Thursday, February 5, 2009

Of barley, beasts and the decline of the kitchen

I clicked onto a fascinating article today, about a show that I have never watched, which is apparently becoming a huge fad in America these days, no pun intended: The Biggest Loser.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/dining/04loser.html?em

At the bottom of the story, this alarming statement is shared:

"The decline of home cooking worldwide, is an underlying cause of obesity."

The article describes how these terribly obese people are weaned from bad habits and introduced to actual food that doesn't come salted in a vacuum packed bag. They learn about spices and fresh produce, and how to savor the flavors that Mother Nature has made, not some factory in New Jersey.

Americans by the millions, it is said, have begun to forget the basics of how to use their own kitchens. And apparently this is the case in other "developed" nations as well.

Well, I, too, eat fast food more than I should, thanks to my work schedule. Had a burger just last night. But being able to cook in my own kitchen, when I get the chance, is a treat for me, not a terror.

I can vouch for the fact that some of the ingredients I try to purchase for recipes, are nearly extinct or virtually unknown. I had the devil of a time trying to find barley a few years back. The grocery stocker had no idea what it was. Barley -- a basic grain eaten by human beings for 10,000 years! C'mon!

I spent a full year trying to track down cracked wheat for a bread recipe.

I'm not talking about beluga caviar or rafflesia fruit, for Pete's sake. I'm talking about grains - staples of the human diet, things any peasant worth his woolens, with a farthing in his grubby paw, could have hefted home from market in the old days and with which the goodwife in the cottage could have whipped up something tasty.

We were once a people who hunted our own game, built our own homes, boiled up our own soap, churned our own butter. We've left our roots behind. Some of that is not a bad thing -- if I had to hunt beasts in the forest to fill my belly, I wouldn't get much else done on behalf of society.

But we neglect our culinary skills at our own peril.

I just may start watching this show.

6 comments:

Chase March said...

I think we really need to get away from prepacked foods and back to the home cooking.

A few teachers at my school have started a cooking class as an after-school activity. They are teaching the kids how to make some basic dishes. I think this is great.

We need to get back to some of the old ways, even if it is not as convenient.

kat said...

Lover of Books and Lore----are you familiar with the FoxFire series of books... what began as a student project.... preserving the old ways of the north Georgia Mountains folk! Self-reliance, a treasure not to be lost.

FOXFIRE

FoxFire in wiki

Janice Thomson said...

I couldn't find barley either one time at a huge grocers. Thankfully they have started stocking it now as I use it in homemade soups a lot.
Prepackaged and fast foods have definitely taken over our society. With everyone in a rush to go here and there taking the time to cook fresh foods or something from scratch is almost a thing of the past. I eat very little prepared foods - there are so many dangerous preservatives in them as well as the fact it just doesn't taste the same.

Eastcoastdweller said...

Well, I made up for last night's heart attack in a sack with tonight's plan: baked yucca root (tastes much better than it sounds), homemade Spanish rice with a little chopped ham and a nice, fresh salad.

Chase: I agree. Someone once did a prison survey and found out the vast majority of inmates had no memories of sitting around the family table for dinner.

Kat: I have not heard of that series but it sounds delicious. I am currently reading a little British book about hedgehogs.

Janice: It seems some groceries are hearing the impassioned cries of the "foodies" and jazzing up their offerings a little. But the foodies need to make more converts or the trend won't last.

Thank you all for your comments, even though I have not been to visit very many of your blogs yet during this busy week.

citizen of the world said...

Is there a food coop or natural foods store near you? They often have those sorts of ingredients you mentioned. But I don't think cooking at home is the whole story - it all depends on what you cook at home.

Misfit in Paradise said...

If you have an Amish or Mennonite store anywhere nearby it is worth checking out. They always have those hard to find ingredients. We have one near us and people come by the busloads.
It's also the cheapest place to buy fresh spices.