The Modern Food and Cooking Culture

As the pace of daily life seems to increase with every year that flashes by and people find greater and greater demands are made on their bodies and their time, it is perhaps hardly surprising that a "microwave culture" has to some considerable extent evolved. This would perhaps be particularly evident among those who are single and live alone. Why should anyone wish to face the additional "pressures" of slaving over a hot stove in the evening when they just want to flop down in front of the TV or browse the Web on their phone or PC? Why should they go to the bother of shopping for a list of ingredients and preparing and cooking them when a trip to the supermarket once a week can simply be a matter of collecting seven cartons of frozen, fully prepared meals that can be ready in ten minutes and a "ping?" Actually, there are several reasons why you should home cook a majority of your meals from scratch - and equally, a number of ways to simplify the process...

Food and Health

Tuna and Vegetable Skewers
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Homemade tuna and vegetable skewers with corn fritters and dip

Food and Nutrition

As stress and all of its associated conditions becomes a bigger factor in so many of our lives, so our bodies as well as our minds require the necessary tools with which to combat it. We require vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc, many of which are simply not found in great enough quantities - if indeed at all - in the "junk foods" with which so many in the Western world have become obsessed. We require the nutrients found only in the freshest of ingredients, properly prepared and consumed. Similarly, we read in newspapers or see on TV stories about the cancers, heart disease, strokes and other serious medical conditions which are frequently being blamed on our diets and this is simply due to the way we as citizens of allegedly developed nations are eating and choosing to eat. It is very much in our own hands to change this situation, potentially improving our health in many ways as we do so.

Cooking as an Art Form

Grilled Ostrich Steaks
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Grilled ost5rich steak with figs and goat's cheese

Cooking is all about preparing that which our bodies need to survive: food. Art is a form of self-expression, allowing our inner selves the opportunity to roam free. Why shouldn't the two be combined? They make excellent bedfellows. We all have to eat and we all have our own favorite types of food. Perhaps you may list chicken, garlic and mushrooms as your own personal preferences? So why not sit down and think of how you can prepare a succulent and nourishing dish using chiefly your own personal favorite ingredients, expressing your inner desires and natural creativity? You will find it relaxing, therapeutic and very possibly an excellent way to unwind at the end of the working day. Take what you like in base form, prepare it how you like food to be prepared - and voila! It really can be that simple to enjoy your food more, find a whole new hobby and form of entertainment and go some way to improving your overall health.

Where to Find Recipe Ideas

Grilled Back Bacon Steak
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Grilled back bacon steak with roast potatoes and asparagus

Recipes published in books, magazines, or indeed increasingly online, can - with very few exceptions - be considered guidelines open to individual interpretation as opposed to a list of hard and fast rules. There are of course certain types of pastry, for example, where the balance and content of the ingredients is critical, but it is unlikely that the type of meal referred to in this article will include preparations falling in to this category. If you are following a recipe which calls for the use of basil, which you don't happen to like, try using flat-leafed parsley. If you think a dish would be a little too spicy for you but you otherwise like the look and sound of it, just reduce the quantity of the chili or other hot ingredients. If you don't like carrots and find them in a beef stew recipe, simply miss them out. The only major potential stumbling block here is that you must be very careful when replacing principal ingredients such as chicken with perhaps pork as this could, and most probably would, affect the length of the cooking time required.

Food Shopping Tips

If you have to do the bulk of your shopping in your local supermarket after working hours, it is a good idea to go some day/night when you have a little more time and browse the entire store as opposed to simply heading direct to the frozen food aisle. Look at the butcher's counter, the fishmonger's counter, the fresh fruit and vegetable section and get to know what is and what is not readily available to you. When you know what you have easy access to, you can continue planning your healthy, balanced meals with fervor and lip-licking anticipation.

What Next with Convenience Foods?

It is not just single people of course who are falling in to the convenience foods trap. Entire families are eating these foods almost as a matter of course and more and more often neglecting the home cooked option. As food manufacturers find new ways to package and present these processed meals, ostensibly making them all the more appealing and convenient, the problem is likely only to be exacerbated in the future where individuals do not make a firm, concerted effort to cook proper nourishing meals from scratch at home. If many traditional home cooking skills are not eventually to be lost in the mists of time and serious potential health issues for a generation are to be largely avoided, it is time for everyone to examine their own eating habits and those of their family and make potentially drastic lifestyle changes as and where required.