Monday, February 25, 2013

Rant: Save The World, Cook At Home

Stop going to all those fast food restaurants and start cooking at home! Now only will it be better for your health but it will also be better for the environment which will benefit everyone. You will probably shake your head in agreement with me, but will you actually act on it?

The new issue of Lucky Peach, one of my favorite food magazines, is themed around the Apocalypse. The first article in the magazine is "The End of the World as We Know It", an interview with Michael Pollan, the famed food writer and journalist. It is a fascinating and thought provoking article which anyone interested in food, cooking, climate change and the environment should read.

"The way we eat now is having a profound effect on climate change,..." Pollan begins by explaining the  environmental threats related to current food system, how it leads to an increased carbon footprint which contributes to climate change. The huge fast food chains are often significant contributors to this problem and people need to frequent such restaurants far less.

Pollan has a solution, a relatively easy answer, to reduce the environmental impact of our food system. "Home cooking is very important to solving these environmental issues." He notes that after World War 2, when more women began to enter the work place, there arose issues as to who would cook dinner at home. The corporate food industry, which had been seeking an opening for years, moved in like a shark going for the kill. Some started marketing fast food, frozen foods, processed food and other such items as a feminist option. The corporate food industry tried to make it simple, so that there was no need to argue over who would cook. They could instead just grab some friend chicken from KFC.

There is a discussion of food technology, including how much of it doesn't actually create delicious food. He does not believe that meat substitutes taste good. "No one but a vegan can get excited about fake bacon." He also feels that cooking shows on television might actually be counterproductive. "Cooking on TV might be keeping people away from the kitchen." The function of television is not to motivate people to do anything except watch more television.

How do we motivate people to cook more at home? They have many excuses why they think they can't cook more at home. But are they really valid reasons? "I think the best way to get people back into the kitchen is to have more than one person cooking." I think that is an excellent idea. Have spouses or significant others cook together. Bring together friends or family to communally cook. It is more fun that way and seems far less of a chore.

Pollan has a new book due out in April called Cooked. He wants to "make a case for cooking as a valuable way to spend your time." Based on his thoughts in the Lucky Peach interview, this should be an excellent and valuable book. It promotes the importance of cooking at home and that is beneficial on many levels. So don't go to so many fast food restaurants and learn how to use your stove.

Cook together and have fun!


Penny said...

Excellent rant, Richard! And, in these economic times one more reason to cook is to save a ton of money. That will let you support restaurants that have to charge a bit more, because they are using local foods with respect, when you do dine out.

Jason Phelps said...

The thing I always find so interesting about cooking at home is what illusions people have about how hard or complex it is. It can be, but only if you endeavor do make something that has a lot of process or complex techniques. Something like a crock pot stew on a cold day is wicked easy and can feed either a whole family or two adults with dinner and lunches for a couple days. We do it a all the time.

I've been cooking for 35 years so I do take some of it for granted, but I've never understood why people who don't do feel that the cost and health concerns around take out are a reasonable alternative.

That concern doesn't even begin to get into the environment issues. I think to really drill into that we need to return to food as a necessity and not a luxury, and a household strategy for preserving and making food resources go the distance. I have little hope for that in our increasingly time compressed society.


Kathleen Valentine said...

I'm in my sixties and live alone but I cook for myself all the time. I love making big pots of vegetable-based soups or salads. It makes me feel well-cared-for to know I have good, nutritious, inexpensive home-made food in the house waiting for me. In fact, I'm going to go heat up a bowl of the West African Peanut Soup with chicken that I made last night.