“My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.”
— Phyllis Diller
People love joking about how bad they are at cooking. And it’s no surprise. A quick Google search will reveal that that over 20+ years Americans have shifted towards eating out more and cooking at home less. Despite an entire TV network dedicated to cooking and celebrity chefs, Americans claim they just don’t have the time, skills, or energy to cook. Even within our San Francisco foodie bubble, plenty of people readily admit to eating out for every single meal. As someone who views cooking and baking as cathartic and eats out 4-5 times a month — and that’s a high estimate — I hate to think about a home that never smells like warm roasted garlic or fresh baked bread.
However more recently, there may be research that shows people could be cooking at home a bit more than they have in the past. Based on a comparison of studies done by the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, time spent in the kitchen has certainly declined since 1965 but overall has held steady since the mid-1990s. In fact, Esquire even questions if men are the future of cooking. Man I hope they’re right.
Stop for a minute to imagine a 10 year future in which the number of people cooking at home on a regular basis quadrupled in the United States. It would be insane! And it would be beautiful; rather than just slapping something into the microwave couples would be cooking together, friends and families would be eating together, dinner parties would abound. It would be a true food-lovers utopia. But sadly, it would probably come with a few issues.
Is the world food system ready to take on an inordinate number of Americans that make dinner at home? As we’ve already seen with quinoa, an increased demand in the U.S. can often cause that same food to be inaccessible to the very people who grow the crop. If we’re not careful, prices of the foods we love could quadruple (or more) for people who need it most.
The restaurant market would take a substantial hit. While the idea of fast food chains closing down like Kmarts in the early 2000s makes my heart giddy with glee, there are also major repercussions that come with that. More often than not, fast food chain employees are exactly the type of people who can’t afford to be out of work or without a job. That late night shift at Burger King may be the second job a single mom needs to send her two children to school. She is the last person we want to take a job away from.
According to a recent study by Cambridge University, people who cook and eat meals at home at least 5 times a week are 47% more likely to be alive in 10 years. Read that sentence again. 47% more likely to be alive. Crazy? Maybe, but that’s how much of an impact eating out is having on our health. Not to mention that people who cook at home consume less calories, less sodium, and more fiber. Plus cooking at home is less expensive which may not seem directly related to your body health, but it’s definitely good for financial health.
So what does a future with quadruple the number of people cooking at home on a regular basis look like? It’s difficult to tell, and is with anything that changes rapidly we would need to be ready to accept the good with the not so good. But one would be for sure. Jamie Oliver and Michael Pollan would be proud.