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Are we losing our cooking culture?

crazyquik

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Roomie and I were having this discussion, and I wanted to throw it out here. Culture can be passed down a lot of ways, but it seems like cooking is something that can be gone in as little as one generation. If all your ancestors since cave-men cooked, but your parent(s) rarely cooked ("cooked," as opposed to heating up microwave pizzas), then in just a single generation your family has made a huge step in losing its cooking culture. An incredible amount of young people can't even cook a few basic dishes, and/or eat more than half their meals out per week. If you eventually became interested in cooking, it might have come from a variety of sources. Maybe you wanted to eat more healthy, or eat more cheaply, or impress girlfriends. But, demographically, we're all eating more prepared meals than home-cooked ones. We're more likely to watch someone cook a meal on Food Network than we are to actually cook a similar meal. Ironically as the number of people living in the average house has decreased and the number of meals prepared at home as decreased, the size of the kitchen in new home construction has rapidly increased. I'm not entirely lucid at the moment but just wanted to post this up for thoughts, comments, derogatory slurs, etc.
 

Thomas

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Interesting topic. I think there are quite a few factors in play, but one I think it worth mentioning is the emergence of food as a spectator sport/celebrity culture. We've had cookbooks for a long time now, but I think the last 10 or so years have made the idea of 'cooking' so daunting that we'd just as soon leave it to the professionals.

Oh, and kitchens are the new garages. Just saying.
 

turboman808

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The idea of cooking or even eating really good food is a very modern idea in my family. If we had any sort of tradition it was lost several generations ago.

I grew up on hamburger helper and kraft macaroni. My grandparents cooked more but even still we are talking baked potatoes and hamburgers.
 

Mark from Plano

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Originally Posted by Thomas
Interesting topic. I think there are quite a few factors in play, but one I think it worth mentioning is the emergence of food as a spectator sport/celebrity culture. We've had cookbooks for a long time now, but I think the last 10 or so years have made the idea of 'cooking' so daunting that we'd just as soon leave it to the professionals.

Oh, and kitchens are the new garages. Just saying.


I think it really began dying when more and more women began joining the workforce. I lived in a two-earner household during my marriage and after working all day and coming home to attack kid activities, homework, etc. there was no enjoyment in cooking. Eating was something you just had to cram in before you split up with the kids to get them to their separate after school activities.

We attacked the problem in multiple ways:
--Full-time housekeeper that would cook meals for us,
--a private cook who would cook for a number of families and would bring us food and drop it off in the fridge a couple of times a week.
--Eating out a lot.
--SuperSuppers and other similar businesses where you go into their location once a week and put together dinners from their ingredients and then put them in plastic bags so that you can just put them into the oven quickly at night without all the prep time.

Since my divorce and since my kids are older, I'm getting into cooking a lot more. I cook, on average, 4 or 5 dinners a week now. I never had time to do that when my kids were younger.
 

holymadness

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Cooking culture is far and away on the rise.

However, the traditional method of handing down cooking techniques from mother to daughter is probably on the wane, especially in North America where cuisine is on the rise precisely because Americans are finally realizing how lousy their traditional food is.
 

Thomas

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Originally Posted by Mark from Plano
I think it really began dying when more and more women began joining the workforce. I lived in a two-earner household during my marriage and after working all day and coming home to attack kid activities, homework, etc. there was no enjoyment in cooking. Eating was something you just had to cram in before you split up with the kids to get them to their separate after school activities.

(...)

Since my divorce and since my kids are older, I'm getting into cooking a lot more. I cook, on average, 4 or 5 dinners a week now. I never had time to do that when my kids were younger.


Actually, I do most of the dinner cooking these days but it helps that our son isn't in any after-school activities...yet. It does tend to be a hurried affair, though.

Originally Posted by holymadness
Cooking culture is far and away on the rise.

However, the traditional method of handing down cooking techniques from mother to daughter is probably on the wane, especially in North America where cuisine is on the rise precisely because Americans are finally realizing how lousy their traditional food is.


You shush your mouth! My wife learned to cook steak in the toaster oven from her mother, and I cherish that part of the family tradition. Wouldn't serve it to company on a dare, but still...
 

Cary Grant

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Originally Posted by Mark from Plano
I think it really began dying when more and more women began joining the workforce. I lived in a two-earner household during my marriage and after working all day and coming home to attack kid activities, homework, etc. there was no enjoyment in cooking. Eating was something you just had to cram in before you split up with the kids to get them to their separate after school activities.


Exactly- and this has been well-documented over the past 30 years.

It's not a matter of "losing" but "lost".
 

foodguy

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i'm not at all that pessimistic. i agree with HM, that i think cooking culture is on the rebound. it's different than it has been ... it's no longer an obligation for most people. but it's something they enjoy doing and, perhaps because of that, it's something they do better than has been done in a long time. i've heard many stories about people whose moms were great cooks, but i suspect mine may have been more the norm ... four kids, tired, pissed-off, get dinner on the table because there wasn't money to eat out ... today, i think there is at least the understanding that a meal should be pleasurable, and what goes into making it that way.
 

Cary Grant

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^^My seventies childhood was like that and mom was an OK cook, nothing more.

By lost food culture I mean a state in which most people were brought up learning competent cooking skills, the home-ec basics. That's largely gone.

Those with interest have learned and kept up their interest, but I wonder if it was more personal interest than "passed" down by mom.
 

kwilkinson

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I singlehandedly blame foodguy for simultaneously ruining our food culture and bringing it back like a phoenix.
 

Working Stiff

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The threat to 'cooking culture' is cookbooks and food tv are pushing aside people's own food traditions. You may get better food as a result, but you lose something when your food is something that you learned from a book (carefully following instructions), rather than something with which you've had a direct, personal, long-standing relationship.

It's kind of like learning to dress by reading styleforum: it's fine to get some ideas from here, but if you base your entire wardrobe on pictures from the internet, you're probably going to end up with a very bloodless, artificial look. Perhaps a more artful look than what you had before, but artificial.
 

word

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Originally Posted by Cary Grant
^^My seventies childhood was like that and mom was an OK cook, nothing more.

By lost food culture I mean a state in which most people were brought up learning competent cooking skills, the home-ec basics. That's largely gone.

Those with interest have learned and kept up their interest, but I wonder if it was more personal interest than "passed" down by mom.


My mom worked at home which meant she had time to cook there as well. My sister and I learned a lot by watching and helping.

I imagine growing up in a family where both mom and dad work all day it being more difficult to learn these skills. Or even having a single mom working would make cooking not much of a priority since there are so many instant microwave dinner or fast food options out there.
 

Mark from Plano

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Originally Posted by Working Stiff
The threat to 'cooking culture' is cookbooks and food tv are pushing aside people's own food traditions. You may get better food as a result, but you lose something when your food is something that you learned from a book (carefully following instructions), rather than something with which you've had a direct, personal, long-standing relationship.

meh...I'm not sure that's always a bad thing. My grandmother was a wonderful woman, but a pretty lousy cook. She passed on her dubious skills to my wonderful mother. Some traditions ought to be broken.
 

Working Stiff

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Originally Posted by Mark from Plano
meh...I'm not sure that's always a bad thing. My grandmother was a wonderful woman, but a pretty lousy cook. She passed on her dubious skills to my wonderful mother. Some traditions ought to be broken.

Both of my parents are excellent cooks, so I get the best of both worlds. Of course, the reason they are excellent cooks is because they started buying cookbooks 40 years ago.
 

Piobaire

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Does/did the US ever have a "cooking culture" that could be described in more than the most 30k view? The US is so regional, so full of various immigrant groups, so full of merger and fusion.

Is the formulation more, "Is the bulk of the US population losing the ability to home cook?" I'd say the answer to that is affirmative.
 

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