America Cooks

by Adam on May 17, 2013

I was eating out recently with a friend of mine, who has been studying at the CIA (the culinary institution, not the government behemoth) for quite some time now. We were enjoying a delicious meal, and she mentioned how much butter and other unhealthy ingredients (salt, etc) probably went in to making the dish taste as good as it did. And as we all know, she’s likely quite right.

On this particular occasion, I had to stop and ponder this thought. The dishes we were having were pretty fundamental American dishes, fried chicken, steak frites, etc and nothing too complicated to make at home. But I can’t help but think that the entirety of the professional culinary world is conspiring to make people feel like cooking at home is beyond their reach.

Whether it’s creating an in-restaurant meal that tastes 10X better than the in-home version (that’s some return on investment), or turning cooking in the kitchen into a spectator sport, consumers have become outsiders looking in when it comes to the food that we eat. Is it any wonder then that many Americans don’t know how to attain proper nutrition, don’t have the confidence to cook on a regular basis, or rely on store-bought alternatives to the home-cooked variety. I’m constantly mystified at the revolving door of fad dieting and our inability to figure out what it means to “eat right.”

And I suppose in some ways all this emphasis on food innovation, food + tech, or whatever you want to call it is somewhat futile if, at the end of the day, it doesn’t empower people to take back their dinner plates (and breakfast and lunch too). All this innovation that allows people to get food to their door faster, figure out where to eat out smarter, or share their meals more widely with their social networks is misguided when America can’t, and doesn’t, cook.

We often look back at history as a guide, we see inflection points that change the way we think as a society. And we may be in the midst of one right now. One where we can either choose to take control of our eating, make more informed decisions and become creators in the kitchen rather than consumers, or not. I don’t know where we end up in the second scenario, but we are seeing the signs of it in malnutrition, rampant obesity and the like. And it’s in the first scenario that there is a real culinary future that I want to help realize.

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