Cooking Solves Everything
Why cook? With all the available options—restaurants, take-out, prepared food—more widespread and relatively cheaper than ever before, why bother?
Millions don’t. Seven percent of Americans say they never cook; 30 percent say they cook three or four times a week. (That’s literally billions of cooking opportunities passed by weekly.) The rest of the time, they rely on anything but cooking to put breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the table. Many people don’t bother with a table at all, but eat in their cars, or standing at a counter, or sitting in front of a screen.
And that’s a shame, because cooking is a basic, essential, worthwhile and even enjoyable task. If you’re a person with some leisure time and a little bit of money, if you’re not living on the edge, if you’re not gathering fuel and water and worrying about whether the food you have managed to scrape together is enough to feed your family—that is, if you’re a more-or-less typical American—cooking will change your life for the better.
We can start with the smallest example, the one I know best: what cooking did for me.
I began to cook on some kind of a regular basis in 1968, when I was 18 and a sophomore in college. The previous year, I had lived in a dorm and eaten cafeteria food. At that time, college cafeteria food was the rough equivalent of high school or hospital cafeteria food today, which is to say it was wretched, a step above prison food, but not a big step.
I had grown up in New York City; my mother was wh...