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DOES AMERICA KNOW HOW TO COOK?

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 19, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– Believe me, we’re not alone in not knowing.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
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I have heard a lot of women make the observation the art of baking is dying, that most young people no longer know how to make a loaf of bread, cookies, cakes or pies. There is nothing from “scratch” anymore. I also suspect roasting a chicken or turkey is on the decline. Frankly, I cannot think of anything simpler, but it has become commonplace to purchase roast turkey dinners from grocery stores like Publix and Kroger, as opposed to cooking it yourself. Traditional comfort foods are also disappearing, such as salisbury steak, beef tips and noodles, pork tenderloin, pot roast, chipped beef on toast (SOAS), flank steak, turkey tetrazini, pot pies, or chicken a la king. Soups, stews and chile are also disappearing in favor of canned substitutes. Likewise, fruits and vegetables are seldom cooked fresh, such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, snowpeas, etc. As for me, I love stir fried vegetables, particularly in the summer time. Alas, not many people make it anymore, regardless how quickly it can be prepared.

Older people are inclined to cook, but not young people. America is evidently not alone in this regards as I am hearing similar stories from Japan and the Philippines, and I suspect elsewhere around the globe.

There are several reasons for this, the most obvious of which is time limitations. After you have worked all day, you hardly feel up to cooking at night. Even if they have the time to cook, they are unlikely to do so claiming their mothers never taught them. Because parents didn’t assign chores to their offspring in the kitchen, they didn’t pass along the knowledge and traditions of cooking. To my way of thinking though, here is another example of how technology is influencing our behavior. Since most foods are now available in pre-prepared form, or they can be purchased “ready to go” at a fast-food restaurant, they have grown dependent on such things as microwaves, cooking pouches, frozen food, and white bags. The idea of a “home cooked” meal is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and with it goes basic nutrition.

This explains why “family style” restaurants and diners are slowly disappearing. Because our youth have grown up learning to eat on the run, they are more inclined to gravitate to Pop Tarts, hamburgers, french fries, and chicken tenders. The idea of sitting down to a complete meal is simply a foreign concept to them, hence such restaurants are closing their doors one-by-one.

So, is cooking doomed to extinction? Hopefully not. I would argue young people would love to cook, if someone took the time to teach them. The problem is, nobody is doing so. They do not need anything extravagant, just the basic mechanics. I have a friend who owns a family-style restaurant and I am encouraging him to put on some classes at night for young people. Such courses should include such things as how to layout a kitchen, what are all of the basic tools to use, along with how to clean and maintain them. It should also discuss how to shop, and discern what is good and bad (spoiled), how to cut and chop, and some basic meals to live on. The idea would be to encourage them to learn the joys of cooking. As simple as this sounds, it would be a Godsend to young people embarking into the work force. As I tell my friend, it would also be a good way to encourage patronage at the restaurants.

The reason why family style restaurants are declining is not because our tastes are changing, but because of our growing reliance on technology. If we become too addicted to technology, can “Soylent Green” be far away? As for me, I am certainly not an expert in the kitchen but I have always been willing to learn. For me, the biggest challenge was to prepare a full turkey dinner. True, it was a lot of work, but I discovered it was also a lot of fun.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:  timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE “RIGHT” AND “WRONG” OF DESIGN – Why we need methodologies to support our work effort.

LAST TIME:  WHEN ARE WE “ON OUR OWN”?  – I thought the magic number was 18?

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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5 Responses to “DOES AMERICA KNOW HOW TO COOK?”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    An F.D. of Mexico wrote…

    “I love cooking Tim! My first wife would only let me in the kitchen on Sunday AM’s to make her an omelet… that was it. When I asked as a preliminary question of my future second wife, “Do you mind if I do some cooking?”… she happily responded, “Fill your boat!” I love cooking but NOT on the barbecue… real cooking! We have a brand new (and quite large) barbecue we brought down to Mexico from Canada that has never been lit… one cover wore out in the sun and rainy season so we are now on our second cover! lol

    Fresh everything down here and I love cooking more but then there are excellent restaurants most of which entice me away quite a bit I must admit… what a lovely dilemma!”

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A J.W. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    “A good message on cooking or not cooking. You ever notice how large the frozen food section is when you go in the big food stores? You could write an article about the pitfalls of frozen foods and “fast foods”.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An M.E. of Mexican Hat, Utah wrote…

    “One thing I am making sure to teach my children, especially my daughters, is how to make simple foods. Even being able to cook eggs and pancakes is so simple, yet requires practice.”

    Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    A W.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “My wife’s mother was a full-time homemaker in a small town – and the recipe card file we inherited when she died is a treasure trove. My wife was likewise a great cook and until MS took over her body, she worked full-time too. Oh, we went out from time to time, usually for some special occasion. And, while I was never taught to cook by my mom (most boys don’t get that, and most don’t take HomeEc in school either), I was a chemist so I learned to follow lab instructions and I found over time that I could make a pretty decent meal – and some pretty special ones – by following instructions. Over the years, when my wife could no longer cook and was no longer in the home, I had to fix dinners for my two daughters, and I tried to teach them how to cook – at least simple things – on their own. When I visit my eldest in MT, we might go out to dinner once or twice – more because of TIME – as you mention in the article – because she’s a pharmacist and works a long day and it’s simply quicker to go to a restaurant and let them cook the meal than to go home and try to get everything ready from scratch before 10pm at night. My youngest is a really accomplished cook, but I attribute that more to her GodMa, who was best friends with my wife and is a Pennsylvania-Dutch trained cook. She can make just about anything from scratch, and does it routinely. My son-in-law had a recipe from his grandmother for cinnamon bread that he remembered from his childhood. He LOVES cinnamon bread and wanted to duplicate the recipe himself. His first attempt was a disaster, mostly because his grandmother lived in Iowa at sea level, and we live a mile-high, so there really ARE some adjustments you have to make. He decided to work with the GodMa fiddling with the recipe – after about 4 or 5 revisions, they found the secrets and now he makes absolutely wonderful cinnamon bread for special occasions. And, they are having their almost 3 year old help them (within reason) in the kitchen making cookies, mixing batters, and cleaning up. I suspect she will likewise be comfortable in a kitchen. Now, my son-in-law and daughter DO eat out frequently too – mostly because as a cop and she as a medical assistant and with a 3 year old, TIME is of the essence. But, I typically go over at least once a week for dinner with them all, and help in the kitchen as well…so there are SOME of us out there that still enjoy cooking. The difficulty, as they say, is not cooking for a crowd, but cooking for one. In fact, I have 7 bookshelves 30″ wide FILLED with cook books – many of which my wife and I accumulated over my years in the navy – but most of the recipes are intended for 4, 6, or more people. A few of my books are intended for 1 or 2 and those tend to be very good as well.”

    Like

  5. […] DOES AMERICA KNOW HOW TO COOK? […]

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