Cooking in Decline

We need to eat but do we need to cook? An increasing number of people are finding it unnecessary. A third of Americans don’t know how to cook according to one study: a third of university students in the UK can’t cook and many don’t even own a saucepan according to another. And the situation in Australia appears similar. The results of such studies can be difficult to interpret. They depend for example on how you define cooking. Is preparing two minute noodles cooking? Is making toast? And of course some people may have their own reasons for claiming to be unable to cook. Most of us though know at least one or two people who almost never cook; and the rest of us are cooking less and less often.

Cooking Alternatives

There are so many options now; microwave dinners, takeaway food, home delivered meals, restaurants and cafes. Without turning on the oven or stirring a pot you can enjoy comfort food at affordable prices, exotic dishes from around the world or an unforgettable gourmet experience. If you want to entertain friends or have a party in your own home, caterers Melbourne based can provide a wide variety of foods, from fine dining to barbeques or finger food. Dining now can be as casual or as formal as you want with almost no effort.
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We have so many demands on our time now; so many things we can do. We have to choose, and for many of us cooking isn’t our highest priority. In Australia we already spend about a third of our household budget on convenience foods; takeaway foods and microwave dinners. Even when we do cook, we take short cuts; often just combining a couple of ready prepared ingredients and heating them. But we all enjoy eating well. We have high expectations that go far beyond the meat and two veg of years past. We know what is healthy, although we don’t always restrict ourselves to that. We enjoy new dishes, new cuisines, or meals that would take us more time to prepare than we have available.

Art not Necessity

Even those who are passionate about food and love cooking often don’t have the time or desire to prepare gourmet meals on a daily basis. Cooking has become now more an art form, like painting; created by experts, to be appreciated and enjoyed, but not necessarily emulated. After all, not everyone can paint a masterpiece, although there are those that can produce a reasonable facsimile. Others can paint by numbers or follow a recipe. And there are those that can’t even boil an egg without burning it. Regardless of our individual skills however each of us is now able to enjoy the pleasure a good meal provides.

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Cook or Participate

And a great part of that pleasure usually lies in sharing the meal, with family and friends. It is the time we bond and enjoy the interaction and companionship of others. The problem has always been that cooking means at least one person is intermittently engaged in and constantly distracted by ongoing preparations, dishing up and serving; and therefore unable to fully participate in the gathering. This is particularly so when there are a large number of guests and a special meal is involved. Having a meal catered for allows the central players, the hosts, to take centre stage, delegating the backstage work to others.

The Cost of Cooking

It is often argued that it is cheaper to cook than to buy prepared food and this may still be true in the case of a large family. But for a single person or a couple there are not the same economies of scale. Often more food needs to be bought than can be used for a single meal and there will be waste: bunches of herbs with only a few sprigs used, vegetables that moulder in the back of the fridge. One solution is of course to cook a large amount and freeze it for later, another form of convenience food, but of limited variety. And most calculations don’t take into account the gas or electricity used. Then there are all the kitchen appliances, utensils, pots and pans etc. If these are all added in, the costs of cooking a meal may easily exceed the cost of buying a prepared one.

Not so long ago people used to sew their own clothes, grow their own fruit and vegetables, make their own jams, pickles and sauces. Now it is so much easier to just buy them. Some people will always like to cook at least occasionally, but more and more people will find they don’t need to cook to enjoy good food.

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