12 votes

The insistence on home-cooked family meals doing more damage than good, says sociologist.

15 comments

  1. [3]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    This discussion seems to be conflating two separate issues: It's good for families to sit down together at meal times. It's hard to make home-cooked meals. It's possible to order a home-delivered...

    This discussion seems to be conflating two separate issues:

    • It's good for families to sit down together at meal times.

    • It's hard to make home-cooked meals.

    It's possible to order a home-delivered pizza and still have a sit-down family meal. It doesn't have to be a home-cooked three-course meal in order to qualify as quality family time.

    Yes, there are issues of labour division, and employment, and earnings, and gender equality, all tied up in the idea of cooking for the family. But those are separate issues to the family sitting down around the dinner table and sharing quality time while eating.

    Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We don't have to tell families that family meals don't count, just because cooking is hard. Eating family meals certainly does count - it's the cooking that doesn't count.

    21 votes
    1. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      The discussion also seems to be putting the focus on the home-life and totally ignoring any investigation into why all these other commitments exist that make it difficult for families to...

      The discussion also seems to be putting the focus on the home-life and totally ignoring any investigation into why all these other commitments exist that make it difficult for families to accomplish something as basic as throwing a meal together.

      Like, maybe we should be willing to say a society that puts pressure on us to do certain things while also making it logistically challenging to do those things is badly set up and needs to rework it's priorities? I'm going to assume a large proportion (possibly even a majority) of people would prefer to cook at home and have family meals, but the rest of the cognitive demands being placed on them makes it hard for them to do so. We should go interrogate the dominance of the stuff people don't like doing that's getting in the way of the things they actually enjoy. Not the other way around.

      9 votes
    2. Catt
      Link Parent
      You put it much better than I did. Eating together is still worth the effort. Having cereal together before heading out is nice, no need for someone to get up at 5 AM to make waffles, three kinds...

      You put it much better than I did. Eating together is still worth the effort. Having cereal together before heading out is nice, no need for someone to get up at 5 AM to make waffles, three kinds of eggs and the works.

      5 votes
  2. [12]
    Catt
    Link
    Though I believe it's important to not over-emphasize the Sunday dinners that we all see in commercials, I honestly think having a meal together, that's relatively healthy is achievable for most...

    Though I believe it's important to not over-emphasize the Sunday dinners that we all see in commercials, I honestly think having a meal together, that's relatively healthy is achievable for most families. It might not be every meal, every day, but definitely doable.

    Having mentioned that, there does seem to be an instagram-able meal that people feel they have to strive for. I think like a lot of things in today's online world - just gotta stop comparing yourself to what's on social media.

    4 votes
    1. [11]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      A lot of people who don't cook much have this habit of instantly going for ambitious meals with highly specific ingredients when they decide to start cooking and it burns them out. My old roommate...

      A lot of people who don't cook much have this habit of instantly going for ambitious meals with highly specific ingredients when they decide to start cooking and it burns them out. My old roommate decided to start cooking one day and decided to make her favorite dish, pad Thai. I suggested maybe start with a more basic veggies, a protein, and starch combo that's fast, easy to do, and uses really general ingredients that can apply to a lot of dishes. She could then expand her repertoire when she got some basic staples down.

      But it's way more exciting to learn to make a pad thai from (sort of) scratch than to boil some premade pasta and meatballs with some garlic and spinach on the side. Meal kit services like Blue Apron feed into this too by starting with elaborate, single-serving restaurant style meals rather than a more realistic process of family meal-times. I usually just make a big pot of curry or korma and portion it out for the week. It's much less work than making a main and 2 sides for two people each meal. You gotta get the efficiencies of scale going. When I was growing up my mother would basically cook 2 or 3 times a week, but usually made enough to last 4 or 5 days each time. The result was we generally had a rotating stock of 2 leftover dishes and a fresh dish available each night.

      11 votes
      1. papasquat
        Link Parent
        I love to cook, and you kinda nailed it here. I always made elaborate, fancy dishes of the kind of food I like to eat in restaurants. The problem is that it took me an hour to go to the store and...

        I love to cook, and you kinda nailed it here. I always made elaborate, fancy dishes of the kind of food I like to eat in restaurants. The problem is that it took me an hour to go to the store and get the ingredients, an hour or two of prep, and another hour to cook. By the time I got off work and accomplished all of that, it was 9:30 or 10 at night by the time we finished dinner each night, and that was my entire evening, off to bed right afterwards, which really burned me out on the whole thing.
        I'm just now in my 30s learning to scale back, make simpler, easier, cheaper, quicker meals, and be ok with the fact that not every meal has to taste like I went to a five star restaurant to get it.

        7 votes
      2. [9]
        Catt
        Link Parent
        And I find the ambition isn't just in choosing a dish, but the quantity. If you don't cook often it's easy to overestimate how far ingredients go, or how long it may take to prep something. It...

        And I find the ambition isn't just in choosing a dish, but the quantity. If you don't cook often it's easy to overestimate how far ingredients go, or how long it may take to prep something. It took me a bit to learn to be efficient in the kitchen.

        I have mixed thoughts on those meal boxes though, mostly because they are so expensive and generate so much waste. I have seen people who have never cooked start because it's now more manageable. It also helps with teaching people what to look for when they are at the market.

        4 votes
        1. [8]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          From the meal kits I have put together, I would disagree with you. Because they are one-time meals, you don't really get the repetition and practice that makes you learn those important skills....

          From the meal kits I have put together, I would disagree with you. Because they are one-time meals, you don't really get the repetition and practice that makes you learn those important skills. Some food kits have a portion of the prep done for you, leaving more skills out of reach.

          On the other hand I hadn't considered the waste of buying extra food when you want to make a special "restaurant style" meal, so I guess they aren't completely terrible. But then you have all of that packaging waste....

          Personally speaking I think a home economics class with an emphasis on cooking should be manditory for all children.

          3 votes
          1. [7]
            Catt
            Link Parent
            I think it definitely depends on the person. I personally don't use the boxes because I can't get over the amount of packaging it comes with. However, I have made a few of the recipes with friends...

            I think it definitely depends on the person. I personally don't use the boxes because I can't get over the amount of packaging it comes with. However, I have made a few of the recipes with friends who've save them from another night. But, we are a group that already cooks quite a bit, so I can see how you're probably right in the general sense.

            Funny, I grew up with a home ec requirement in school and I found it pretty useless. It was mostly food safety, cooking a three course meal and calculating it's caloric value (and cost per serving). As I'm typing this, it definitely sounds like it should have been more useful than it was.

            1 vote
            1. [6]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              My home ec classes were really useful, though I haven't kept up most of the skills. There were the basics of cooking, but it was focused on nutritionally balanced meals, how to maintain your food...

              My home ec classes were really useful, though I haven't kept up most of the skills. There were the basics of cooking, but it was focused on nutritionally balanced meals, how to maintain your food (e.g. leaving fruit in bags will make them spoil faster), the trade offs between fresh and frozen produce, how to identify if food has spoiled, along with some bits on household maintenance like unclogging drains, whether to leave your thermostat on when you leave the house, etc.

              And that was just the kitchen bits. We also practiced replacing buttons, sewing, darning socks, etc. In theory most of this could be learned at home, but at the time my family didn't have the money to afford sewing machines and stuff to practice with. And besides that, we had just immigrated here and my parents didn't fully understand how those things worked here. In India people typically had servants handling a ton of these things instead of technology.

              My school had just started de-gendering home ec and shop classes too, so they had some stuff for guys in there. This included how to tie a tie, different types of knots to tie your shoes, how people should conduct themselves on a date (which was a great idea in theory but in practice was bogged down in 1950s expectations and puritanism that kept them from getting into issues of sexual health and consent), and so on.

              All in all, I found the home ec classes to be a lot more helpful in "real world" application than shop classes. I'm glad I can use power tools and all, but in real life all I ever do that even proximate to shop class is drill holes in my wall to hang up shelves. Big whoop.

              3 votes
              1. [5]
                Catt
                Link Parent
                Haha, I actually found shop more useful in a lot of ways. It gave me the ability to know what tools I needed to diagnose and repair or replace things. I think one of the reasons home ec wasn't...

                Haha, I actually found shop more useful in a lot of ways. It gave me the ability to know what tools I needed to diagnose and repair or replace things.

                I think one of the reasons home ec wasn't that useful for me was that what was taught in school was so different from what I observed at home. We didn't have three different cutting boards, or specialized knives/pots/pans, or baked much. There was a pretty big emphasis on following the recipe, which I understand why, but a lot of Chinese dishes just weren't like that.

                Sewing was useful. Can't believe how many people I met in university that were ready to toss shirts because it lost a button.

                1 vote
                1. [4]
                  NaraVara
                  Link Parent
                  I think part of the problem with shop, for me, was that they spent so much time on book learning that we hardly ever got to use any of the power tools. And it makes sense. Middle school and early...

                  Haha, I actually found shop more useful in a lot of ways. It gave me the ability to know what tools I needed to diagnose and repair or replace things.

                  I think part of the problem with shop, for me, was that they spent so much time on book learning that we hardly ever got to use any of the power tools.

                  And it makes sense. Middle school and early high school aged boys stuck at their desks all day are just going to have too much energy and disregard for safety to be trusted with a band saw unsupervised. But it also made the whole thing feel kind of pointless.

                  2 votes
                  1. [3]
                    Akir
                    Link Parent
                    It's kind of odd; I grew up in one of the worst school districts in the nation, but listening to you guys talk, my home ec and shop classes seem top-notch! My home ec class was basically what you...

                    It's kind of odd; I grew up in one of the worst school districts in the nation, but listening to you guys talk, my home ec and shop classes seem top-notch! My home ec class was basically what you were describing, with the main difference being how everything was framed around saving money. The biggest problem I had with it was that it didn't focus enough on cooking; I think we only prepared three or four dishes in total.

                    Shop, on the other hand, I really loved even though I hated the way it was taught at the time. The first third of the class focused almost entirely on bookwork to get us to understand safety and basics. The second third had the instructor demonstrate how to safely use most of the power tools, and the final third had us actually working on a personal project. Everyone else decided to do small things like picture frames and the like, but I designed and built my own bedside table. To date it is the best piece of furniture I have ever purchased for $20. :P

                    Honestly, I would really like to build more things out of wood today, but having my own shop is a very far-off dream at this point.

                    1 vote
                    1. [2]
                      NaraVara
                      Link Parent
                      There used to be a tool share around here which was a giant workshop where you could rent time on a bunch of different equipment. I think at some point the liability just got too high and they...

                      Honestly, I would really like to build more things out of wood today, but having my own shop is a very far-off dream at this point.

                      There used to be a tool share around here which was a giant workshop where you could rent time on a bunch of different equipment. I think at some point the liability just got too high and they sold it all off. Now they just have a bunch of 3D printers, which is fun enough but way less practical. It's extremely disappointing. I'd love it if this was a thing that could take off, but I suspect unless you can start offering certifications or licensing to use power tools it ain't ever gonna fly. And if you're doing that most people who'd be interested will just buy their own.

                      1 vote
                      1. Akir
                        Link Parent
                        The closest thing I could find were "hackerspaces" which aren't typically very focused on woodworking and tend to be very expensive or exclusive. They are also very far from where I live.

                        The closest thing I could find were "hackerspaces" which aren't typically very focused on woodworking and tend to be very expensive or exclusive. They are also very far from where I live.

                        1 vote