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Today for my anthropology class, I read Michael Pollan’s article “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.” It was a great article. I loved it! (I’ll provide a link at the bottom of my post.) In the article, Pollan talks about the decline of homecooked meals, the rise of fast food chains, and how the definition of “cooking” has changed over the years.

He speaks of the times in his childhood when he and his mother would watch Julia Child’s cooking show, The French Chef, in the 1960s. He enjoyed watching his mother cook meals in the kitchen from scratch. To him, cooking is just that: making a meal from scratch. Homecooked meals have seen a reduction over the past few decades, for a variety of reasons.

For one, women are working out of the house more. And I think that’s great; women in the workforce is a great thing. Women shouldn’t be restricted to the household performing domestic duties. Being a housewife shouldn’t be their only option. If they want to work, they have the right to. Not to say that being a housewife is bad – I want to be one myself once I have kids. Being a wife and mother is the most important thing in the world to me, and I want to do just that once I’m married and we’re financially stable enough for it. But the point is, that should never be a woman’s only option, and it no longer isn’t. (I could say more, but I’ll save it for a future post.) So, (partially) because women are working full-time jobs more, leading to the husband and wife both working out of the house everyday, less time is spent in the kitchen.

He adds, though, that women who don’t work don’t cook as much either. They typically rely on quick results & fast food as much as women who do work.

In fact, Pollan states that the average person in America spends just half an hour in the kitchen a day! And that includes cleaning up after cooking. He adds that that’s half the time people used to spend in the kitchen when he was a child in the ’60s.

Second, the fast food industry is on the rise, and has been for quite some time. This has led to laziness, in my opinion. People don’t want to spend time in the kitchen like they used to (or like their parents or grandparents used to), so they look for something quick like McDonald’s. The more “quick and easy” options there are, the more people will turn to; eventually, if we’re not careful, people won’t cook meals at home at all anymore.

Pollan states that, based on an interview he conducted with Harry Balzer (a former ‘food-marketing researcher’), if we keep going at this rate, two things will happen: (1) The next generation will not know how to cook, because this generation is forgetting how (more about this in a minute) and won’t be able to teach them, and (2) the supermarket will become the next famous cook in this country. In the interview, Balzer states, “We’re all looking for someone else to cook for us. The next American cook is going to be the supermarket. Takeout from the supermarket, that’s the future. All we need now is the drive-through supermarket.” And he’s right. Already when you walk into a supermarket, some of them have little cafés inside them. I think we’re already on our way to the supermarket cook. I hope we don’t get there, but I don’t know what will happen.

The second reason ties into the third: As Balzer said, we’re constantly looking for others to cook for us. As a result, we turn to quick meals, food that’s easily made, dishes we can make in less than half an hour. We start buying ingredients that already have ingredients themselves, like canned soups or cake mixes. To people today, that’s cooking: simply combining pre-made, processed foods.

While I was reading this article, which is pretty long yet fascinating, I couldn’t help but think about my boyfriend’s family. They’re Argentinean and Italian, and their food is delicious. Their meals are homemade and they never disappoint! My favorite dish that Abuela (his grandmother) makes is her homemade ravioli. She makes the noodle dough herself, cuts and shapes the noodles herself, and it looks so professionally made; not to mention, it’s absolutely delicious! They make their own sausage and salami.

In the book Around the Tuscan Table, which I have to read everyday for my class, Carole M. Counihan talks about how homecooked meals are very important to Italians. And my boyfriend’s family makes that very clear. His mother and grandparents are amazing cooks. Their dishes are so elaborate and complex, yet they make it look so easy. They haven’t strayed away from true cooking like the average American has today.

So yes, I love this class and I’ve found the readings so far to be really interesting and inspiring. Makes me wanna go cook! 🙂

Oh and here’s a link to the article, if anyone’s interested in reading it: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0