S tudies continue to report that fewer and fewer people are cooking at home, which makes me sad. Clearly we are much more interested in and knowledgeable about food these days, as reflected in the increasing popularity of cooking shows, magazines, and cookbooks; yet we seem to be cooking at home less and less. Why?
Have all the television food shows, better restaurants, fancy cookbooks, and glossy cooking magazines created unrealistic expectations for the home cook? Are we special occasion only cooks? Does cooking feel like drudgery that takes too much time? Are we uncomfortable in the kitchen because we didn’t learn the basics while growing so choose to avoid it?
I think all the emphasis on chef-inspired food porn has skewed the reality of what home cooking is all about and may have scared people away from the kitchen. Home cooking is different than restaurant cooking (or it should be).
Home cooking is about creating simple meals that comfort, nourish, and please, not trying to impress with overcomplicated dishes full of expensive ingredients that you use only once. Cooking dinner doesn’t have to leave you feeling depleted. If you keep things simple and learn some basics, it can actually be a pleasant transition out of your work day, once you gain some kitchen confidence.
When I talk about simple basic home cooking, I’m not suggesting a return to some bygone era, where you need to make everything from scratch. There are lots of excellent prepared foods available to complement your home cooking and make life easier. It’s fun to discover great sources for delicious breads or pastries and I can’t imagine life without the occasional rotisserie chicken, a busy night staple at our house. In fact, cooking some things while filling in with purchased items is a great way for new cooks to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Let’s be honest, home cooking doesn’t just happen. It takes some planning and prioritizing so you’re don’t get caught in that vicious cycle of asking yourself at the end of a long day, “What’s for dinner?” If getting a meal on the table is always preceded by the need to decide on a recipe and make a stop at the market, it’s much less likely to happen. Basic home cooking is about shopping only once or twice a week, planning ahead, cooking extra, creative use of leftovers, having a reasonably well-stocked pantry, and easy do-ahead dishes.
Home cooking has lots of advantages over a life of restaurant, take out, and drive through food. It is healthier and more economical, which can be especially important these days. And studies have demonstrated that children who frequently eat dinner at home with their family eat more fruits and vegetables and get better grades in school.
It’s not all sexy. But it is deeply satisfying to be able to nourish yourself and those you love with tasty simple home cooking. My mission is to help you get comfortable in the kitchen and increase your cooking confidence with lots of easy recipes, kitchen tips, and answers to common cooking questions.