I’d posted a survey in my LJ about cooking and cooking habits. It’s probably pretty skewed, as anyone who reads my stuff is going to be interested in cooking. They’d soon stop reading out of boredom, otherwise, as household management and cooking is a definite interest of mine. (We all have to eat and live somewhere. How about systems to streamline things so you’re comfortable?)
It got me to thinking. When we go to the beach, we stay in a couple of condo units that are basically a large two-bedroom apartment, complete with a reasonably decent basic kitchen. When we go, we cook in rather than eat out. With 6-12 people together, restaurants are far, far too expensive to be practical for a week’s stay!
This year, my mother did all of the cooking, but one meal my brother made. *wince* I had a project due when I got back, but you know, I really should have made at least one or two dinners. (Don’t let me get out of cooking a couple of meals next year, Mom).
Here’s the thing — I learned about prepping ahead from Mom. Since she was doing the cooking, this means that meals were often put on to cook slowly in the oven, or simmer slowly on the stove while we enjoyed an afternoon at the beach. Come five or six in the evening, we’d come up to the unit and there would be a heavenly smell wafting through the corridors. It brought comment from many of the other people who weren’t making dinner. They would be going out, or calling in for pizza or some such.
I used to wonder why in the world this place didn’t have a crock pot as standard equipment (I’d be lost without mine!) when I realized that 80% of the people there wouldn’t use them.
Honestly? I’d always chalked it up to people not wanting to cook on vacation, rather than a daily habit in their regular lives. When I was growing up, one cooked dinner most nights. Mom worked a couple of evenings a week for a little while. I was old enough (12 or almost 13 when she started), so I cooked. This was a family tradition. When she was a teenager and her mother worked full time, Mom was expected to get her brother and sisters together to make sure dinner was on the table when Nanny got home1. Cooking dinner was what one did. Working mom or not, somebody was cookin’ dinner.
But I have a question: If you don’t cook, how in hell do you afford to feed your family? I am hardly going to claim to be the world’s most frugal kitchen manager, mind you. My family of three spends about four hundred dollars a month on groceries, so you can’t say I’m exactly cookin’ cheap. (Those fresh veggies in the bento do add up!) I don’t shop at dented can stores, I don’t clip coupons (it’s usually for pre-processed stuff I don’t use, anyway). The only really frugal things I do are to look for cheap cuts of meat, eschew canned beans in favor of dry and cook from scratch for the most part.
I saw an advertisement in the grocery store bragging: Meal for Four for Under $15! as if this were some sort of wonderful thing. I started ranting at my shopping partner (I think it was my son that time), “Well, I would bloody well hope so! Good God, what are people serving?”
Wondering if this was a knee-jerk response from sitting on my high horse, I got out my price book when I got home, and figured the price per serving for some of my usual recipes. Understand that this reflects the fact that I don’t pay more than $2.50/lb for meat. I do watch sales. I don’t buy organic food hand-raised by virgin elves under the full moon, either, okay? Making dinner for four usually costs me between $5.00 and $8.00. How can you afford to spend much more on that? My household isn’t poor, but we’re hardly wealthy, either. How can you afford to spend fifteen bucks (or more, apparently) on a typical weeknight dinner?
If I didn’t cook from scratch, there’d be no way I could pull that off.
1Stories about her explosive reaction if dinner were not ready when Nanny got home are now stuff of family legend.