thanks again!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I am 37 and only know of one woman my age who really cooks. A few may throw out some hot dogs or some sort of mushroom soup casserole on occasion, but they mostly rely on take-away. When I talk to friends and other women about cooking, they say they just don't know how.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Now, when I was a kid, everyone ate at home most of the time. There weren't nearly the number of restaurants there are now. Many of my friend's moms were amazing cooks. With that said, I have to wonder why these moms did not teach their kids to cook. Neither of my SIL's can cook, yet my MIL puts a meal on the table every night (she is a terrible cook, but still.) My own mom didn't teach me to cook either and is a decent cook. I learned from watching Justin Wilson, Nathalie Dupree, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Childs on PBS as a child and teen. My dad would have the shows on on Saturday and I was glued to them. I was cooking family dinners and winning contests through my school home ec program by age 14. I got the nickname Betty Crocker in high school. But, it wasn't because someone in my family taught me. I just had an interest in it--like some do in art or music. I just wonder why my generation didn't have moms or dads who taught us to cook despite the fact that THEY were cooking. Some may find eating out every night to be empowering. I find it unhealthy and a waste of money and resources.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                                                            Glad this thread is still rolling! I agree with you sisterfunkhaus, I think cooking is empowering. Many parents don't feel the urge to teach their kids much. I remember when my friend Andy was twenty I showed him how to pump gas. Neither of his parents could be bothered. I know one older woman, (a competent cook), who complains bitterly about having to eat her own daughter's awful cooking. Whenever she does this I have to turn my face away to hide the big grin I am wearing, because I can't help thinking, yeah too bad her mom didn't teach her how to cook. I'm not a big believer in karmic justice but once in awhile I wonder. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. From N.C. in the U.S, 43 yrs old. All of my friends from kids to 70 yr olds know how to cook and love doing it. If I had kids I can't imagine feeding them processed foods at all. Most of my friends have gardens which is a family chore to keep up with which teaches the next generation how to do it. They're getting great nutrition, no loss of nutrients like food being shipped from Florida to N.C., the kids learn patience as they watch the food grow, and they realize how good food tastes when it's grown in your own yard and picked fresh! Wouldn't it be great to find some young person in your neighborhood that would love to learn to cook, but maybe their parent is too busy, and give them cooking lessons? Neat!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I was born in 1962, and I am fortunate that my mother cooked most of our meals growing up. Unfortunately, she never taught me how to cook. When I left home and married I really tried to learn, but it wasn't good. After my divorce (not foodie reasons), I met a guy who was an excellent cook. He taught me a lot, and then we broke up.

                                                                                                                                                                                              The next ten years or so I regressed, and my refrigerator was nothing more than an assortment of "to-go" containers and condiments. I could afford to eat out all of the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                              The economy changed, and I also moved to an area where restaurants weren't plentiful. I FINALLY really learned how to cook. I then moved to Sonoma County (CA) which is a mecca for foodies. That gave me a whole new appreciation for food.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Got back to S. CA and back with the guy who originally taught me how to cook, and now I guess I'm a foodie forever.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I think chain/fast food restaurants are a major problem. Here is Fort Worth almost everything is a chain. Getting teenage kids to eat from a "non-chain" restaurant is tough. Today, for example, I picked up the tab for lunch out for the 15 yr. old and his dad. This was the first time the kid actually finished most of his meal in ages. He ordered Chicken Fried Steak, but I didn't say a word. He is a picky eater, yet he will order something like chicken fajitas with rice and beans, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo, and then he will only eat the chicken breast and NOTHING else. Oh, and he will be very specific about either corn or flour tortillas but then not eat a single one!

                                                                                                                                                                                              Tonight I made Chicken Piccata over spaghettini with a salad of baby greens. He didn't eat the salad and had one piece of chicken with a little pasta. Yet the kid LOVES Olive Garden. He thinks that is REALLY great Italian food.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I'm noticing this trend a lot in the USA. I think its mostly due to low wages and inflation. This creates the need for both parents to have full time jobs and somtimes overtime. My dad has a full time job and also works overtime. A lot of people were laid off from his company so he often has to compensate for their absence. He comes home from work exhausted to the core. He does not have time for friends or hobbies at all. My mom also has a full time job and gets paid meager wages. She works with screaming kids for 8 hours a day (she's a teacher's assistant) then drives my brother to soccer games. She is also exhausted at the end of the day. I've noticed this in other families as well. My boyfriend's parents also do not get home from work until about 6-8:30. Whenever dinner is "cooked" it is from a box, can, or bag.

                                                                                                                                                                                                A lot of people's lives are just too stressful to spend time peeling and chopping. Frozen/processed/fast food is obviously easier. Not to mention that they want to save money. Cooking a decent meal for a family can be expensive. Buying frozen or processed meals in the supermarket is a lot less expensive and can be stored longer than most fresh ingredients. I've offered to cook decent healthy meals for the family on multiple occasions, but I'm only allowed to do it every one-two weeks because my parents don't want to spend the money on ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Overall in my opinions, people need just a little more free time and less stress so they can actually enjoy their lives. Home cooking is not the only thing that suffers due to this lifestyle. The quality of life in general also declines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MipsyB

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've noticed in the past year or so how much of the food offered in Trader Joe's is RTE or RTU.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Chopped and peeled squash. Cooked breast of chicken and salmon. Of course, the ubiquitous 'salad' in a bag.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sure there are raw ingredients, but the ratio of prepared to raw is growing. "People don't have time" is just bull. People don't have the interest is more like it. They'd just rather spend their time doing something else. Which is a real shame because their personal and family relationships suffer. There is no substitute for sharing food which you've prepared yourself, with people you care about. I think of it as the ultimate act of love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I avoid pre-prepped ingredients and almost never buy ready-to-eat foods. But it's just silly to claim that "personal and family relationships suffer" from cooking a bag of chopped and peeled squash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    When I serve squash to my family, I start with - duh - a squash. But anybody who believes that peeling and seeding one of those suckers is "the ultimate act of love" really needs to find a more productive outlet for affection.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have no problem with the salad in a bag because it's not always possible for people to use the amount of raw ingredients they'd have to get to make the same thing. I'm imagining myself trying to make a fruit salad from scratch and I'd have a ridiculous amount of waste. Some of us are single people and don't wish to have to have people over for every single meal so we have the ability to make food from scratch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I would say if you had to use salad-in-a-bag, go for it if it meant more time with the family. You have to pick and choose your battles, ya know?