Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Home Cooking

Through my step daughters' comments and the comments of their friends I have started to realize something that seems weird. My wife and I are odd because we cook more often than we don't, and as a rule the family eats together at the table. About a two years ago I answered a survey about eating habits, and at that time we were eating about 18 meals a week not at a restaurant, and at least 12 meals a week as a family. I believe that the smallest category was 1-2 meals a week at home, and no meals together at the table. I can't imagine that.

My 13 year old step daughter seems to have no friends who's mothers cook that she's mentioned. They can take something out of a box and cook it, but that's it. So, it's not the fact that we make our own yogurt, or can, or pickle, or have a garden that makes us freaky, it's the fact that we cook and eat meals together!

We don't have huge conversations about every one's day at dinner, with two teenage girls we're lucky to get anything but grunts to answer "How was school today?", but we do sit together and share some time and some food together. We might talk about the weather today, or something we are doing on the weekend. But we are together.

More after the break, text walls make Sad Panda sad.
The 18 year-old has been working a lot since the fall, and it's interesting how missing one member of the family changes the dynamic. When one of the girls was at a sleepover in the past it was always something different. We wouldn't necessarily plop on the couch in front of the TV, but it might be something less formal. When my wife is out of town on business it's usually something more thrown together as well; eat and get going. Now that one of us is missing more often than not I think it's harder to keep the focus on an official dinner. And frankly, it's something we'll have to adjust to anyway since she is going to college in the fall.

We have three tables in the house suitable for dining, plus the patio in the warmer months. The 'formal" dining room, which seems to be more of the winter dining room, the breakfast room, which is meals in the brighter months, and the coffee table in front of the fireplace; center for casual dining (Also suitable for football watching). Between those three rooms I think we account for 95% of the non Pizza eating meals in the house. (Pizza is supposed to be eaten on the couch in front of the TV; it's the law people.)

The end point of this endless ramble is coming somewhere here. There are people; successful, intelligent, active, people who barely know the basics of feeding themselves and their families. There are people who would starve to death if they had a pantry full of basics and a cookbook. There are people who don't eat with their families. And there is an entire industry based on making it possible for these people to think they can cook.

Meals in a bag, with meat and veggies, and a sauce. I can replicate that ten ways from Sunday with twice the taste and nutritional value, and in about the same amount of time. Pre-cut pre-marinated meats..... really? I can go to the store and buy a steak soaking in Italian dressing, or worse, right now. And only pay twice the cost of buying the meat and making a marinade myself, or hell I've done it, dumping a bottle of Italian dressing in a Ziploc bag with some cheap steak works just fine.

No wonder Thanksgiving is such a disaster in some households. It's the only time anyone eats together. And it's the only time some people have to do more to prepare a meal than reach in the freezer.

Do I have to make spaghetti sauce? No, I really like Prego, but my wife makes a kick ass sauce. Do I need to make my own pie crusts, no, but I can. I can make 80% of the things out there (with practice some of it might even be eatable), and the other 20% I can figure out or replace. Some things are better bought at the store. I have a recipe for Oreos.... I have no plans to use it, ever. Sometimes I buy chocolate chip cookie dough, sometimes I make it myself.

We have supposedly made huge strides with Joy of Cooking, Julia Child, Emeril, Rachel Ray, even Bobby Flay, and all of these TV cooks, but how many people watch a cooking show and then go warm up a frozen dinner?

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