Evidently it has become a problem that so few people like to cook, about 10% of us according to one survey. Wait! What about all those cooking shows on television? Is that just wishful thinking, like someone saying, “Someday I’d like to write a book.”?
I prepare food every single day. I have my fast-food options: scrambled eggs, salad, tuna or sardines, apples and peanut butter. I don’t bother with too many fancy recipes. A lot of meals are simply a steamer filled with what’s available at the time, including potatoes, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, whatever is in season. Put it on the table with butter, seasonings, and cheese or beans and you have a meal.
We aren’t vegetarians. I make a pot of beef soup some weeks. Other weeks I make a beef and pork meatloaf. A whole chicken lasts a week—fried leg quarters and wings one evening, chicken breasts and vegetables another. I boil the carcass, removing any meat left on the bones, and make soup. The dog gets gristle, fat, and anything that’s left except the bones.
In my freezer are locally sourced chickens, whole-hog sausage, ground beef from grass-fed cows, and ground lamb. I raise chickens for meat and eggs, and what I don’t grow in my garden I pick up at the farmers’ market, from gardening friends, and from Oklahoma Food Coop. That includes my Oklahoma peanut butter, Oklahoma lard, and yogurt from grass-fed cows.
What do I buy at the grocery store? Sardines and tuna, frozen salmon, almonds, avocados, and coffee. Oranges in their season. Jar rims and lids. Apple cider vinegar, although I have made my own. Chocolate. And some cheese, although much of that also comes from Oklahoma producers.
When foods are available, I can, freeze, and dehydrate. In August, my pantry is filling, but I need a lot more green beans, more jars of tomatoes and tomato sauce, and apples. If they’re available along the roadside when Dale returns from his art shows in Colorado, I’d like another bushel of peaches.
What I thought of, when I heard the piece on NPR bemoaning the loss of cooking skills, was this: what’s missing are time and education. If you work all day away from home, how do you make time to preserve food? Without training, how sure can you be that your home-canned foods are safe? We need to address these issues. People need to know how to grow and preserve. As climate change progresses, this education may be what saves us.
Yes, I’m often worn to a nubbin, as my mother would say, during canning season. But in the winter, when I serve a meal from my freezer or my pantry, I’m grateful that I know how to feed my family. And I’m proud that I’m passing this education on. The ability to grow and preserve may be more in need in the coming century than even tech skills. The only thing more important, if things continue to go downhill, may be the ability to find water and dig a well.