“If you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” That old adage has taken on a whole new meaning due to a new study found that a significant number of Americans do not cook at home.
This poll, which was reported by MarketWatch.com, involved 1,087 participants who were at least 25 years old and who were selected in order to closely match the population demographics in the United States. The findings are interesting. For instance, 28 percent of the respondents said they don’t cook because they don’t know how. More than 50 percent reported that someone else in the household (such as a spouse or partner) does the cooking. Twenty-one percent said they don’t have enough time to cook. And a quarter of respondents said they didn’t cook because they didn’t want to have to clean up the mess after the meal.
If you asked me to participate in this study about 15 years ago, I would have been among the naysayers. My reasoning at that time of my life was that, unlike my other creative hobbies, cooking’s results didn’t last. I mean, think about it – if you sew a dress, your outfit is with you for years. But if you cook a meal, it’s probably gone within an hour (unless you make lots of leftovers). At this point, my most common cooking adventure involved making a basic tossed salad.
However, my attitude about cooking began evolving for two reasons. The first is I started hanging around good home cooks. I was amazed at their ability to put different flavors together into an exquisite meal in a short amount of time. The second reason was that I moved from a major urban area to a smaller city that didn’t have the same wide range of restaurants. So if I was going to continue to enjoy the wide variety of cuisines, I’d have to start cooking myself.
I started small, with just a few recipes from a couple of Junior League cookbooks as well as my go-to cookbook, Quick Cuisine: Easy and Elegant Recipes for Every Occasion by Ann Clark. Since then, I’ve started branching out to learn how to cook other cuisines. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in trying to eat in a healthier manner, which has reinforced my desire to cook since many restaurant meals have been found to be nutritional time bombs. This need to get comfortable in the kitchen was additionally reinforced when Dad, who has high blood pressure and is pre-diabetic, moved in with me about a year ago.
Needless to say, my cookbook collection has greatly expanded. Of these, I’d recommend several cookbooks to beginners, including the Barefoot Contessa editions, Rick Bayless's Everyday Mexican, and the Everyday Foods collections. All of these have easy, quick and delicious recipes (although you have to be careful with Ina Garten’s tendency to use lots of butter in some of her Barefoot Contessa recipes).
What I like about cooking is that it’s easy to try new cuisines and to get better at the basics. I’ve just started participating in a “lending library” with two friends who enjoy trying new culinary experiences. Alice recently loaned me a Lebanese Cooking: An Introduction to this Special Middle Eastern Cuisine by Susan Ward in exchange for Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, while Kaye swapped Latin Flavors: A Taste of Our Heritage by the Latin Women’s Initiative Houston for my Bayless cookbook. And I’ve started learning new cooking techniques that streamline the cooking process and enhance food’s taste through periodically watching the Food Channel and PBS’s “Everyday Foods.” I’ve found that many of these shows provide ideas for meals that can be prepped in minutes and served on the table in a reasonable amount of time.