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Monday, January 19, 2015

DOES AMERICA KNOW HOW TO COOK?

BRYCE ON LIFE

- Believe me, we're not alone in not knowing.

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I have heard a lot of women make the observation the art of baking is dying, that most young people no longer know how to make a loaf of bread, cookies, cakes or pies. There is nothing from "scratch" anymore. I also suspect roasting a chicken or turkey is on the decline. Frankly, I cannot think of anything simpler, but it has become commonplace to purchase roast turkey dinners from grocery stores like Publix and Kroger, as opposed to cooking it yourself. Traditional comfort foods are also disappearing, such as salisbury steak, beef tips and noodles, pork tenderloin, pot roast, chipped beef on toast (SOAS), flank steak, turkey tetrazini, pot pies, or chicken a la king. Soups, stews and chile are also disappearing in favor of canned substitutes. Likewise, fruits and vegetables are seldom cooked fresh, such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, snowpeas, etc. As for me, I love stir fried vegetables, particularly in the summer time. Alas, not many people make it anymore, regardless how quickly it can be prepared.

Older people are inclined to cook, but not young people. America is evidently not alone in this regards as I am hearing similar stories from Japan and the Philippines, and I suspect elsewhere around the globe.

There are several reasons for this, the most obvious of which is time limitations. After you have worked all day, you hardly feel up to cooking at night. Even if they have the time to cook, they are unlikely to do so claiming their mothers never taught them. Because parents didn't assign chores to their offspring in the kitchen, they didn't pass along the knowledge and traditions of cooking. To my way of thinking though, here is another example of how technology is influencing our behavior. Since most foods are now available in pre-prepared form, or they can be purchased "ready to go" at a fast-food restaurant, they have grown dependent on such things as microwaves, cooking pouches, frozen food, and white bags. The idea of a "home cooked" meal is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and with it goes basic nutrition.

This explains why "family style" restaurants and diners are slowly disappearing. Because our youth have grown up learning to eat on the run, they are more inclined to gravitate to Pop Tarts, hamburgers, french fries, and chicken tenders. The idea of sitting down to a complete meal is simply a foreign concept to them, hence such restaurants are closing their doors one-by-one.

So, is cooking doomed to extinction? Hopefully not. I would argue young people would love to cook, if someone took the time to teach them. The problem is, nobody is doing so. They do not need anything extravagant, just the basic mechanics. I have a friend who owns a family-style restaurant and I am encouraging him to put on some classes at night for young people. Such courses should include such things as how to layout a kitchen, what are all of the basic tools to use, along with how to clean and maintain them. It should also discuss how to shop, and discern what is good and bad (spoiled), how to cut and chop, and some basic meals to live on. The idea would be to encourage them to learn the joys of cooking. As simple as this sounds, it would be a Godsend to young people embarking into the work force. As I tell my friend, it would also be a good way to encourage patronage at the restaurants.

The reason why family style restaurants are declining is not because our tastes are changing, but because of our growing reliance on technology. If we become too addicted to technology, can "Soylent Green" be far away? As for me, I am certainly not an expert in the kitchen but I have always been willing to learn. For me, the biggest challenge was to prepare a full turkey dinner. True, it was a lot of work, but I discovered it was also a lot of fun.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE "RIGHT" AND "WRONG" OF DESIGN - Why we need methodologies to support our work effort.

LAST TIME:  WHEN ARE WE "ON OUR OWN"?   - I thought the magic number was 18?

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