Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself. -Harry Balzer
Cooking Light’s January 2010 issue listed their 10 rules for healthy eating in 2010. I am very impressed by their list. And, rule number 3 is what I am spending much of my time on lately.
- Try something new (variety ensures a nutrient rich diet, and a much happier eater)
- Choose healthy fats (avoid trans fats and most saturated fats. Eat healthy monounsaturated fats and omega 3s)
- Cook more often
- Eat less red and processed meats (because it’s not good to eat like a king just because you can afford to eat like a king) (well, this one doesn’t really apply to me- being vegetarian and all, but is still a good tip)
- Eat more whole foods (populations whose diets are based on whole foods tend to be less afflicted by diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.)
- Start the day off well (mother always said it was the most important meal of the day)
- Indulge adventurously (a healthy approach to eating includes permission to satisfy that part of the soul that craves truffles, butter, chocolate, or cheese- in modest portions)
- Eat out creatively (I simply love these tips: order what you don’t cook. Order difficult dishes and labor intensive dishes.)
- Be portion-aware
- Drink well (drink moderately and well. Oh, for that tasty lemon drop martini made with fresh lemon juice- mmmm.)
Cook more often- cooking helps you eat better, creates quality time for you and your family, and passes on traditions that may otherwise be lost. Remember making chocolate chip cookies with your mom when you were a kid? You had quality bonding time. Time to chat and get to know each other. And, as a bonus, you got super-tasty cookies out of it.
Cooking at home means you are the nutritional gatekeeper. You control what you eat. The path to a diet of fresher, unprocessed food, not to mention to a revitalized local-food economy, passes straight through the home kitchen. Go to the local farm or the farmer’s market and buy the fresh-in-season veggies; I bet they taste better than the stuff at the store. And, I bet they taste a lot better than a box of Hamburger Helper.
I recently read an article in Cooking Light about chef, Jamie Oliver’s new reality show. Oliver believes that by teaching Americans new cooking skills, and getting them to share those skills with others, he can improve our national diet.
Watch the video of Jamie Oliver’s interview:
Oliver goes on to say that most of our nation’s health problems are largely due to huge amounts of soda, sugar, fat, deep-frying, and loads of additives. He feels that if you could at least half of the time buy or do yourself, something that was remotely scratch-based, you probably could fix 98 percent of the nutrition problems in America. If once, twice, or even three times a week people cooked, and sat around the table with their family, it would have a dramatic impact on the whole country. Kids would be happier and marriages would fail less. Creating an element of minimalism you have a much nicer environment all around. Maybe Oliver’s ideas are a bit over-simplified and a bit grandiose, but there’s truth to these statements. The more time we spend doing simple natural things, eating simple natural things with our families, the happier we are. When was the last time that you made a meal and sat at the dinner table with your whole family? Maybe even a meal that the whole family helped prepare? If it has been too long, try it- tonight or tomorrow. Don’t put it off too long.
Consider some recent research on the links between cooking and dietary health. A 2003 study by a group of Harvard economists led by David Cutler found that the rise of food preparation outside the home could explain most of the increase in obesity in America. Cutler and his colleagues also surveyed cooking patterns across several cultures and found that obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation. The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity.
Harry Balzer, a food marketing researcher, who has spent the better part of his career documenting the demise of cooking, while studying American eating habits since 1978, offered up a brilliant diet plan: “You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”
Mr. Pollan goes on to state that “with the rise of Julia Child as a figure of cultural consequence — along with Alice Waters, Mario Batali, Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse — has, paradoxically, coincided with the rise of fast food, home-meal replacements and the decline and fall of everyday home cooking. That decline has several causes: women working outside the home; food companies persuading Americans to let them do the cooking; and advances in technology that made it easier for them to do so. Cooking is no longer obligatory, and for many people, women especially, that has been a blessing. But, perhaps a mixed blessing, to judge by the culture’s continuing, if not deepening, fascination with the subject. It has been easier for us to give up cooking than it has been to give up talking about it — and watching it on TV.
“(Julia) Child was less interested in making it fast or easy than making it right, because cooking for her was so much more than a means to a meal. It was a gratifying, even ennobling sort of work, engaging both the mind and the muscles. You didn’t do it to please a husband or impress guests; you did it to please yourself.”
I have found it to be ennobling, gratifying, even a creative outlet. Cooking has always held a special place in my heart, and I do it with profound gratitude that I can carry on traditions of my grandmother. I can learn new techniques and use new foods as well. And, it seems to me that many people are trying to get back to their roots as far as food and cooking are concerned. Whole foods. Clean foods. Fewer processed foods. Farmer’s markets. All these things are seeing a rise, an increase in popularity, and a more important role in our day-to-day lives. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging- it swung too far to the processed and fast foods, and is now on its way to the more simple whole foods, and back to cooking.
So, it seems that we have a new underground passion, a new social activism, a culinary revolution, one that I whole-heartedly believe in. Eat fewer processed foods; support local farmers and food growers. Heck, even plant your own garden. Get in touch with where your food comes from. Then, cook that food yourself. Learn basic techniques for making tasty good food. Eat what you want. Cook it yourself.
I believe cooking will help us to feel better, healthier, and happier. After-all, who doesn’t love a good home cooked meal? And, as far as eating anything you want, yes, I agree with that as well. I make cinnamon rolls and cookies and cakes. But, I make them all from scratch. No, I don’t believe that opening a box of cake-mix is from scratch. Measure the flour, the sugar, and the butter. It doesn’t take that long. You know what will be in your food, and it just tastes better.
There is a film coming that may be of interest: Food Fight. Watch the trailer:
The film will be shown at the Newport Film Festival on April 28, 2010. In addition, Food, Inc. and Super Size Me have been around for a while, and many Americans have taken note of their powerful messages.
Cooking matters, to you, to your health, to your family, and your local economy. Enjoy your food.