Good Home Cooking Makes a Comeback
Over the last fifty years people in America have spent less time cooking and eating at home and have instead come to depend on restaurants, fast food, and convenience foods from grocery stores. Some claim they don't have the time, nor the talent, for preparing meals at home and for many the act of eating has little to do with enjoyment and more to do with simply providing themselves with sustenance as they whirl through their busy lives. Restaurant trends regularly fluctuate as a reflection of what people are most interested in eating. It is no surprise, therefore, to find the more restaurant menus feature comfort foods associated with home cooking like meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and pot roast. It is ironic and reflective of how far we have moved from tradition that we now go out and pay for home style meals.
Recently, there has been a shift and cooking and eating at home has come back into fashion. In large part this is due to the struggling economy. The rise in status of chefs from behind the scenes blue collar workers to media superstars has also contributed as well as an increased awareness of organic, sustainable, and locally produced foods and a fairly aggressive campaign that shows people just how easy it is to produce a great meal at home.
Becoming a Chef: First Steps & Considerations
Cooking can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Cookbooks, magazines, and television shows all strive to make this point by teaching fast and easy ways to prepare great dishes and meals. A basic understanding of food and cooking techniques goes a long way and once you have the basics down it is just a matter of accessibility to ingredients, personal taste, and your ability to build upon what you know to determine what it is you will prepare. A tremendous sense of accomplishment, as well as instant gratification, comes from cooking and it is not at all uncommon for people to be quite surprised by what they are capable of producing. This is often all the encouragement they need to continue their pursuit and to challenge themselves with more difficult tasks each time they cook.
Knowledge of farming practices, where food comes from, how food is handled at processing plants and restaurants, food allergies, and the types of additives in processed foods are all topics that are getting a great deal of focus lately. With so many unknowns, some comfort can be found in purchasing raw ingredients and preparing them yourself. Food related health issues are also of great concern today and it is much easier to have total control over your intake if you are responsible for how your food is being prepared and what is added to it.
Cost is another factor that has influenced the increase in the number of people who are eating at home. With the economy in flux, factors like gas prices, unemployment, the cost of health insurance, weather patterns, and even immigration issues all directly influence restaurant profitability and it is becoming more and more expensive to dine out. Cooking at home was once done out of necessity and not only was food prepared at home, but it was also grown and raised there. Putting that much personal effort into food allowed people to have a much greater consciousness in terms of waste and made them think about planning and preparing for the future. Food was not only cooked day to day as it was need, but was also prepared and preserved during bountiful times so that there would be sustenance available when food was less accessible. In coming full circle, whether due to necessity or interest, people are once again realizing that it makes sense and is far more cost effective to cook and eat at home.
About the Author
After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.