Kitchen arts—cooking, food preservation, kitchen gardens and homesteading—have become extinct in the last 75 years. Too many Americans don’t know how to cook (or really how to eat.) Given the obesity epidemic, reviving cooking at home and all kitchen arts has become my personal public health crusade. The message is simple: If you want to enjoy life-long health, you must eat a whole-food, plant-based diet. This diet cannot be found in a package. You must cook it from scratch. If you are extremely lucky, you can hire someone to cook it for you. Oprah falls into this category. If you are relatively lucky, then some member of your family will share in the daily cooking task.
This is important, so I’ll say it again: To enjoy life-long health you must cook and eat at least 95% of the time a whole foods, plant-based diet. If you need an explanation about what that is or some additional motivation to start cooking, read on, but be warned, there is some tough love in the next few paragraphs.
Plant foods are the foundation for enjoying good health. One can eat a perfectly healthy, life-sustaining diet consisting entirely of plant foods. The same cannot be said of animal foods. Plant foods—whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables—should make up the majority of the foods eaten. These plant foods must come in the form of whole or minimally processed food, not highly-processed (a.k.a. junk) foods.
Whole foods are foods that are closest to their natural state. They come directly from the farm or the wild. Minimally-processed foods have only a few ingredients and have undergone one or two simple cooking steps—steps which could be performed in your own kitchen. Bread and yogurt are examples of minimally-processed foods. If someone’s great, great, grandmother would have eaten it, then you can eat it too.
Do not eat highly-processed foods–junk foods. They are easily recognized. These foods come in packages. They have a laundry list of Ingredients most of which only a food scientist recognizes. Food companies mass produce these foods in factories; you cannot make them in your kitchen. They are heavily marketed. Be wary. Some foods are marketed to seem like health food when they are actually junk. Cheese puffs are cheese puffs whether they have organic ingredients or not.
The cooking you do for you and your family need not and should not be fancy or complicated. I hate that kind of cooking as a rule. I call it “hullaballoo cooking.” I don’t have that kind of time. I shop and cook and clean several times a week for 4 people. When faced with this daily challenge,the last thing I want to do is make an elaborate time-consuming meal. I focus on simple, healthy and tasty. Elaborate would burn me out, and I can’t stop cooking. We need to eat and I am not Oprah.
You have Time to Cook.
Some of you may be thinking that you simply don’t have the time for cooking nearly every day. That it would be inconvenient to do as such. And I say, “That is not true. You certainly do have the time.”
Now for some motivational interviewing: Is it convenient to be diagnoses with heart disease in your early 50’s? Do you have time for a toe amputation because your diabetes is out of control? Think how much faster you would move and how much time you would save if you weren’t 50 pounds overweight. Oooh. That sounded harsh, didn’t it? Unfortunately, however, it was all true.
I’ve been thinking that as parents, we owe it to our children to remain healthy, strong and independent up until the day we leave this earth. Doesn’t everyone hope to die in such a manner? Unfortunately most Americans don’t. They instead undergo years of pain, suffering, and disability due to chronic diseases linked directly with their life-long food choices.
Additionally, as a parent, you also owe it to your children to provide the right environment for optimizing their health. Heart disease starts in childhood. It isn’t okay to feed them fast food once a week. It isn’t okay to let them become over-weight. In some cases, I think that the quality of food given to children is consistently so poor that I would call it child abuse.
Lastly, as parents, you owe it to your children to introduce and teach them kitchen arts and cooking. It is your primary responsibility to raise healthy, happy, independent, contributing members of society. Kitchen arts are as essential as reading, math, and sports if not more so. They are a tradition to be passed down ensuring the health and productivity of all future generations. Look what happenned when we took 75 years to step away from it. We have a generation with a life expectancy shorter than our own.
In life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You either pay now or pay later, and paying later usually comes to a larger sum. That is what healthy eating is like. If you don’t cook now, if you don’t eat your fruits and vegetables now, if you allow yourself to become overweight, you will pay later in a larger sum–a shortened life with chronic disease. Having a chronic disease is completely time consuming and inconvenient.
Now for some of the positives: Nothing can compare with feeling great and looking great. Behavior problems your children may have been experiencing may disappear—due not only to eating wholesome plant foods but also the time you will spend cooking and eating together. These family activities, while simple, are comforting and build family connections.
So. Now. Who wants to learn to cook?