The Big Question: Why Cook?

June 29, 2008 at 7:14 pm 5 comments

Seriously. With the abundance of fast food, deli food, frozen packaged food, and restaurants all around, why go to the trouble of learning to cook at home?

The answer for most people is that they don’t know how. They don’t know what ingredients to buy or what pans to use. They’ve watched other people struggle to put a simple meal on the table that ended up being inedible. The lessons learned in “home living” or “home economics” classes have long been forgotten. They don’t have a clue where to begin.

Take heart, and come on in to the kitchen. It’s really not a scary place at all.

Even if you haven’t set foot in a kitchen for years — to cook, that is — don’t worry. Even if you can’t remember the last time you read through and finished a recipe, that’s all right. Even if you have no time, no fancy pots and pans, no patience, and no experience, I promise you can do this. Yes, you.

But why bother? There are as many reasons to learn to cook as there are fast food franchises at your local mall. For starters, it’s far cheaper to cook at home than it is to buy take-out or eat at restaurants night after night, especially once you’ve gathered some basic ingredients. If you find a few recipes that appeal to you, make a list, and buy only what you need, you can make a week’s worth of dinners for about the same amount of money you’d spend in a mid-range restaurant for two or three meals. Check out a restaurant menu online and add up the costs: entree, drink, tip. Times two. See?

Another reason: cooking for yourself, generally, is healthier. You control the amounts of fat, sodium, carbs, or any other substance. You can buy fruits and vegetables in season and at their peak of flavor and nutritional value rather than settling for browned lettuce or fruit that tastes like cardboard. Portion control is as easy as deciding how much food to put on your plate, eliminating the temptation to eat all those fries that came with your restaurant burger.

Cooking for yourself allows you more flexibility than using prepared foods or ordering at a restaurant. We all know at least one picky eater who drives us nuts whenever she orders at a restaurant: hold the mayo, no onion, extra cheese, medium rare but not too pink…you know the type. At home, if you don’t like black olives in your pasta, don’t use them. If you like extra basil, add it. You can use olive oil instead of butter, or soy milk instead of dairy. The choices are limitless, and your meals are suited to your tastes, every time. What restaurant can do that for you?

Finally, cooking at home can be faster than going out. Add up the time spent driving to a restaurant, waiting to be seated, waiting to be served, eating, paying, then driving home again. You could have fixed something simple and tasty much faster and been more comfortable in the process — shoes off, favorite music on the stereo, relaxing in your own home.

Learning to cook doesn’t mean you will never eat out again. Of course you will, and you should! But when you decide to go out, it will be on your terms: when you can afford it, when you have the energy, and when you have the time.

Next: Kitchen Basics for the Beginning Home Cook

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Kitchen Basics: Part One

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Judy Ferril  |  June 29, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Mary,
    You are off too a wonderful start. I love the way you approach cooking at home versus eating out or processed food. I think you will be a great resource for those who are “afraid to cross over into the kitchen”. šŸ™‚

    Judy

  • 2. Carma Dutra  |  June 30, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    You give people a reason to learn to cook. Why bother to cook is a fabulous question and will make non-cookers sit up and take notice.

    Good job.

  • 3. lisa holdren  |  July 1, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I remember when I quit working full time and came home to care for my children. The nanny had put things where she used them and I hadn’t a clue what to do. But I did know how to cook, thankfully, and as you say. It makes all the difference in the world. This is a quite fully fleshed out site. You’re going to give Cooks Illustrated some competition! You can persuade people not to eat processed food while, oh gosh, I can’t remember her name, but she lives in Minnesota and has a share in community food gardening which will teach people about why it’s important in the overall picture.

  • 4. Lisa Kirby  |  July 1, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Hi, Mary,

    I enjoyed your post. I’m bad about eating out because of the convenience. But you’re right about the added cost. I really do enjoy cooking, but sometimes it seems there’s not enough time in the day to put together a good meal. I also loved the way you summed up the post with the “favorite music on the stereo…” I could envision myself there. šŸ™‚

    I look forward to reading future posts and am sure I’ll find things of use here on your site.

    Take care and have a good evening,
    Lisa Kirby
    http://www.familyfunandfood.blogspot.com

  • 5. Dorit  |  July 1, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Hi, Mary,

    Great start and focus.

    There is so much that both cooks, amateurs and scaredy cats can realte to.

    Cooking at home is so satisfying – you really make some solid points for that!

    Great post.

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