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What's Happened to Home Cooking?

Genevieve Fox asks in the Guardian:



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  1. Um, that's not happening at my home..

    1. Nor mine. I can't even be bothered to pipe frosting onto a cupcake.

      1. "it's now time to 'pool the sauce and swipe through.'"

        Yes, yes, yes! And the dots on the plate thing. Long past time for that to be over, and not only at home.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JoanN

          if I swiped or piped my husband would be concerned I was on my way out and call a Dr.

        2. Give me the old fashioned slab of meat taking a bath on my plate in a puddle of gravy. I love watching the new cooking shows on TV, but I'm perplexed at the focus on the finished artwork that is served as the meal. I ate at 2 different restaurants that did this. It definitely turned me off. I never went back to either place. My focus is on flavor and not how picturesque the chef can manipulate the food I intend to eat appear.

          1 Reply
          1. re: i_am_Lois

            I always sort of figure that it's an attempt to compensate for less-than-stellar food.

            While once in a while I like to putter around with things like making a pastry poinsettia for the top of last night's baked Brie, I'd far rather put good food on a plate and enjoy it with friends and family.

          2. Who cares? If you want to do it do it. If not, don't. No one is forcing anyone is "plate up" or use a piping bag ect. I swear people will whine about anything. This is just another example of "anyone driving slower than me is an idiot and anyone driving faster than me is a maniac" syndrome.

            7 Replies
            1. re: rasputina

              I'm guessing you missed the point entirely--poor you.

              1. re: Kagemusha

                I think the point is that people like to complain. Am I right? No? Oh well, that's what I took away from it.

                1. re: donovt

                  I couldn't relate to it. I don't prepare home cooked meals that way and I don't run to restaurants that do. But I'm perplexed by the notion that people complaining about any particular topic is news. I mean if you don't care what the article has to say, as rasputina said, that's your right of course..but in doing so that's also a complaint. Funny that.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    It's the type of article I file under the heading "peculiarities of the chattering classes," as the British refer to the affluent, educated inhabitants of the major cities like London or New York or Los Angeles, and as such you occasionally find articles in the corresponding newspapers (the NYTimes, Guardian) that leave you scratching your head and thinking, "oh, really? My, what interesting problems you have."

                    1. re: Roland Parker

                      Roland, that's what makes this big world of ours go round!

                      1. re: Roland Parker

                        Too bad they're so smart and literate. Must be a burden for them.

                  2. re: Kagemusha

                    I get the point but like rasputina, who cares. Poor me too

                2. Yeah I pretty much just throw my food on a plate and eat it. The only time I use piping bags is when I decorate Christmas cookies. Who has time for that?

                  1. Can we say first-world problem? Definitely not anything I concern myself with...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Kajikit

                      There are only so many ways to serve a pork chop. People who 'graze' six nights a week need to be entertained by their food it seems.
                      It's all moot now anyway. The 'grazers' are becoming bored and increasingly asking if dropping a couple hundred bucks a night for a few flowers and a dollop of green phloem covering one week-old scallop that needed to be rinsed in bleach before serving is worth it as reflected in the endemic restaurant failure rate in the cities.
                      They are discovering their own kitchen and as the 'low information' consumers' they are they assume the only way to prepare/serve food is the way the restaurant that just closed it's doors did. Move over. Here comes the 'pioneer cuisine' movement'. "Hot and brown and plenty of it!".

                    2. I think it's way more basic than that. One problem is trying to please everyone, and cook to individual tastes, requirements, hang-ups, phobias, etc. I try to cook for my family, but despite being considered a decent cook by friends and colleagues (who frequently received the food my family refused to eat), everyone is just too demanding and picky. Also, some think that having to eat leftovers, even repurposed, is cruel and unusual punishment. I guess it was our fault for never implementing a "take it or leave it, but that's all there is" policy. I've found myself offering up 10 choices, and still hear how nothing floats anyone's boat. The thinking that restaurant food is always somehow better plays into the perceived worthlessness of home cooking. My kid will beg for a Panera salad when we have the exact same ingredients at home. Being the person in charge of buying groceries and cooking, I get very disillusioned and ticked off that my efforts aren't appreciated.

                      41 Replies
                      1. re: Dinsdale45

                        so put your foot down. It might be late, but better late than never.

                        You shouldn't feel obligated to be a short-order chef, nor should you feel obligated to cough up $11.95 for a salad you could make at home with better and fresher ingredients for a fraction of that.

                        I have no issue making adjustments for vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, gluten-free, seafood-free, etc., -- but there comes a point when it's very obviously NOT about the food.

                        Let someone else host and order the takeout -- life is too short.

                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                          SERIOUSLY? You offer to cook upwards of 10 different choices for dinner? I agree with sunshine842. Put your foot down.

                          "This is what dinner will be tonight. If you don't like it, tough.

                          No, you may not drive out to Panera for a salad. I have salad makings right here. Make it yourself.

                          No, you can't make a pizza. No, you can't have chips and dip. That's not dinner. THIS is dinner. Take it or leave it."

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            My mother had a sign in our kitchen when I was a kid that said "This is not a restaurant, there is no menu, eat what is served, or you'll get on my nerves." It's not Robert Frost, but we got the message.

                            1. re: John E.

                              no sign in my mom's kitchen, but that was the operating standard.

                              Even visiting friends lived by the rule -- if you weren't going to eat what was served, you were going to be hungry.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                I remember that my mother hated lunch when there were guests. She said it seemed like she just got the kitchen cleaned up after breakfast, and then it was time for lunch. She solved this dilemma by habing breakfast rolls available and then made brunch later.

                              2. re: John E.

                                Exactly, John. It was understood Mom wasn't a short order cook. If we didn't want dinner, when we were old enough, we could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Otherwise, nothing.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  I don't think we even had the option of making a sandwich. It was eat what's for dinner or go to your room!

                                2. re: John E.

                                  My mom's sign was "Menu- Two Choices: Take It Leave It". That sign now hangs in my kitchen (moved mom in with me so it's turn-about is fair play:) The sign hangs next to an apron that reads "I'm sorry, Your Opinion was not in the Recipe". I just point to whichever is appropriate when faced with criticism.

                                  1. re: Hoppy12345

                                    My mother was a 50s, 60s, 70s housewife (my sister was 15 years older than me). She also had a sign in her kitchen that read "An Immaculate House is the Sign of a Dull Woman". Our house was not a dump, but she would rather cook than clean house.

                                    On a side note, my father's office was a mess. When he took a new job at age 57 and he cleaned off his desk, there was an unseen deskpad/calendar that was 26 years old.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      I can verify that phrase...my mother's house was immaculate....you can fill in the rest.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        one of my best girlfriends back in the day had this doormat at her front door.
                                        I was there a lot because we gave birth to our children within months of each other. her problem was in none of the 3 bathrooms was there ever•••••fill in the blank.
                                        I think we can come to a conclusion that hoarding has become a recognized problem and cooking is often times take-out cause hard to find the kitchen.

                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                        On another (non-food) board, a member asked for advice about where to eat in a small town in France. He was taking a group to visit the area and had "fussy eaters" amongst them. My friend, Mick, responded that they would become less fussy as they became hungrier and the "tour guide" shouldnt worry too much.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          My step-dad and step-brother do this to my mom. She'll make dinner, and then SB will say he wants spaghetti instead. SD hops right up and makes some for him. Or will drive to town and get him (and himself) something from McDonalds.

                                          Maybe I'm spoiled, as my fiance came from an "eat it or starve" family, but I would NOT tolerate that nonsense. You eat what I put on the table, or I'll be damned if I ever cook for you again. I would make them eat spaghetti for a week straight.

                                          1. re: Kontxesi

                                            You're not spoiled, Kontxesi. You're well mannered and don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, as your stepfather and stepbrother appear to expect. Gah.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              "Well-mannered" might be giving me too much credit. :p

                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                            I have no problem with my kids making their own food. I can't even imagine telling my kids no they can't make their own dinner. I WANT them to cook and to eat.

                                            1. re: rasputina

                                              Your kids refuse to eat the meal that you make an effort to prepare, they stick their nose up at it, and you would allow them to make a frozen pizza instead?

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                Did I mention frozen pizza? No I don't think I did. When my kids were little I made them separate dishes when I felt it was appropriate and once they were old enough to cook for themselves they have always had the option of cooking something for dinner.

                                                My daughter has a love affair with Japanese cuisine and pasta dishes that I don't share. She also went through a period of being vegetarian. I used to be veg and later vegan myself. No I would never just slap dinner on the table and say, eat it or go hungry. Or eat it or you may have peanut butter and jelly but nothing else.

                                                Sorry I was a kid that grew up an eat it or else house and refused to do that to my kids.

                                                1. re: rasputina

                                                  My mother only asked us to taste something if it was new. We didn't really have the problems you have encountered because my mother mostly cooked foods that everyone in the family would eat. I thought your poat was about a kid refusing to eat something because they just did not feel like eating the meal that was prepared for them. To me, that is unacceptable.

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    Well to me it's unacceptable to force my kids to go hungry or eat something they find distasteful. And I'm not willing to give up making things I love just because my kids don't like it or it's no longer part of their dietary choices. I'd rather makes us all happy and let us all enjoy our meals. The smell of rabbit cooking thoroughly disgusts me for some unknown reason but my husband and kids love it. So on the days that my husband cooks it I make something else. No big deal. Why should they never have rabbit because I hate it?

                                                    So sometimes that means I make an extra dish or sometimes that means my husband or kids choose to cook their own dinner. As long as we are all properly fed and happy that's what matters most.

                                                    1. re: rasputina

                                                      You're making more out of this than I intended. Of course if you are making something out of the ordinary or 'gourmet' you don't have to make the kids eat it. In that situation, it seems you misunderstood my intent because the meal you describe would not have been prepared for the children. I'm referring to your average Tuesday night dinner. I also think the 'go hungry' thing is hyperbole that is not needed in the discussion. We have never done what you imply.

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        My post wasn't even originally replied to you or what you said. It was in response to LindaWhit's post. You responded to my post to her.

                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                          The only reason I responded is because you seemed to take a position on Linda's post that I disagreed with. Obviously the situation you later described to me has nothing in common with the point I think Linda and later I was attempting to make.

                                                          I also encourage our children to cook, but not after they are presented with the food I have already prepared for everyone to eat at a family meal. That is different from the scenarios you described.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            And might I add for rasputina that Mom never made something she knew we'd hate. Liver and onions? No, most of the family didn't like it (except for my father), so it didn't get made.

                                                            But there was always *something* in the meal we could eat. If the new recipe for the chicken wasn't to someone's liking, there was always starch (rice or potatoes) and the vegetable and often a salad.

                                                            If the Brussels sprouts weren't liked after tasting them (and we were always required to at least taste something new), there was always the meat and starch.

                                                            But there was always something to eat. If one of us kids pitched a fit and refused to eat anything because, dammit, we wanted FISH STICKS! - oh no, that wasn't tolerated. Mom made one meal, and one meal only. She was not a short-order cook.

                                                            Oh - and Mom and Dad didn't tell us we couldn't make our own meal. We could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We didn't starve. Please note this was done when we were younger, so pulling out pots and pans and whipping up our own meal wasn't on the agenda.

                                                            And we grew up very well versed in trying different foods - my father was an American citizen born and raised in Shanghai, China in 1924, and he traveled for business all the time and brought back new food ideas for us to try, which we always did.

                                                            But as John E. said - my parents cooked a meal. A single meal. We were all expected to partake of said meal growing up.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              I remember a Leave it to Beaver episode where Beaver would not eat brussels sprouts. He sat there at the table for hours refusing to eat just one. Finally, in order to defuse the situation and not admit defeat, Ward and June said he could leave the table if he promised to eat them the next time they were on his plate. Beaver agreed. A couple of nights later they were in a nice restaurant and the vegetable of the day was was brussels sprouts. Beaver did not make a scene, he put one in his mouth and chewed. Ward, June, and Wally all waited to see what would happen. Yep, he liked them.

                                                              My father also was the only family member who liked beef liver so my mother never cooked liver. I do remember eating at the neighbor's house when my parent's were out of town one time and they served 'elephant ears', I think it was well-done liver. It certainly was gray. The same lady put cooked scrambled eggs inside pancakes.

                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                I have no words for cooked scrambled eggs inside pancakes. :-o

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  If by "inside" you mean rolled up in the pancake like a crepe, well, maybe, if they were well-seasoned and not too heavy. If you mean the scrambled eggs are actually incorporated into the batter - well...

                                                                  (Now watch someone bring up an obscure cuisine that does just that :-) )

                                                                  1. re: tardigrade

                                                                    Yeah, the scrambled eggs were cooked into the pancakes. I was quite young, but it was pretty weird.

                                                  2. re: rasputina

                                                    our DS#1 handles things (my opinion) the correct way. with his family he has always said 'this is dinner, there won't be anything else and you will eat this." he's not mean he's incredible. maybe this one doesn't like pasta with red sauce but all else enjoy it. next night it's chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli but someone doesn't like broccoli he just asks them to have a few bites and they might growl but they eat their few bites. in his family everyone agrees on one thing-fresh fruit salad at every meal even if there's a green salad there is always as many different fruits cut up in a bowl that the bowl will fit and it always ends up empty. I'm not sure I knew there we're that many kinds of fruits on this earth. :)

                                            2. re: Dinsdale45

                                              I hear ya. I haven't catered to my kids or husband to the same degree, but I can't cook just what *I* want, when I want to. I also have very little weeknight time and energy to get dinner on the table (and cleaned up), when you consider all the other stuff we need and want to get done in the 2 hours between daycare and bedtime. Slowly but surely, cooking tilted from pleasure to chore. I'm trying to reverse that a bit now, for my own mental health (because previously it was a hobby I enjoyed), but it's more like something I get to enjoy twice a month vs. say 4 days a week - because realistically, even before kids, we ate out at least once a week and I also was happy with leftovers and cheese-and-cracker type meals. So the pressure to produce 6-7 healthy family-friendly meals a week is a bit much at times.

                                              1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                I was a super picky eater when I was a kid. Now, as an adult, I feel bad for my mom, because she tried hard to give us good meals after she spent her entire day on her feet at work. She didn't go to the extreme of "eat it or starve", but all she offered was either what she made, or I could make myself a peanut butter sandwich. I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.

                                                Now, as an adult 20+ years later, I really do appreciate what she tried to do for us. So, I would still make what you want to make, and maybe offer 1 or 2 "make it yourself" options for your kids.... but stop catering to them because it just makes it worse. They won't starve to death and when their options are limited, maybe they'll start liking more of the home cooking you provide.

                                                1. re: juliejulez

                                                  Yeah, this is more in line with the "new rules" I've implemented. I have 3 picky eaters-my wife eats at odd times, prefers to graze, and is recently on a PB&J/canned tuna kick at age 56, my oldest daughter is a finicky foodie, hates leftovers, and considers herself to be a budding chef, and the little one only eats about 10 things, but as long as I have one of these around, she's good.

                                                  I'll prepare meals for the youngest kid, but the other two are now on their own. I wasn't cooking for me, I was trying to cook for them, to their tastes and needs, but they've killed my spirit and creativity. I'll keep the fridge stocked with the basics, eggs, salad stuff, cold cuts, and store-bought roasted chicken, but I'm through trying to please them. They won't starve, and there will be no more fights.

                                                  Maybe I'll cook up some shrimp and grits, lemongrass chicken, chile verde, and Thai green curry for myself or my bachelor friends.

                                                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                    Sad. :( My dad did that to my mom. She grew to hate cooking, as nothing was ever good enough for him.

                                                    1. re: Kontxesi

                                                      oh that's sad.
                                                      my dinner isn't always the best but my husband may say something like "this isn't your best achievement" or "not your most shining moment" but I always get a kiss and a thank you honey.

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        LOL -- mine's similar -- when I try a new recipe, the discussion is whether it's a keeper or not -- keepers get put into the recipe book, and it was good enough to have again.

                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                          My fiance always eats what I make. (Except the venison steaks with juniper I made last week, but I couldn't eat that either! Once I washed it off and doused it with Worcestershire, he got it down. :p ) If he enjoys it and would like to have it again, he tells me so. (And if I make enough for seconds, he will take them.) If he doesn't like it, he eats quietly and doesn't get another helping. No snarky remarks.

                                                      2. re: Dinsdale45

                                                        I'm sorry. Your family is missing out. Hope you and your friends can make regular cooking dates so you can be appreciated.

                                                      3. re: juliejulez

                                                        I was pretty picky too, but I was expected to eat what was at the table normally. Whenever we had hamburgers, I would take a bun, Miracle Whip, and lettuce and fix myself and sandwich.... It was all on the table, so fair game. :)

                                                        I'm pretty sure that on the nights when I didn't eat much at dinner, I'd sneak several slices of that mushy white sandwich bread into bed with me.... I'm glad I got over that. The crumbs were ridiculous.

                                                    2. I don't mind this. I think cooking at home brings people together and experimenting at home, and trying to emulate what you would buy at a restaurant is fun.

                                                      Of course the classics are the classics
                                                      You'll always see meatloaf and mashed potatoes, simple baked fish with lemon and dill, lasagna, spaghetti, grilled steak with veggies and potato, and the likes on our home meal planners

                                                      but its always fun to change it up a bit and do something different.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                        But changing up flavors in dishes seems quite different than changing up appearance for the sake of...what?

                                                        And some of this plating up would spoil the coming together among my friends. They'd be tense about the appearance of the food, rather than digging in and enjoying the wonderful ritual of breaking bread together over good conversation.

                                                        1. re: debbiel

                                                          I have to disagree. Often we eat with our eyes first.

                                                          We have often invited friends over for tasting. Lets take our calamari tasting for instances. We asked them to rate based on plating and taste. While the one the they thought was plated the best lost in taste they gave us ideas to plate the best one.

                                                          While many say form follows function form is still very very important.

                                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                            To each their own. I wouldn't ever do what the author is talking about (I'd be laughed out of my own home!). I rarely plate meals for one- I like family style (It is after all home meals for family...), I also think it just is overkill. I don't want dots and smears (I can't wrap my head around making food appear to have, well, skidmarks) where my food should be.

                                                            1. re: Hoppy12345

                                                              Skidmarks! I love it. :D

                                                              We normally eat family style, too. I only plate when:

                                                              a) it's just my fiance and me
                                                              b) it took some effort to make
                                                              c) is a new dish I'm excited about
                                                              d) I give a damn

                                                              Otherwise, throw it in a bowl and put it on the table. :) Sometimes I skip the bowl, even!

                                                        2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                          The kind of plating that the author is talking about is a little extreme, but I don't see anything wrong with wanting a plate to look appealing. If I've just spent two hours making dinner, I want it to at least look edible when it hits the table.

                                                          I won't cross the line to foams and piping bags, though. The first is just nasty looking, and the second means more things to wash up afterwards.

                                                          1. re: Kontxesi

                                                            Agree. There's a big difference between attractive and pretentious.

                                                        3. Well...speaking for myself, I cook every night. However, by the time I come home from work, feed the dog, change, tidy up, maybe fold wash that was in the dryer--I'm too beat to try anything fancy...THAT sort of thing is saved for the weekend--and the fancy weekend cooking does not consist of foam..or meat sculpted into fancy shapes...I do simple, basic ingredients. No competition here. I blame social media for that garbage.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: jarona

                                                            WHAT? No meatloaf shaped like turtles?
                                                            No mashed potatoes shaped like Devil's Tower?

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              LOL--Wellllllllllll....every Christmas I DO make a cake in the shape of a log...and I make cutsey little meringue mushrooms and little holly leaves and berries to make it look more festive:)!

                                                          2. Eh, I'll chime in as someone who actually does try to "plate" things in a way that looks pretty, and who does at various times try all the pool-and-swipe/smear of sauce/artfully scattered elements things. I think that stuff looks nice and when I see someone do something cool I want to try it for myself. I'm a 21-year-old male so maybe that sort of thing will fall by the wayside with time, but honestly the tendency on Chowhound to ascribe pretension or ego to people seeking out esoteric ingredients or experimenting with molecular gastronomy or doing their best to make food look pretty bugs me.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                              You bring up a good point. I think the base of the article doesn't lie so much with plating to make a nice presentation, I think it simply refers to over-the-top dishes. Let's face it--not everyone is a natural cook, or even likes to cook. I'll keep the recipes simple, but that doesn't mean I don't like a beautiful table-to me, kidneys in a mustard sauce is simple and easy peasy...to some of my friends kidneys in mustard sauce is not only disgusting, but too complicated. I think its great that you care about the way your food is presented. Keep it up!

                                                              1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                I agree Lamb and people usually like the effort being made. But I am a sucker for luxury and elegance so there is that:)

                                                                1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                  Sure- everyone should do what appeals to them. I think some people DO these things for pretentious reasons, but I'm sure there are as many or more who-like you- are simply amusng themselves by trying different things.

                                                                  1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                    Can;t win for losing on CH. Either you're considered a pedestrian cook or you're a snob, there is no middle ground.

                                                                    1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                                                      good for you, lamb. i don't venture into that much artfulness mostly because i'm not very good at it, but i appreciate those that do, home or restaurant cooks. i hope it doesn't fall by the wayside - keep enjoying.

                                                                    2. I think I do not qualify as a plate-upper. Later this week friends will come over for a roast chicken dinner and lots of lovely wine. When the chicken comes out of the oven, all will sit at the table. I will bring the chicken to the table in its roasting dish, and we will all slightly burn our fingers as we pull skin off the chicken and plop it into our mouths.

                                                                      At some point, we'll actually cut pieces of meat off the bird and put it on plates, but it will definitely begin with fingers fighting over skin.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                        That's the only way chicken is served here- it always begins with the skin fight.

                                                                      2. Cooking is an art form. No harm in making things pretty:)

                                                                        1. Im seeing a lot of 'who has time' ALot of people! I am shocked by the time and effort people are putting into cooking and there food blogs all while raising kids, going to school. working. AND making super time consuming food and photographing and writing about it

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: daislander

                                                                            I care mainly what the food tastes like. Somehow the 'plating' looks after itself.
                                                                            I mean you have a mushroom/mustard cream sauce and a sautéed pork chop and some roasted potatoes and some blanched broccoli and a hopefully hot dinner plate. What can you do to screw up the presentation if you follow my wife's rule: Sauce the plate first then put each component on the sauce but never quite touching.

                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                              I'm not so sure about the "never quite touching" bit -- a lot of artful plating involves stacking or resting components of the dish on each other in attractive ways. To me there is nothing quite as mouth-watering as a beautiful bone-in braised short rib in a puddle of sauce nestled in a mound of mashed potatoes or polenta.

                                                                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                As I pointed of it's the way my wife likes her food presented so I'm happy to comply. It all ends up looking like a dogs breakfast anyway.