How Cooking Can Change Your Life
Today we are thankful for cooking. Thanksgiving is a holiday based in homemade dishes, and hours spent in the kitchen with the ones you love. Since the mid-1960s, home cooking has fallen by half. Did you know that the average American spends 27 minutes preparing food, and only four minutes cleaning up? We, as a country, have fallen into the habit of letting the industry take over our meals, which has led to disastrous results. While these statistics are bleak, we are thankful for people like Michael Pollan who uncover, research and share information about the current state of our food system.
Pollan has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to researching and writing about the topic of nature and food. While discussing his most recent book, Cooked, for the The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Pollan explains how cooking can change your life.
We have discussed the importance of knowing where your food comes from, and the ramifications of industrial food. We know that buying local is important, but what we haven’t touched on is how interacting with your food (cooking your food) is a crucial step in the process. Studies have shown that the rate of obesity decreases when people cook at home. In order to make shelf stable food, the processed food industry relies on three key ingredients: fat, sugar and salt. And while these ingredients can be layered to taste good, there is little to no nutritional value. A diet filled with processed foods means you take “once in a while foods” and turn them into “everyday foods”. It’s no surprise we live in a time where 1 in 3 kids (and 2 in 3 adults) are considered overweight or obese.
The shift to diets rich in processed foods happened when the industry coerced American families into thinking cooking at home was drudgery. During WWII, the food industry worked with the military to develop shelf stable food for the troops. When the war ended, they saw a market with the everyday American family, and had the technology to create a fast, processed and convenience based food culture. A famous KFC billboard in the early 1970s showed a giant bowl of their infamous fried chicken with the words, “Women’s Liberation”. They took homemaking and cooking and put a negative spin on it. And while Pollan has gotten flack for his book being “anti feminist”, his point was simply that the industry saw an opportunity to insert itself into the American family. Too busy working? Cooking wasn’t worth the precious time, and if the industry could cook for you, why bother?
Fast forward to today and you have an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and a general disconnect with where food comes from and how to prepare it. So today (and every day you can) spend time in your kitchen. Go grab real food and start exploring. There is so much joy in making a big meal with and for the people you love.
We want to acknowledge that we live in a society where some families have to work multiple jobs to ensure their family can even eat. This opens a whole other can of worms in regards to what’s broken with our food system, but we think there’s still time to cook. The average American spends over 30 hours watching television. And while there’s nothing wrong with unwinding after work, perhaps it would be worthwhile to take an hour or two away from technology and put it towards making food for yourself and your family.
Take the momentum from cooking Thanksgiving and translate that into your everyday life.