(Sorry for being gone for so long!)
Homemade? I'll Take It!
It's unfortunate that we commend people on making 'homemade' anything. One of the selling points about our desserts at my restaurant are that they, like our soups, are homemade. People ooh and ahh and decide then and there, that since it's so different, they want it. That's sad.
It's understandable that since women have entered the workforce, they have less time to spend in the kitchen. In the past, women spent over an hour cooking daily when today, you can only catch the family cook in the kitchen for an average of 27 minutes. It doesn't help that the supermarket and the media has made it much more attractive for busy men and women to simply pierce the plastic with a fork and microwave on high for three minutes. Voila, dinner!
The Kitchen as a Sports Arena
And even on cooking shows, the emphasis is on saving time. Semi-Homemade by Sandra Lee and 30-Minute Meals by Rachel Ray make this evident. Dump in a bowl, stir, and heat. When any sort of expertise or craftsmanship is shown, it's entirely too quick for an amateur to emulate: Iron Chef, for instance. On Iron Chef, beautiful, unique meals (most of which get high ratings for flavor) are created and then judged within an hour. Because of the time constraint and Alton Brown's football commentator persona, there is little to no educational value -- knife work and other nuances are lost.
Our wide-eyed fascination with food and our complete lack of interest in cooking are in no way compatible. With less and less time spent on making meals (and marveling at the people that do find time), the fatter and fatter a nation becomes. Our nation, to be specific. Food corporations know that people are hard-wired to love sugar, fat and salt -- guess what those prepared meals are chock full of? These ingredients keep you coming back, time and time again, as you and your children grow heavier. It's easy, it's literally addictive, and it's killing us.
I honestly feel as though today's men and women have more resources available to them than their parents and grandparents did concerning making homemade meals. Sure, they copied what their mothers did, but we have the ability to cook across cultural barriers. There are thousands of cookbooks in bookstores (ranging from burgers to beef shawarma) and YouTube tutorials on things as simple as dicing a tomato or roasting spices. Our food options are limitless now, but sadly we tend to reach for what's easy and fast instead of what is interesting and delicious.
Cooking may be magical at times, but it's not magic. Food blogs are a fantastic way to find real-life recipes made by regular people with normal schedules, kids, and often no formal training. I found this recipe, this one, and dozens more that are now part of our regular meal rotation. Use the resources at your fingertips: the internet, the library, and your friends and family. The only way to break our dependency on boxed meals is to educate ourselves and spend more time in the kitchen.