Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Case for Home Cooking

It's a sad state of affairs when it comes to home cooking these days. Something that our grandparents and great-grandparents did without a second thought has somehow managed to elude us in our highly connected, overly scheduled lifestyles.
Image: Suat Eman /

More often than not, people reach for the takeout menus or stop at a fast food joint on the way home instead of picking up the spatula and cooking for themselves. Young children cannot name specific vegetables when they are shown pictures or the actual thing, people sign up for reality shows that proclaim them some of the worst cooks in America, and one man challenges himself to consume obscene amounts of restaurant food.

The next time you eat out, look at your food. Look at it long and hard and think, "Do I really know what went into making this?" Unless you're the chef at the restaurant, the answer is no. You really don't have any clue what ingredients went into the creation of the dish before you. You have handed the culinary reins over to someone you've never met.

Now you might argue, "But I can ask for less salt or no butter!"

True. You can do that, but how do you know that your request was actually followed through with? You don't. You might argue that if a restaurant doesn't follow through, you can simply withdraw your patronage and find another eatery who will cater to your requests.

Or, even better yet, you can cook your own food.

Scared? You might be thinking, "Oh god, what if I mess it up and it's completely inedible?!"

I'm going to let you in on a little secret about baking and cooking at home:

If it's completely inedible, you can throw it out.

You can't expect yourself to be a master cook when you first start cooking. Unless you're a kitchen prodigy, you're going to have to do some research and make some mistakes. Pick up a Cooking Light magazine next time you're at the store, or order a copy of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Take a cooking basics class in your town or at a nearby culinary school. There are plenty of options out there to help you learn.

Now, this in no way means you should stop eating out. Obviously there are some dishes that are extremely difficult to prepare correctly and the garden variety home cook is not likely to have the know-how and it's nice to get out sometimes. Moderation is key, and eating out nearly every day is not moderation.