Make Time to Cook – a reminder from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I promised more posts spawned from my summer reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long. I have a notebook full of notes and am getting around to pushing them through the blog machine to get to you.

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Cooking at home seems to be a dying art. Even ‘foodies’ often have a schedule that is too busy for a meal cooked at home. Parents are leaning more on pre-made, processed food instead of cooking for their families. When I was growing up, we ate together. Even with a single parent, and 3 kids in high school we ate together most nights. I think that had a big impact on my relationship with my family. It was in those times that we talked about life (and laughed until our stomachs hurt). My two sisters and I learned how to sit at a table and have conversations about our lives. We were taught (much to our shegrin at the time) that mealtime is not to be interrupted by the telephone, television or any other activity. It was an activity in and of itself.

Even in my own life, that is not the case anymore. Too often, I grab a meal and eat it on the run. Or Mollie and I will have dinner while watching a movie. It so easily can turn into a regular occurence. Mollie and I do deliberately eat most meals together and I really enjoy that. We have implemented some of the things that Barbara Kingsolver writes about (page 128) in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her list (with my comments) is below.

  • Cooking can be fun – Especially if you make it fun. Cooking can be a chore, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Rely on variations of simple recipes – There are tons of variations of a cooked protein with vegetables. Get a cook book and explore. Mollie and I make our weekly menu on Sunday for the upcoming week. We both grab a cookbook and have to choose something new. It helps keep us out of ruts.
  • Save labor intensive (lots of prep) recipes for the weekend – My sister and her husband often use their weekends to prepare lunch foods for the week. They cook up a bunch of roasted veggies, or a soup that they can then use the rest of the week.
  • Start a routine – We have a history of making homemade pizza on Fridays. It takes Friday off the dinner menu each week.
  • Invite others to join in – For help and also to learn from them – The times that I have learned about cooking is when I have cooked with other people who know a lot more about cooking than I do. Either I was invited to cook with them, or I asked them to cook with me. Either way I always have an open ear to learn some new technique or recipe.
  • Cooking at home will be more healthy – You have control over every ingredient that you put in your meal. You also are in control of portion size.
  • Significantly cheaper – Once you are set up with basic ingredients in your pantry, home cooking is definitely a money saver. You can have a great (and healthy) meal that feeds a family of four for under $20 (probably under $10). You can’t get that at a restaurant (fast ‘food’ definitely doesn’t count).
  • Buy whole foods (produce, meat) – Instead of buying boneless/skinless chicken breasts, buy a whole chicken. With a sharp knife you can turn that whole chicken into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings, and a carcass that makes a mean chicken stock. To add to the cheaper point, organic free range boneless skinless chicken breast runs about $4.99/lb (at Trader Joes) and a organic free range whole fryer costs about $1.99/lb. So for the price you pay for 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (usually $6-$8) you can get at least one whole chicken. That whole chicken yields at least one (probably two) more meals.
  • It builds family relationships – Like I mentioned earlier, families are built around the kitchen table.
  • Teaches children manners and life skills – Because of family meals, I learned how to set the table, how to wash dishes, how to cook, how to shop for groceries, how to have a conversation and most of all to be involved with other people around me.
  • http://www.maramiki.com Mara Leet

    Great post – and full of good reminders to slow down and make cooking, eating, planning meals and talking about food important and communal activities. My little girls learn so much in the process – why you need to wait for the bowl before you crack an egg on the counter, how neatly piles of flour can be created with a pastry brush, why throwing corn is not a good idea, and that when everyone gathers for a meal, everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s day is important. And a steady roster of visiting (and cooking and dining) friends and family just adds to the practice.

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on the book as they strike you…

  • http://www.one-change.com Mollie

    I love that since you wrote this we have eaten most of our meals at the table. I like how that works!

  • http://one-rainy-day.com Sarah Marie

    Hello. I found your blog while searching for the benefits of buying local. I really enjoyed the post ?Buying Local and Helping the Economy?. These days I’m even more mindful of where my hard-earned cash is going. I think we’re going to see more a trend toward buying local which I find exciting.
    Then I read further and found this post. Which is great! One of my 2009 goals is to make one new (and hopefully) exciting meal a week. And to cook more in general ? for a lot of the reasons you talk about. So far so good. My friends have a blog that I really enjoy ? wannabefoodies.com. Not just because I know them ? but because they are new to the cooking thing too. The recipes they post are usually do-able.
    Look forward to reading more from your blog.

  • http://www.vigilanteweb.com Kendall

    @Sarah Marie.
    I’m glad you found us. I’ll check out wannabefoodies.com, sounds interesting. I look forward to reading more of your comments.

  • http://blog.iamnotashamed.net Ariah Fine

    I have such little confidence in my cooking abilities. It takes me a while to branch out to new things. But it’s fun when I do! I’ll keep trying though. Thanks for the inspiration.

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