“One cannot live well, love well or sleep well unless one has dined well.” This quote by Virginia Woolf served as the mission statement for my family’s business and I am determined to carry on that legacy in my future career.
We live in a society that is getting farther and farther away from the family table. and getting closer and closer to our BlackBerrys, steering wheels, project deadlines, delivery boys, and McDonald’s. Granted, the world has changed and the pace has hastened, forcing us to conform and give in just so that we can keep our head above water. So, if we can’t change how many hours we work, the number of daily commitments, or the rising cost of living, what can we control so that we don’t all become Oompa-Loompas with heart disease, ulcer medications, and carpal tunnel from excessive texting? Return to the basics and cook!
While Americans are becoming more and more health-conscious due to the popularity of “100 Calorie Snacks”, “Weight Watchers” and “Whole Foods Market”, we still see skyrocketing childhood and adult obesity rates. Why? “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have time to learn how to eat healthy”. However, we do find time to interact with 150 friends on Facebook and catch every episode of American Idol. We also seem to be going back to college for our second Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree – so somehow I don’t think intelligence is the issue. You want the real answer – Americans are scared of the kitchen table. WHAT???! The kitchen table means you have to put the Blackberry on silent. The kitchen table means that you have to use a knife and fork when you eat. The kitchen table means that you have to talk to the person next to you. The kitchen table means that you chew your food before you lift your fork for the next bite. American media culture and the rising costs of living have possessed many families for so long that they have forgotten how to do these rudimentary things. But what happens when they sit down at their kitchen table? They find out about what’s going on in their children’s lives. They don’t have heartburn after eating because they used a fork instead of a shovel. They discover that they feel calmer because they aren’t worried about replying to an email. But take it a step further – they begin to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically as they unwind from their day, strengthen family bonds, and eat a balanced nutritious meal. They realize that they actually do have the time and knowledge to be healthy. It was almost too simple.
Now while it is easy to say these things and believe them, putting them into practice after years of executing ingrained and learned behavior is where the hurdles arise. This is where nutritionists and food professionals come in. It is my firm belief that adults are not a lost cause – any person with the desire can learn what the Europeans have done for centuries with their eyes closed. They just need someone to show them the way. This is why the Food Network, TLC, Bravo, and the Travel Channel have all jumped on the “food-is-cool” bandwagon with amazing success across the nation. This is why the “Food/Cooking” section of Barnes & Noble at Union Square encompasses half of the second floor. Americans want to be told how to make dinner in less than thirty minutes on Tuesday night, how to seduce their husband with the right wine pairing on their tenth anniversary, and where to fly to for the best meal with a killer view. It is our job as the ones with education and zeal to teach them, either in person or through the written word.
Lastly, this education and effort should not be available only to those tall enough to see over the kitchen counter. Children love to please their parents and have a never-ending curiosity about this world that they have recently become residents of. Teaching children the basics of proper cooking techniques, the value of having the right tools, the variety of choices in food and ingredients, and most importantly the serious worth of eating together as a family is what is going to change our society.
As a passionate chef, nutrition enthusiast, lover of children, and zealous writer, I am dedicated to helping this generation know that they can stop the cycle by going back to the basics – by cooking the way your grandmother would have liked you to.