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Take This Short Quiz
- What is the number one thing you can do as a family to improve your general health?
- What is a good way to connect with your teenagers?
- What is the most important thing the average person can do to make the American food system healthier and more sustainable?
- Name one thing can an individual do to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on a fluctuating, unstable economy?
- What activity can you do with young children to engage them in learning concepts in math and science even when they don’t usually enjoy those subjects?
- cook 2. cook 3. cook 4. cook 5. cook
Cooking vs Watching Cooking
Two people (both grandmothers!) in the last week have told me “I don’t cook!” Way too many people in my classes over the years have admitted they rarely or never cook. In fact Americans spend less time on average cooking each day than people in any other country! The average time spent cooking per day (not per meal, per DAY!) is 27 minutes – less time than it takes to watch The Next Food Network Star (what is up with this fascination of watching people cook? More people watch cooking than are actually doing cooking, and then when the show is over they still don’t have anything to eat!)
Cooking at home is healthier. When you don’t cook you make yourself vulnerable to the big corporations who make all the ready-to-eat food you have to buy. Unless you spend big bucks to buy your meals from a local restaurant where the chef grows his own organic vegetables and carefully sources his ingredients from local farms, you are most likely eating a lot more refined sugar, industrial oils, and highly processed salt than you normally would if you cooked your own food. Corporations also use all kinds of chemical ingredients not available to the home cook. These chemical ingredients make their food last longer and look fresher than it actually is.
Teens Like It
Cooking (and eating) together connects you as a family. Teens are social creatures, and they are also usually hungry creatures. Bringing them into the kitchen to prepare a meal is a way to get them to interact and be social with everyone who is involved in the meal preparation process. The shared experiences can build family bonds. Eating together a meal you have prepared gives a safe place for conversation, listening and sharing together.
It Connects Us
Cooking connects you with your food and its origins. We were making homemade pizza as part of a Sunday school lesson and I had brought fresh oregano, parsley, and basil from my garden to use. One young 5th grade girl, already surprised that you could actually make a pizza, freaked out saying “why do you have weeds? How do you know those are safe to eat?” I said, “I grew these. They came from my garden. Where do you think food comes from?” and she replied, “I don’t know. The store has it.”
When we cook at home from fresh ingredients we are connecting in a small way to the rest of the community that grows and raises our food. We gain a new perspective on food when we see a list of raw ingredients get transformed into a meal. Growing something that you eat, or buying directly from a farmer, can bring even stronger connections. Real food doesn’t come in neat boxes, shrink wrapped for microwaving. Buying pre-prepared, pre-wrapped meals separates us from the reality of real food. Cooking at home from fresh ingredients creates more demand for real food while reducing the waste and high cost inherent in the processed food system.
It’s Budget Friendly
Knowing how to cook gives you power over your budget. The illusion of the “value meal” keeps many people trapped eating expensive yet unhealthy food. Being able to cook for yourself means you can eat higher quality ingredients for less money. It means you can cook a little extra to freeze for later or to eat the next day for lunch instead of eating out. Knowing how to cook helps you be more frugal like when you use the bones for broth, leftover vegetables for soup, or freeze over ripe fruit for smoothies.
Teaching your children to cook opens up a new world for them. Measuring and counting, doubling a recipe, figuring out what makes bread rise, what makes pickles sour, seeing liquid cream transform into solid butter, comparing the taste of salt vs. sugar – all of this can bring math and science alive. Tactile experiences like kneading bread, cracking eggs, tearing lettuce, stirring batter, or chopping vegetables can be rewarding for busy little hands. And as your children grow and develop new skills in the kitchen you are giving them the gift of self-sufficiency for when they become adults.