"Now" seems like the most descriptive word for Americans. We see something we like and we want it now. There is work to be done and it needs to be done now. You're hungry and you want to eat now. With hectic work schedules and family obligations, it's easy to see why restaurant dining is quickly gaining popularity. When there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day and our busy lives threaten to overwhelm us, preparing a tasty and healthy meal for yourself or your family seems like a daunting and implausible feat. However, similar to Sarah Jenkins' article on cooking at home, Harvard Magazine writer Craig Lambert tries to alleviate these worries and offer some solace in his informative article, "Restaurant Rampant."
Demographic changes have greatly affected our nation's eating patterns in the last couple of years. Compared to the 1950s, more often than not now in two-parent households both parents are out of the house, which leaves little time for cooking a family meal. Additionally, with rising divorce rates, many households only have one parent earning an income and preparing the meals.
Unfortunately, the alternative has become eating out or taking out much too often, often from the seemingly cost-conscious and efficient fast food restaurants that pervade our culture. The quick, cheap foods offered at these establishments cater to those on the go, focusing on the easiest and least involved foods and offer them at prices that distract us from the health hazards by making us believe we are getting true value. Even at finer dining establishments, much of the delicious food served is delicious because of the large amounts of butter and starch used while cooking. Rather than these eating options remaining old standbys for important celebrations and special occasions, eating out is quickly supplanting home cooking as an everyday, routine meal option.
To combat this time crunch, Lambert suggests reprioritizing and setting aside at least 20 minutes to cook. Downtime is precious, but relaxing often involves watching countless hours of television or mindlessly surfing the web. Taking a small portion out of this time to unwind to cook simple, healthful and tasty meals will not only benefit your body, but will boost your mood too, as home-cooking can be a social event, sharing meals with beloved family and friends. If you cook with your kids and teach them about what you're doing, even if it's something as simple as how to cook a pot of whole-grains, they will be more likely to eat well later in life.
Familiarize yourself with quick and simple recipes that do not skimp on taste. Try this delicious five-minute stuffed tomato appetizer or these easy, no-cook recipes ideas, will help relieve the burden of cooking. Additionally, spicing up your leftovers or using ingredients already in your kitchen is a great way to cut time spent on home cooking.
The growing number of television networks and shows dedicated to cooking and food helps to foster an interest in growing and cooking their own food. However, we have to remember that many of these programs are geared towards entertainment, often focusing on the masterful talents of many chefs and the intricate and exotic meals they prepare. Such programs are sometimes intimidating to viewers and discourage them from trying their hand at home cooking because they believe they will not measure up. But that's ok! Everyday home cooking need not be a complicated and overly thought out meal. Rather a few fresh ingredients and effortless, yet hearty recipes are all we need for a meal at home. As for television, Lambert believes there should be a move toward more instructional food shows, a la Julia Child, encouraging us to get in the kitchen, make some mistakes and above all enjoy the fruits of our labor at home.
Read Lambert's entire article here.
Photo: Jules:stonesoup on flickr