Would it surprise you to learn that Americans, for the first time ever on record, spent more money at restaurants and bars last year than at grocery stores?
Michael Pollan (culinary crusader, author and journalist) laments that as Americans, we’re transfixed with the culture of food, but not with the actual cooking of food.
Not only are we cooking less, but the food we are consuming at home is increasingly being prepared somewhere else. So, think of the deli department in your favorite grocery store, the pre-made sandwiches, the pre-cut salad mixes with toppings and dressings in smaller packets inside one convenient plastic bag. No chopping. No mixing. No adding a little of this or that. How about the roasted chicken basking in the golden glow of a rotisserie? The cheese plates and vegetable trays all ready to go. Is the bakery larger than the baking aisle?
And why do you think that is?
It comes down to time, right?
Who has the time?
But why is that?
With all the modern conveniences we have – we still have less time?
I don’t buy it.
Is time such a luxury?
Well, yes, time IS a luxury. For all of us. We’re so lucky to have this time on earth.
But it boils down to how we spend our time.
We have the same 24 hours in a day, the same 7 days in a week, the same 365 days in a year that generations before us had.
Where, do you imagine, is that bendable yet measurable time going?
“Time is a big impediment to most people,” Pollan told Adam Chandler in New York recently. “There are several impediments. One is the loss of skills and confidence [in our culinary abilities]. People have less time and even people who have the same amount of time feel like they have less time.”
Why is that? What are we doing instead?
Back in 2009, Pollan wrote, referring to why he thought Julia Child could only be the success she was on public (or educational as it was called then) television years ago, “On a commercial network, a program that actually inspired viewers to get off the couch and spend an hour cooking a meal would be a commercial disaster, for it would mean they were turning off the television to do something else.”
Hmmm.. so this makes me wonder about the popularity of the Food Network today. Here’s a channel (with its own magazine too) that’s all about, well obviously; food. The Pioneer Woman, Ina Garten, Giada de Laurentiis, Guy Fieri, and on and on – all showing and sharing with viewers step by delicious step how to prepare food at home.
Are we eating take-out or pre-cooked meals while we watch them?
Seriously. What are we doing?
Pollan pleas with Americans to devote more time to cooking. Yes, we’re busy. This busy-ness is very much, in my opinion, many an American’s badge of courage.
“I’m so busy.”
“I had 125 e-mails in my in-box today.”
“I’ll get to you – I just have a crazy day today.”
“It looks really good, Mom. Give me just a minute and I’ll wolf it down.”
Seriously – these are all comments I’ve heard in the last couple weeks.
From Chandler’s article in The Atlantic last month,
It’s not just about having time to cook – there’s also the time required to plan out meals, shop for ingredients, and wash dishes. As my colleague Derek Thompson noted in 2014, even if the phenomenon of many Americans working more than ever is a myth, the sense that we have less time is very real.
Me? I’ve made one small, but significant change. I’ve been eating consciously. Sitting down to eat. Chewing and really tasting my food. Preparing it with gratitude. Not. Doing. Anything. Else.
And eating meals I’ve made at home. I’m convinced they have less calories and I can certainly control the portion size.
Wolfing down food is for wolves, who have to eat and run from would be competing predators before they’re eaten themselves or have their newly killed food taken from them.
We don’t have that problem.
Seriously, we don’t.
So why wolf it? Can’t we be more grateful and mindful than that?
“If you look at it, we have found time for some new activities,” Pollan says. “Being online outside of work about two hours in the last 15 years, we’ve found that time somewhere. We’ve taken it from other things. We took if from tv. We probably took some of it from cooking.”
Pollan suggests adding just one more meal a week to the food we consume at home.
I love keeping food simple. Simple dressings for my salads. Protein shakes with collagen powder, spinach, almond milk, almond butter, mighty maca and blueberries for lunch. Lots of water. This time of year – produce is so plentiful. Proteins can be grilled outside. Iced tea made up in the fridge (so much better than any bottled iced tea). I’m skipping the pre-packaged salad mixes and buying fresh heads of lettuce. Buying vegetables with dirt still on them from the farm stand down the road.
Americans cook the least and eat the fastest.
Can we cook and prepare a bit more? And eat a bit slower? Turn off the electronics and get creative and wholesome in the kitchen?
Time may be a luxury, but food is too.