“To cook or not to cook thus becomes a consequential question. Though I realize that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly. Cooking means different things at different times to different people; seldom is it an all-or-nothing proposition. Yet even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to making a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy — even these modest acts will constitute a kind of a vote. A vote for what, exactly? Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization — against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, to devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. It is to reject the debilitating notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work best done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”
We collected over 800 dietary recalls during the Freshmen Health Study at UT. Other researchers would always ask me what my biggest take away was from this two year investigation into the lives of Freshmen Hispanic college students. Well, on paper the main outcome of the study was to investigate the relationship between eating frequency and metabolic disease risk and adiposity. Yet, what side swiped myself and fellow researcher Jessica Boussieau was the simple fact that none of these students cooked. Nearly 100% of their diets were prepared for them or composed of quickly eaten processed foods. The only items I can remember that even slightly broke this trend were things like bananas or apples that they ate while walking to class. But neither of those items are cooked. Yet, these students always seemed happier when they came back from weekends with their relatives with home cooked meals to eat for a day or two. We would try to figure out what was in them and they generally had no idea. How sad! But, also how scary.
An entire generation that doesn’t know how to prepare food for themselves.
An entire generation that is completely reliant on a system.
As we become more educated or get more prominent and busy jobs does that really mean that lowly organic tasks like cooking, cleaning, chewing, and just being are below us?
This life is not about the ultimate efficiency. It is not about more fame or more money. It is about asking the question, why do anything?
And what better time to ask that question than while you are sautéing an onion with a friend or scrubbing a pot for your mother to dry.
You might just find your answer in a smile, in a smell, or at the bottom of that freshly scrubbed pot. But, I can guarantee you that you will not find it at the bottom of an easy mac container, eaten alone, waiting for something, anything that matters.
If three dudes in a 300 sq ft apartment in Queens can do it for nearly every meal on our vacation – you can too.
Have a great weekend!