I've noticed an interesting pattern while I do my farmers market demos. Every now and then a couple, obviously a husband and wife, will stop by my booth. I'll go into my pitch, tell them who I am, and offer a taste of what I'm cooking. The woman will say "Dad Cooks Dinner. Hmmm. What an interesting idea..." and look pointedly at her husband. He will suddenly be fascinated by something in the trees on the other side of the market, and start edging away from my tent.
The first few times, this was funny. After a while, I found it a bit sad. First, I don't like to get my fellow guys in trouble with their wives. Second, and more important, I love to cook. In this example, both the husband and wife see cooking as a chore that they don't want to do, and the wife is "stuck" with it. I'm writing this blog to encourage people to cook more, and they're looking to cook less.
Cooking less is what got us into this mess we're in, with factory farms focused on quantity and not quality, rising obesity, tasteless out of season tomatoes, and "fast casual" dining joints replacing family dinners.
I think the the tasteless tomatoes are the worst part of that equation.
I agree with Michael Ruhlman's assertion that someone in every family should know how to cook, and do it often. It doesn't have to be gourmet, it shouldn't be fancy; we just need people to have the skills to make real food for themselves and their families. I'm writing this blog to show that it doesn't have to be the wife or mother. I cook because I enjoy eating good food, enjoy the challenge of making something that tastes good, and enjoy sharing it with my family.
Diane is a good cook herself, but she knows how much it means to me, so she lets me do it. She's turned her attention to being the family baker.
Now, I don't want this to come out wrong. I don't cook because it's "good for me", like exercise and eating my vegetables.* Or, at least that's part of it, but not the real reason.
I cook because I love it. I'm a computer programmer by trade, and sit in front of a keyboard all day. Cooking gives me something real to do, something with my hands, something that changes based on the seasons, the ingredients, and my mood. When I get home, I make dinner to relax. It helps me focus on what I'm doing right now. It gives something tangible to my family, something I've made with my own two hands, to show them how much they mean to me.
I cook because I love to eat. I couldn't afford to eat as well as I do, if I paid other people to do the cooking. Doing it myself? Now, that I can afford. What's your favorite thing to eat? Learn how to cook it - that's how I started. I wanted to learn how to grill a steak that was better than what I could get at a restaurant. Once I mastered that, I wanted to know how to make good barbecued ribs. Pretty soon I was reading cookbooks in my spare time, and figuring out how thermal dynamics relate to the transfer of heat to protein.
And that brings me to: I love to cook because it has changed my point of view. Food and cooking give me a window to world history, physics, farming, biology, politics, chemistry, and cultures across the globe. (If they make something worth eating, I want to learn about it!) I care about these things, because they affect my cooking, and I care about my cooking because it affects these things. Cooking has tied me into the larger world around me. And, for an introverted computer geek, that's a pretty big thing.
What I'm trying to say is...food is central to the human experience. Feasts bring family and friends together to celebrate. Everyday dinners are the common meeting point for a family in our hectic schedules. We cannot afford to give away responsibility for our food. That is why Dad should cook, or Mom should, or (preferably) both should. Cooking for ourselves and our family is too important to leave to anyone else.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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