Cooking used to be an absolute. If you wanted to eat, you needed to make it yourself. But times have changed, and Gourmet.com recently caught up with food historian Laura Shapiro, who has some strong opinions on the topic:
"The whole idea of 'no time to cook' was invented out of thin air to promote packaged foods."
After instant meals were distributed to troops in World War II, the concept entered civilian life in the form of microwaveable meals, frozen foods, and packaged products. Over the next 50 years, our cooking habits changed drastically, both parents started working full time, and our lives seemed more hectic. it also doesn't help that for many of us, the line separating our professional and personal lives has blurred. We are busier, that's certain, but it's a question of priorities.
Cooking isn't about time. It's about knowledge, confidence, and whether or not healthy food is a priority to you and your family.
Over the past few decades, marketers have tried to convince us that we need quick cooking. But like most things in life, cooking is a choice. We can choose to heat frozen pizza or we can choose to make meals from real ingredients in our own kitchens.
Gourmet gets it right: "When people say they’re busy nowadays, they’re right. But—too busy to cook? If you’re comfortable in the kitchen, you can assemble a simple meal faster than it would take to get Chinese food delivered. If you’re not accustomed to cooking, or if you’re totally wiped out at the end of the day, preparing even a simple meal will seem impossible. Those are all true human conditions of the present day, but they aren’t about time."
How to find time to cook
Habits take time to form, even the good ones like flossing or exercise, so it's best to ease into things with a few simple steps.
1. Make food a priority. This doesn't mean you have to shop solely at the Farmers' Market or cook from scratch every night. Initially, it only requires acknowledgement. Once you make a decision to care more about cooking, you'll naturally find new rhythms as you introduce new ingredients and try new recipes.
2. Work it in. The reason takeout is more appealing to someone who has had a long day is because it's mindless. It doesn't require you planning what to make ahead of time, shopping for ingredients, or fiddling with pots and pans. Sometimes we need mindless, but certainly not every night. Even planning a few meals a week well in advance will save you when you walk in the door.
3. Develop your skills. If technique is what's holding you back, sign-up for a local cooking class or start recording cooking shows in earnest. These kinds of tutorials are designed to offer tips and skills to make cooking easier, not harder.