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Julie Kelly's Blog

During dinner with one of my dearest friends a few weeks ago, she told me about a recent stint at her daughter’s grade school cafeteria. She glanced into a large garbage can after the kids disposed their lunch left-overs and spotted a sandwich. Not a half-eaten sandwich – a perfectly composed, handmade sandwich still in the baggie. “You could see the lunchmeat, the lettuce, everything,” she said, understandably appalled.

Not one to stay silent (we met while working in politics over 20 years ago), she reached into the cafeteria wasteland and retrieved the discarded sandwich. “Who threw this away?” she demanded. “This is love!”

The week before Valentine’s Day seems like an appropriate time to launch my blog because I do believe that home cooking is an expression of love. Whether it’s packing a homemade sandwich, preparing a Thanksgiving feast or making a quick weeknight family dinner, cooking any meal at home is a sign of love and affection.

Now I won’t over-romanticize cooking....the planning, the shopping, the execution, the clean-up. Sometimes – despite our best efforts – the meal is met with skepticism, ingratitude or a request for a bowl of cereal. Family dinner can leave us with the “wedding” effect: I did all that work and it’s over in ten minutes? And no one will even help clean the kitchen?

This is enough to make us throw in the kitchen towel. I get it… I’ve been there many, many times. A few weeks ago, I informed my oldest daughter she could cook her own dinner for the rest of the week after a particularly rude (the teenage girl eyeroll-pout-whine-outburst) reception to the meal I had prepared for her. Her go-to dinner of buttered noodles got old, fast.

We all know the many health benefits of home cooking from fewer calories consumed to better nutritional value. Cooking at home is more economical. So why are fewer and fewer people cooking at home?

A 2013 study published in the Nutrition Journal measured the alarming decrease in the amount of time women spend cooking at home. Between 1965 and 2008, the amount of time women cook each day dropped from 113 minutes in 1965 to just 66 minutes in 2008. This includes all cooking – breakfast, lunch and dinner – for a decrease of 48 minutes per day. You can prepare a very respectable dinner (or two) in that amount of time.

At the same time, obesity rates are at an all-time high. Children are fatter and unhealthier than at any other time in our history. The drop in home-cooking is only one contributing factor…but enticing people back to the kitchen might help stem the foreseeable rise in this troubling trend.

Sadly, the culinary world is also of no help at this point. Rather than help educate people – particularly busy moms – about how to plan for and prepare dinner a few times a week, they are in lecture mode. The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed I wrote last year about this very subject. People don’t need political sermons about food stamps or GMOs; they need tutorials in basic culinary skills to address the fear and inexperience most people face in the kitchen. - Wall Street Journal Article

This blog will offer cooking instruction, meal planning advice and step-by-step recipes to encourage you to cook at home. I will focus on basic techniques that are omitted in most recipes. I hope it will serve as a guide to promote more home cooking, even if it’s just a few times a week.

I’m open to suggestions so if there is a skill, technique or recipe you’d like to try, please email me at nowurcooking@att.net. I’ll do my best to fulfill any requests.

Another friend lamented a few months ago that “home cooking is becoming a lost art.” Hopefully, in very small steps, we can restore this endangered – but necessary - art.

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"Julie, I really enjoyed your class and took way more away than I ever thought I would. I never in a million years thought a cooking class would make me excited to try new things!! So my hat's off to you. You are a great teacher and the recipes are so good!" 

 

Susie C., Orland Park