Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Why don't people cook their own food?

I was middle aged before my time.  Radio 4 is a favourite of mine and I often download podcasts for when I'm taking my son for a walk.  I was listening to few earlier today about how people on lower incomes don't eat well despite all the information available and about children being educated on how to cook.

I don't know what the answer is.  It frustrates me slightly but then I also understand that it's not as simple as anyone thinks.  I don't believe that free healthy start vouchers help.  I don't believe that doing "change 4 life" tv advertisements help.  I don't know how to sort it but here is my assessment of the cause if you will excuse me using my uneducated opinion.

I believe that people are too busy.  Particularly women are too busy.  Wealthier women can afford to work part time or not at all.  It is hard sometimes to produce good food and generally the cheaper cuts of meat take longer to cook (all fine if you have a slow cooker of course).  That comes to the next problem.  I know I'm rare for my age group at knowing and being interested in how to cook and see cooking as more than tv entertainment.  The reason I know how to cook is I watched my mother cooking as a child and that gave me the confidence to go on and learn and experiment myself.  I'm not delusional, I'm no chef but I like to think I'm competent.  I don't think cooking has to be the preserve of women; in fact I'd prefer it wasn't but the fact is women can no longer afford (in general) to be stay at home mums and, in fact, neither could many of our mothers.  In that time as women were re-entering full time work in the 80's, a gradual increase in convenience foods turned into an explosion.  In the era of women "having it all" it generally meant they "did it all" ie the housework, the cooking, a full time job and looking after the kids.  Something has to give.  Now I agree with the view that there is no bad food (well maybe a few exceptions) but there are bad diets.  Something convenient once in a while is fine but every night using preprepared pizzas, ready meals, sauces...  It's not good for you in my view.

So we have a generation who, for the most part were not able to be taught how to cook by their mothers (or fathers).  We have a generation of men who, in general saw their mothers doing all of the housework and cooking despite holding down a full time job so they don't see why they should cook either.  We have a generation of women with no free time.  None.  I honestly don't know how women with more than one child cope, you're all bloody marvellous.

Better off women are struggling just as much but often have the luxury of working part time so are able to have time to prepare a little of their own food but where does that leave a woman on minimum wage?  Let's call her Leah.  Leah works full time for little money and has little time.  Rarely has any time for herself if ever.  Perhaps if she had a little knowledge it could be made easier but whenever I think about this, I start to feel I'm being patronising and that I have no idea what a hard life Leah has.  Perhaps we need to make life easier for Leah before she will have the motivation or interest to think food and nutrition are more important than making sure her life and kids are safe, solvent and ok.  Who can blame her?

Yet it's poor eating and drinking habits which causes many preventable diseases and contributes to shorter life spans in poorer households.

I have no idea how the situation is resolved but I don't think it's by focussing on food.  I think it's too simplistic.  Part of the problem is sexism, part of it is income and by putting on adverts saying "eat more fruit and veg" neither of those issues are addressed.

Sorry, got all political.  I'll get back to some recipes with the next post...

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