Two recent articles galvanized our thoughts on the issue of home-cooking. Is it worthwhile? Financially? Socially? Healthfully? Our facebook fans had some thoughtful things to say on this subject.
Joel Salatin has been a great voice for sustainable agriculture, but I think some of his recent public “responses,” including the one he wrote directed at this article, are only hurting and not helping. Rather than condemning this article as “stratospheric whining,” as Salatin did in his response, we should be fostering dialogue and asking each other what we can do about these problems. What can we do about the following:
1. FACT: Many low-income families don’t have access to a proper kitchen? Perhaps churches and community centers can offer free use of shared kitchens to low-income families.
2. FACT: Many people no longer have basic cooking skills? Perhaps local food/ag non-profits could be working on offering free or very low-cost basic cooking classes.
3. FACT: Childrens’ palates are underdeveloped and many times all they know how to eat are chicken nuggets and processed foods? Perhaps we can focus more on changing school lunches and constructing more school gardens so they can learn directly about growing and eating fresh foods.
4. FACT: Many working moms and dads don’t have the time and energy to come home and cook? Perhaps we could campaign for increased minimum wage, more paid time off, shorter work weeks, and other long-term changes that will fundamentally impact our whole society for the better.
I think the whining here is really coming from Salatin, who can’t seem to fathom a world where people want to feel better, be healthier, and eat fresh foods (and even foods from local farms!) but lack the time, education, resources, and support that they need to do it. If we don’t work on shifting this paradigm, then the local food movement isn’t going to progress very much. And those of us who are extremely privileged to have the time and money to cook fresh foods at home need to get off our high horses and start giving a hand to the people who aren’t that privileged instead of looking down on them.”
My first apartment barely had a kitchen. You could have given me all the time and money in the world and I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of cooking a meal for a second. It has taken me almost 15 years to make it this far. In today’s society of instant gratification that probably seems an eternity. The point is, I came to realize I had to take responsibility for my family’s well being, and have dedicated my life to making that happen. With the advent of the internet I have found a wealth of free knowledge at my finger tips on how to accomplish my goals, and I share that knowledge through social media. Instead of fostering more dependence on government handouts and failing economic policies, we need to foster a sense of empowerment and self respect. We need to be the beacon that lights the way through our individual actions. We need to share what we have learned with those who are willing to learn. The answer to food freedom will not come from bureaucrats, but communities working together.”
Meredith Mizell again “The will to change must come from the individual. But the question is, what forces in their lives (societal, economic, local, nationwide, etc.) will offer the time, the space, the education, and the support to make those healthy changes and relearn what were once common skills? To those of us who are in the know when it comes to home cooking and local foods and farms, it seems patently obvious that this is the only way to go, and that it is far more desirable than processed convenience foods and industrial agriculture. But we do live in a bit of a bubble world–once you’ve seen the light, it’s easy to be blinded to the physical (access to fresh foods, access to kitchen space and tools, access to cooking education) and ideological (why fresh foods are healthier and should be prioritized over processed foods, why it’s important to cook, etc.) barriers most people are still working with. Can you still recall how you felt when you were just starting out on this path? I remember how I felt: overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, and discouraged. It was hard to know where to start. Fortunately, I was single with disposable income and a high-speed internet connection so I was able to figure it out. But how do we help other people on their own journeys, especially the people without those resources (and yes, privileges)? How can we support them while they make these discoveries about healthy food and cooking it themselves? Meanwhile, what kind of policies can we change to make things easier? Just like the governmental deck is stacked against sustainable ag in favor of industrial ag, it’s also stacked against the individual in favor of the corporation (or rather, the almighty dollar). The solution isn’t black and white–it’s not either grassroots effort or government intervention and no in between. The solution will need to be multifarious, composed of both public and private sector activities. Because the issue at hand just isn’t as simple as people cooking at home versus going through the drive-thru–this reaches all the way to the core of modern American society.”
What a rich discussion and a wealth of knowledge from the social media sphere. Worth contemplating.
Lee Warren has been homesteading and farming in cooperative community for more than 20 years. She is the Executive Director of Organic Growers School, which has been offering organic education to Southern Appalachia since 1993. She is the co-founder of Village Terraces CoHousing Community, a collaborative, off-grid neighborhood at Earthaven Ecovillage, and the manager of Imani Farm, a pasture-based cooperative farm. Lee is also an herbalist, writer, teacher, and food activist, with an avid interest in rural wisdom, sustainable economics, and social justice issues.