Cooking is really important because it’s the only way we’re going to take back control of our diet from the corporations who want to cook for us. – Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules
When I was a teenager I refused to learn how to cook because I did not want to grow up to become a ‘housewife’, and I thought cooking was for old-fashioned women. My mother, knowing how stubborn I was, decided that if she couldn’t teach me how to cook, she’d at least teach me how to clean.
When I moved away from home I kept a spotless apartment, but I could barely cook for myself. Not wanting to resort to eating out all the time, my meals were bland, burnt and boring. And I didn’t have any clue how to make them better. I was shopping in a grocery store, but I was buying convenience food that was heavily refined and processed, full of preservatives, and lacking in nutrition.
The problem with today’s society is that people are forgetting how, or choosing not to cook for themselves, and large food companies are taking over that responsibility. They are making food that has a long shelf-life, and as a result we’re being fed preservatives and additives that are not good for our diet. The modern family doesn’t seem to have time to prepare a proper meal anymore, and kids aren’t getting the nutrition they need. We see obesity rates rising, especially in children.
Fifty years ago grocery stores carried real food. Now, 90% of what you find in a supermarket has been heavily processed in the name of convenience. You can buy packaged dinners, meal supplements and vegetables that have already been cut and washed. I wonder what those pre-peeled potatoes are coated with to keep them so artificially white?
Not to mention that most processed food is over-packaged in plastics that take decades to decompose, or energy to recycle. I’ve never understood why someone would want to pay more for lettuce sold in a plastic container, than fresh, out of the produce section. Is washing and cutting lettuce really that difficult?
People living in first-world countries, especially us north americans spend less of our total income on food than anywhere else in the world because we have created technology that makes food cheaper to manufacture, and supposedly taste better. We also spend more on Health Care than we ever have before. The processed foods that run so rampant in our diet are affecting our health in the form of obesity, heart disease and malnutrition, because they are filled with harmful animal and vegetable fats that also lack many vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
It didn’t take me long to realize that making healthy, delicious meals was not just for “old-fashioned women”. But I was still unsure of how to cook most things or make my meals taste better. Standing in front of an imposing wall of spices at the grocery store I had no idea what to purchase, and would end up leaving empty-handed.
Then I got a job doing graphic design and photography for a spice company. One of the perks of the job was the endless supply of spices, seasonings and recipes I came home with. My spice collection became so well-stocked even my mother was envious. And I learned how to cook!
I may not be the most amazing chef, and I’m certainly not a house-wife but I enjoy cooking delicious meals that satisfy both my taste buds and my physical health. When I go to the grocery store I try to stay away from the middle aisles, where most of the processed foods are kept. I also try to buy locally grown, organic produce as much as possible.
Eating a healthier diet is better for the environment too. Mass commercial farming causes waste management issues and methane emissions. Highly processed foods such as pre-made dinners, chips, crackers and pop use fossil fuels to be created (and then stripped of nutrients), bleached, preserved, salted (and filled with other stuff like refined sugars, animal fats and cornstarch), packaged and shipped.
Eating healthy is not difficult, and it’s much better for you than eating convenience food. Taking time out of my busy day to prepare a meal is easy, and much more affordable than eating out, or eating processed food. It’s also a lot more environmentally friendly because I’m not buying plastic packaging, or food that has used excessive energy to be manufactured.
I’m lucky to have grown up with parents who cared about nutrition and healthy eating. I don’t have kids, but if I did, cooking healthy meals for them would be my top priority. Good nutrition helps us live long, happy lives. I’d rather spend my later years being active and outdoors, than in the hospital.