Yesterday the New York Times featured two of my favorite food writers—Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. In his piece, “Pollan Cooks!,” Bittman writes about Pollan’s new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. (I’ve already reserved my copy through interlibrary loan, and I expect it is a book I will want to add to my own collection.) Bittman also interviewed Michael Pollan, who makes a clear and convincing case that we, as a nation, were healthier when we ate mostly home-cooked food.
Simply put, when we cook at home, we use better ingredients than is commonly found in most commercially-prepared food. We use fewer chemical additives—if any—as well as less fat, sugar, and salt. We tend not to eat fried food because it takes so much time and is so messy. (I can attest to this. I love fried food, but the only time I get it is when I go out to eat, a couple of times a month.)
Perhaps just as important, home cooking, which includes meals for family and friends as well as celebrations throughout the year, nourishes the spirit as well as the body. When we come together for meals, we slow down, we talk, we connect. My own special memories of eating seldom include restaurant or commercially-prepared meals. Instead, those memories tend to revolve around going to the homes of family and friends, sitting at their tables, eating what they have prepared, and talking about all the things that concern and interest us. The food can be very simple—I recently wrote about eating egg salad sandwiches in my aunt and uncle’s kitchen—but when we come together to share a meal in the home, something very special happens.
My point is not to diminish the many fine restaurants we have in Maine and the talented chefs who devote their lives to cooking good food. Nevertheless, I think that eating out should be an occasional treat rather than a daily event. Once upon a time, way back when I was a child, this was the norm, and we were healthier as a result. (I’ve also written about this.)
So let’s hear it for home cooks, for both women AND men getting back into the kitchen to cook, cook, cook. Yes, it takes time, but why not spend some of that precious commodity cooking rather than watching TV or sitting in front of the computer? And either before or after dinner, as the days get longer and warmer, you might want to fit in a walk or a bike ride as well. If you do these two things, you just might find that you are hardly watching any TV and that your waistline is beginning to shrink.