Reason 1: Cooking is a range not a hierarchy.
There are reasons why there is a proliferation of packaged, frozen, canned, boxed, shipped meals. Shocking I know. But. Not everyone likes to cook. Let is be said without sanctimony or disdain that despite recipe books, cooking shows, magazines, blogs, cooking for some remains an unattractive task. Convenience foods along with all modern appliances (refrigerators, microwaves, convection ovens, blenders, standing mixers, food processors) exist because “cooking” has a loose definition that includes opening a bag of Bertolli’s Chicken Florentine to growing and transforming produce into a fancy, farm to table meal, a la, chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Farms. We all have to, individually, discover our own comfort zone with cooking. Sharing take out is much better than joyless cooking (and eating). The family meal may be important but its the “sharing with the loved ones” (not the”look what I made”) part that’s most important. Particularly, difficult to remember when not everyone around the table is enjoying their meal. Which brings me to…..
Reason 2: Not everyone likes home cooked foods.
I know, I know, if you feed your children fresh, unprocessed foods early, they will not know of the evil fast food options. We all know, life is far more complicated than ideology allows. Who among us hasn’t craved a horribly, unhealthy treat (the trick is not make it a habitual choice).
Jim Gaffigan talks about joyless childhood Sunday dinners when he would’ve much rather have fast food, writing,
I remember being a kid and never being able to find a multicourse meal appealing. I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just have McDonald’s for Sunday dinner. My eight-year old palette was already accustomed to fast food, and expanding it beyond that has been a lifelong struggle for me. My mom could make thick and juicy home cooked hamburgers on some fancy roll, but I still preferred a thin, tasteless McDonald’s hamburger on that wonderbun.
Gaffigan’s story makes me think of one of my step daughter’s love of Bertolli’s Chicken Florentine. For her, the packaged pasta is a taste of dad’s house. Who am I to take that from her? She knows of other options but for now it is not my place to enforce healthy eating over comforting familiarity. My other step daughter, on the other hand, is a big fan of curries, naan and fresh vegetables. One must account for differing personalities. My daughters will eat anything I cook because they are used to it. My cooking is their home-cooking. Do not cook trying to please everyone. You won’t. The stress of pleasing everyone often accounts for reluctant cooks.
Reason 3: One cook (usually the woman) is not enough.
We cannot ignore the gendered aspect of food preparation at home. Historically, women have been assigned and/or taken on the role of primary home cook, grocery shopper, heater upper and the person to whom the question “what’s for dinner?” is most often aimed. Food can be a creative outlet, an empowering control exercise and it can be a laborious second job. Unless everyone shares in the preparation, no matter how much or how less one enjoys the task, cooking can be unpleasant and lonely. No other domestic task carries such potential for resentful obligation. If you don’t like cooking, don’t do it out of obligation. Not worth it. Make a lot of friends. Go to someone’s house who does like to cook if you are craving a home-cooked meal. Bring flowers. Build a supportive non-judgmental community of eaters. I am not promoting any particular diet, except to make deliberate choices, to design, to eat with awareness. What is your ethics of eating?
Dear “Bad” Cooks (there are no bad cooks, only reluctant and uninterested cooks)
May you buy your prepared meals with pride, choose wisely and consume meaningfully (according to your own culinary cause). We are all just doing our best. Make your non-home cooked meals the best they can be for you.
Wishing you a joyous and empowering time at the table,