My how quickly things can change. Just a few short years ago, restaurants were booming and cooking at home was something one watched on TV, but rarely attempted in real life. Then things changed. In a big way. People began to rediscover the joy of cooking. Now most of my friends (and their friends!) are spending more time cooking and dining at home. I know I am. And perhaps you are, too.
So it was no surprise to read in last March’s edition of the Supermarket News that many shoppers are closely watching their food budgets — dining out less, eating at home more often and planning their shopping trips more carefully. And a January press release by the International Housewares Association found that 57% of respondents to a Consumer Spending Indicator survey say they are going to spend less money dining out.
Now people are tuning into food shows and heading to their local bookstores to stock up on cookbooks. In fact, a leading on-line bookseller lists over 18,000 cookbooks for sale. 18,000!
So I decided to add to the world’s collection by writing one myself.
There are many excellent cookbooks on the market today. I own shelves of them. However, I believe my book, Table for Two – The Cookbook for Couples is a little different.
In my role as a nonprofit development director and later as a freelance writer, I traveled around the country meeting and speaking with couples, married and unmarried, young and old. Since we often met over a well-prepared meal, the conversation would invariably turn to cooking. We often talked about our most memorable meals, favorite restaurants, or coveted recipes, and time after time I heard this lament: “I’d love to cook more, but I don’t know how to cook for only two people.”
I heard this from single men and women who knew that eating out on a regular basis was expensive and unhealthy. They wanted to learn to prepare meals that used readily available ingredients and were simple to prepare, but didn’t know where to turn.
I heard this from newlyweds who wanted to cook, but couldn’t because their parents didn’t teach them. Furthermore, when they began buying cookbooks they were frustrated to find that most recipes served a minimum of 4, with many serving 5 to 8. They couldn’t do the math to make the recipes smaller.
I heard this from empty nesters that were used to cooking for an entire family, but now needed to learn to cook for two.
As someone who can identify with all of these people, once as a single man, then a family man, and now a soon-to-be empty nester, I’m able to share in their frustration.
I began cooking more than 25 years ago when I was doing inner-city youth work. As I came home each day, I retired to the kitchen to spend the next hour or so cooking for my family. It was a relaxing time for me. I’d pour a glass of wine, chop some onions, mince some garlic, and somehow, I was transported to another land. Could I have saved time by defrosting a pre-packaged dinner or nuking an all-in-one meal from some food conglomerate in the mid-west?
Did I want to?
It may have taken me an hour or more to prepare a meal from scratch, but this was a labor of love. My children grew up strong and healthy. They developed an appreciation for a variety of cultures; we often discussed the origins of the meals as we prepared them together. Everyday around suppertime our home was filled with inviting and delicious aromas such as sautéed onions and garlic, blackened fish, jasmine rice, or steamed green beans. Would I trade all of that for a few minutes of convenience? Not on your life. I think we all yearn for at least one time of the day when we can pour ourselves into a work of love that not only nourishes those that are close to us, but also provides a wonderful opportunity for conversation and interaction. The principles learned from those early days have been with me ever since. Whether cooking for my family, grilling for friends, or catering for a hundred, the love and attention that I put into the meal preparation reminds me that good food and good relationships are gifts that I must cherish.
So here’s to good cooking. And good eating. In the blogs that follow, I’ll share some thoughts, tips and recipes that will help us all on our journey to healthy lives.