Posts Tagged ‘The Farm School’

Why Aren’t We Cooking Anymore?

(Warning:  I’ve pulled out my soapbox!)

Most of my readers know that I attend the Elora Farmers’ Market as a vendor every Saturday. This past weekend, I prepared a sample of Sweet Potato Hummus, so that people could take the recipe I provided, buy some locally grown sweet potatoes from the market, and make some at home.  Although there were a few people who said they were eager to try making it at home, many more were interested in buying it from me.  “Are you going to be making this to sell?”, they would ask.  “Why?” I replied.  “It’s SO easy to make, and only takes 10 minutes, at most, once the potatoes have been steamed.  Wouldn’t you rather make it yourself?”  Even with organic ingredients, the cost was relatively inexpensive, compared to store-bought

While I certainly “get” the convenience factor, these customers were willing to wait until NEXT week for me to make some and bring it to market, instead of just buying the sweet potatoes at the market and making it later at home.  And that got me thinking…..Why aren’t people cooking anymore?

I truly believe that most people have become disconnected from their food.  That is, they are not being part of the process of converting whole foods into something they will eat (and fruit doesn’t count!) I’m talking about buying simple ingredients, preparing them by whatever method, and basically cooking from scratch.  You know, the way our grandparents did.

As I was mulling this all over, a customer mentioned that a local delicatessen and butcher shop does brisk business weekly, selling very basic fare, such as macaroni and cheese, as well as other typical deli items.  Specialty dishes and exotic cuisine that may require unusual ingredients certainly have their appeal, but mac and cheese takeout?  Really?  Granted, a deli’s takeout is more likely to be made using wholesome ingredients, compared to that made with a brand of no name.  In his latest book, “Cooked“, author and food advocate Michael Pollan writes that “industrial cooking has taken a substantial toll on our health and wellbeing.”  He goes on to state that “the decline in home cooking closely tracks the rise in obesity and all the chronic diseases linked to diet.”

9a794ae9fc7345cf5729eac817a95bf6So what can we do to reverse this trend?  My good friend, Christopher Jess, who is a trained chef and is now teaching a culinary arts program at the local high school is certainly on the right track.  He is inspiring his students to appreciate all the sublime benefits of cooking from scratch, through the aptly named Food School program.  Last year, he helped launch the Farm School.  You can read more about them both here.  Today, Chris was at our market, demonstrating how to make delicious whole wheat crepes.  Hopefully, the recipe handouts we provided and the tasty crepes sampled will encourage some of our shoppers to prepare at home.  (Chris’ philosophy of eating, sitting and talking together over a shared meal serves him well in his role as the leader of the Slow Food Wellington County convivium)

It is only by returning to the kitchen that we will once again rediscover the joys of watching (and smelling) a pan full of onions carmelizing, or enjoy a simple marriage of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over a bowl full of fresh salad greens.  And as wonderful as that is, we are achieving something that is much more important, in my opinion.  We are taking back responsibility and ownership of our food.

For several decades, we have allowed M & M Meats, President’s Choice and other convenience food companies to decide what goes into the food we eat.  We have placed implicit trust in them, that they will be cooking with healthy ingredients, without any harmful additives, etc.  Unfortunately, many of these food processors will cut corners on ingredients to lower their costs (ie. using sub-grade produce)  Food preservatives may be added, salt and sugar are used excessively (compared to home cooking) and then there is the whole GMO issue.  Most processed foods  – unless certified organic, or verified by the Non-GMO Project – will contain GMO’s in one form or another.  Examples could be high-fructose corn syrup, soybean or corn oils, and sugar made from GM sugar beets, to name a few.

Am I saying we should stop buying prepared foods altogether?  No, certainly not.  I have two suggestions.  First of all, if you ARE going to buy prepared foods, please read the labels.  To quote Michael Pollan again, this time from his earlier book “In Defense of Food“,  one should “avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.  And if you are concerned about GMO’s, then look out for ingredients that may be derived from corn or soya, as they will more than likely be genetically modified.”

My second suggestion is that if you find yourself eating a lot of conveniently prepared foods, take time out for ONE meal a week, to cook it from scratch.  Weekends might work out well.  Please take the time to include your children.  I remember quite well that little helpers can make the job take a little longer to accomplish, but think about what you are teaching them.  What a better place to bond with your family than over food preparations, and then at the dinner table?  With the busy schedules many young families have today, with sports games, music practices, part-time jobs, and social obligations, unfortunately it is the time-honoured ritual of sharing a meal with our family that has gone by the wayside.  And that’s a real shame.

Here in Ontario, we are celebrating Family Day on February 17.  What better way could there be to celebrate “family” than by preparing food at home and enjoying it with the ones you love?  Bon Appetit!


* * *

Sweet Potato Hummus

3 cups peeled, diced, and steamed sweet potato (yams are fine, as are frozen sweet potatoes, thawed)
1/3 cup roasted tahini (smooth peanut butter will work in a pinch, if there is no nut allergy)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend the sweet potatoes while they are very hot. Add in the tahini and blend. Add in the olive oil and blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate until cool.