Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nobody Cooks Here Anymore

Michael Pollan is right at the top of my "food heroes" list, and his recent article in the NY Times Magazine really hit the proverbial nail on the head. The main question he asks here is why we as a nation are watching more cooking shows than ever but actually cooking less. Is cooking really just a spectator sport? Why do we have time to watch people cook, but very little to spend actually doing much cooking ourselves?

This section really got under my skin, and I will be interested in hearing your comments: "I spent an enlightening if somewhat depressing hour on the phone with a veteran food-marketing researcher, Harry Balzer, who explained that 'people call things "cooking" today that would roll their grandmother in her grave — heating up a can of soup or microwaving a frozen pizza.' Balzer has been studying American eating habits since 1978; the NPD Group, the firm he works for, collects data from a pool of 2,000 food diaries to track American eating habits. Years ago Balzer noticed that the definition of cooking held by his respondents had grown so broad as to be meaningless, so the firm tightened up the meaning of 'to cook' at least slightly to capture what was really going on in American kitchens. To cook from scratch, they decreed, means to prepare a main dish that requires some degree of 'assembly of elements.' So microwaving a pizza doesn’t count as cooking, though washing a head of lettuce and pouring bottled dressing over it does. Under this dispensation, you’re also cooking when you spread mayonnaise on a slice of bread and pile on some cold cuts or a hamburger patty." (emphasis mine)

Follow the link below if you didn't catch this article the first time around. Enjoy!


  1. yes hannah! when i read the article that exact same paragraph really shocked me and i have quoted it ever since. i am reading in defense of food now... quite interesting and enlightening.

  2. In Defense of Food is great! I really enjoyed it. Of course, since reading it I have learned a lot about the benefits (yes, benefits) of saturated fat, so I forget if he reviled them much in there (if so, skip those sentences!). His guidelines for eating are very down-to-earth and reasonable. Basically we just need to do two things: 1) start raising and producing food the good old-fashioned way (like things were up until the 1950s), and 2) stop eating processed foods! That's it. Plain and simple. Of course, when we consider that white flour and sugar are processed foods and most of us are severely addicted to them (or can't get over the taste factor) it makes this pretty difficult.