I’m always amazed when I talk to someone who tells me that they don’t cook. Granted, very few people have gone to culinary school and recieved classic training to all parts of Gastronomy, but still, what do you mean you don’t cook? This conversation came up the other day at work and it has stuck in my head. Adaliz is a new housekeeper at Villa Rio Vista (the assisted living home I work at.) She is one of my favorite people, because she always has a smile, always takes the effort to talk to me, and a couple of times when she was done with her work early, helped me finish setting the dining room…she gets a solid A in my book. She is a small Puerto Rican mother of four in her early 30’s with a tough Miami attitude. She came into the kitchen to warm up her lunch in the microwave, saw me prepping chickens and made the statement, “This is the most cooking I ever do!” and laughed. I didn’t think I heard her correctly, so I said, “Huh?” “Yeah, I’m serious! I can’t cook at all, so I only buy these box dinners and heat them up for myself and the kids. This and Lunchables every day.” She said it like she was proud of the fact that the most she could do for lunch was add water and microwave. After she left to eat her boxed fetticine alfredo, I kept thinking about the fact that all she and her family ate was various types of heavily processed, ready to eat food. A hundred years ago, no one on earth would have said that they didn’t cook…if you didn’t cook, you didn’t eat and you didn’t live. But nowadays, it is so easy (and cheap) to get food quickly…all you have to do is drive to your local grocery store and grab something in the frozen food aisle. Even easier, you can go through the drive through at any fast food restaurant where the most effort it takes to get food is to roll down your car window. I can understand why sometimes it is neccasary to get food on the go, but at what point do the consequences outweigh the convienance?
I watched the movie “Food Inc.” the other day and it made me think a lot about the reasons we eat what we do, and how much we abuse our food without even thinking about it. From previous posts, you know I have always been interested in all aspects of the food industry, including the process from cow to hamburger. I know that boneless skinless chicken breasts come from a real chicken who was killed… they don’t magically appear at the grocery store wrapped in plastic. But I know a lot of people who take for granted the fact that they can just walk into any store and have oodles of selections for dinner without a second thought about the life that was taken and all the work to provide that meal. Many people switch to being vegetarians when they finally realize that meat actually does come from an animal. Seems like common sense, but really, when did you last think about the piglet that became your baby back ribs, or the fawn that grew to be your venison, or even the veal that was once a small calf with big brown eyes? This may gross you out, but I think it is important to acknowledge and respect the life that is taken for our nourishment, and to treat it properly before it hits our dinner plates.
Since doing research into what is actually in the majority of food at the supermarket, I’ve been making it a goal to buy locally and organically as much as possible. Not only is it healthier (hello…less pesticides, no antibiotics laced in the meat) but usually it is less expensive to buy produce that is grown locally and in season. (Why would you want tomatoes that were imported from a foreign country when you can have delicious heirloom tomatoes from your farmers market, or even better, your own garden?) By buying locally, you are also helping to support the little guy, the farmer who loves his job and treats it with the respect it deserves. After all, what we eat feeds our bodies and our lives…eating healthy, good, natural food gives us energy, nutrients, and vitamins. It also regulates our mood, helps us prevent and fight diseases, and enables us to live our lives the way we should. It’s not possible to eat perfectly all the time, but just making small changes will create a big difference in the long run. We all should expect more of ourselves to really know what we are eating and take responsibility for our own family’s health…not let convienance and ease make the decision for us.