Home Cooking

One of the very best things about this life is how good the food is.  I eat three home-cooked meals every day, with most of the food coming from this farm.  Although that was once the norm, it must be exceedingly rare these days.

When I was growing up it was only on rare occasions that we’d eat at a restaurant.  These days however eating away from home is increasingly common.  Consider this from the USDA:

I’m surprised that in 1970 almost 26% of American spending on food was for food eaten away from home.  I would’ve guessed the percentage would be lower.  I’m also surprised that in 2012 that number was 43%.  I would have guessed it would be even higher.

Of course all this away-from-home eating isn’t taking place in fine restaurants serving quality food.  These days over 20% of American meals are eaten in a car.

According to the USDA food eaten away from home is generally less nutritious than food eaten at home.  The rising popularity of eating away from home is contributing to the obesity epidemic and the health crisis.

There are lots of reasons why we eat away from home so much now.  Back in the day I ate plenty of meals in my car, and it wasn’t because I considered that ideal.

Still, it seems to me that we miss out on more than just nutrients when we lose our tradition of cooking and eating meals in our homes.

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17 comments on “Home Cooking

  1. Being firstborn of eight children on the pay of a non-union carpenter in NC meant eating “out” was “out” of the question – ever.

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  2. Lynda says:

    Bill, this probably has nothing to do with anything above, but your comments brought it to mind…

    When I was about 7 or 8 (1961?) my parents decided to take us out to McDonalds. We never ate out because there were 5 of us and we had little money back then. In summer we had the occasional root beer float at the local A&W, but that was it. So of course we were ecstatic to be “going out for dinner”. Momentarily, I saw a friend of mine on the side of the road. I leaned my head out the window and yelled, “We’re going out to dinner at McDonalds!”

    Both my parents immediately got angry at me because they were embarrassed to be going there. I got a lecture about telling my friend where we were going to eat, and how they didn’t want the neighborhood to know about it because it wasn’t a proper restaurant and only what they could afford.

    My, how times have changed! ‘-)

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    • Bill says:

      Our very rare visit to a restaurant would have been to a place like McDonalds. At by very rare I mean maybe once a year.

      Times have definitely changed. Back then eating out would be an indication of privilege. Now I suspect that someone who cooks and eats their meals at home would be viewed by some as being in a position of privilege.

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      • Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

        I agree very much with your comment here Bill. I have the “privilege” of working part-time and my job is helping people make positive changes for their health. The people I work with are all health care workers – and the biggest challenge for most of them is time and energy. If you are working long hours away from home, there isn’t much time or energy left over at the end of the day for food preparation. The more we work to make money, the more money we need to buy what we can’t produce ourselves because we are away at our “jobs”….

        And then the parents with kids involved in scheduled extra-curricular activities are running all over the place, and there is never any time for family meals. We stay home, and make our home life priority. Sometimes I feel pressured, that I am keeping my kids from participating like their friends, but then their friends are envious of our sit-down family meals at the table…

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      • Bill says:

        First of all, thanks for doing work that is good. We sure need more of that.

        I’m sure a lot of the meals in cars that are so prevalent in our society are parents and kids racing around to extra-curricular stuff. That culture can be really crazy.

        I spent over 25 years of my life deep in the workaholic lifestyle. I usually left home before my kids were up and I didn’t get home till they were ready for bed. I ate no breakfast, lunch at a restaurant (or my desk) and supper late, by myself. Nearly every day for many many years. I wish I could go back and do it differently.

        Now I appreciate how important it is to sit down and eat a real meal, preferably with the family.

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    • Bob Braxton says:

      deepest empathy. I would have burst into tears.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, the whole concept of home cooked meals has changed. Very rare is there a home cooked meal as you or I remember it. Instant mashed potatoes are the norm along with frozen ready made main entrees. Fish sticks, chicken tenders, tater tots, crinkle fries, and the list goes on and on. Pies, cakes, or other deserts are not baked at home much any more and if they are they come from a box that only needs an egg and a splash of milk before mixing and baking. It’s a far cry from what we knew as kids to be a home cooked meal. Of course everything we ate back then was terrible bad for us because it was filled with saturated fat, sugar, and salt. I can’t believe we actually lived through it. 🙂

    I try to cook at least one good meal a day. Ham, pork chops, steak, or chicken with boiled potatoes or real mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetable is on the menu. At least once a week a special breakfast with bacon, eggs, and a waffle brings the heavenly cooking smells to the kitchen. The rest of the week I must admit to succumbing to the ways of our culture. It’s not the fast food restaurants but the fast food at home with frozen Walmart specials. I don’t think I’ll ever get back to fresh baked bread and home made jam. Intentions are good but the schedule is not favorable for such things. There was a reason why only one person worked outside the house in those home cooked meal days.

    Have a great home cooking day.

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  4. EllaDee says:

    I’m too of an age pre fast food. I have lovely but sparse memories of hamburgers & chips, Greek cafe offerings, fish & chips, and counter lunches. My first real fast food experience was KFC in 1974 – memorably unusual & delicious – so very different from the last (ever) time I ate it.
    Free time is a luxury for many of us these days…. free time with energy to be creative, even productive in the hours outside work, commitments, house-lifekeeping and sleep… Many developed (with encouragement from marketers and advertising) the mindset of saving time by cutting corners on food prep… and it downward spiralled from there.
    For me, once I re-jigged that mindset, the time I spend shopping for good food and preparing it is empowering. It was a matter of picking my battle and settling on what I really wanted, which was to eat good food. I had never strayed far from that but I had been influenced further than I cared for.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m ashamed to admit that I once ate at a McDonald’s in Australia. It was very early in the morning (my body clock had not readjusted) and I was hungry for something familiar. I learned there that what we call ham you call bacon. That was before I had my food epiphany and it was the only time I did it there (he says, head hanging in shame).

      It’s true that in our rush-rush culture time seems to be a luxury. We have to set priorities (based on the perception of limited time) and our culture has made eating a home-cooked meal a low priority. I find the fact that we eat 20% of our meals in a car to be more disturbing than the fact that we only eat about half our meals at home.

      As I mentioned in response to another comment, it seems that in the past eating away from home was a luxury of the privileged, now that nearly everyone eats that way it is eating meals prepared at home that seems to be the luxury. A complete reversal over the course of a generation.

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      • EllaDee says:

        No shame. The G.O. and I have been known to eat Macca’s as it’s affectionately called here but rarely now since we discovered Olivers to fill the travelling food gap. if I have to eat Macca’s though I can live with it. I just don’t make a habit of it or its kind.
        I don’t get eating in the car – I might sip on a drink but rarely snack in the car and can count the times on one hand, when I’ve been on my own – on a long trip – in a hurry that I’ve grabbed fast food and eaten on the move. I know too many people whose cars are littered with wrappers etc. Give me the horrors.
        This post http://elladeewords.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/ron-the-year-that-was/ details the story of my Dad’s “efforts to evict the rat which had invaded my stepmother’s car”.

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  5. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, eating out was a real treat, Bill… a once a month kind of thing. I still remember hamburgers and thick, chocolate milkshakes. Mmm, good! Peggy and I now eat out two or three times a week (primarily ethnic food we don’t cook at home). The rest of the time we take turns cooking, pretty much starting from scratch– and Peggy has a raised bed garden. Yes we have Mc’D’s but there are also great Farmer’s Markets. Enjoyed your blog. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Curt. The local food movement (and appreciation of food generally) is probably stronger in your part of the world than anywhere else. I’m sure you have excellent food options there. Of course, nothing beats food from one’s own garden.

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