Lovely dinner and evening with friend’s home…Home-cooked meals gone by the wayside?…

Me and Natalie, Chere and Gary’s travel agent, for their upcoming tour and safaris to Tanzania next month.

Many people don’t cook these days, and it was a real treat for us to be invited to Chere and Gary’s home for dinner last night. Since Chere is a licensed dietician/nutritionist, she fully grasps my way of eating. Making a meal suitable for me and favored by others was uncomplicated for her.

The appetizers and meal were delicious, with only a few items I couldn’t eat: the boiled potatoes topped with fresh parsley from Chere’s garden and the freshly baked chocolate cookies she served straight from the oven for dessert. Natalie brought a fantastic cauliflower salad I will make in the future.

Dining at Chere and Gary’s home last night reminded us of how seldom most Americans prepare home-cooked meals, contributing to the fact that this was the first time we had dined at the home of friends since we arrived in Minnesota two months ago.

This topic got me thinking about what has transpired over the past few decades to diminish the desire to take the necessary steps to prepare home-cooked meals for their family members and dinner parties for friends and family.

My dear friend Chere.

This trend is attributed to various social, economic, and cultural shifts that have fundamentally changed how Americans approach food and meal preparation. Understanding these changes offers a window into broader societal trends and their implications for health, family dynamics, and cultural identity.

One significant factor contributing to the decline in home cooking is the increasing pace of modern life. As Americans juggle demanding work schedules, long commutes, and various personal commitments, finding time to cook has become challenging. The rise of dual-income households means both partners often work full-time jobs, leaving little time or energy to prepare meals from scratch. Consequently, convenience has become a priority, leading many to rely on takeout, fast food, and pre-packaged meals.

The proliferation of food delivery services and meal kits has also played a substantial role. Companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub have made it incredibly easy to order food from various restaurants with just a few taps on a smartphone. Similarly, meal kit services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh deliver pre-portioned ingredients and recipes directly to consumers’ doors, simplifying the cooking process but reducing the need to plan and shop for meals. These services cater to a desire for convenience and variety, allowing people to enjoy restaurant-quality meals at home without the effort of traditional cooking.

Cultural shifts have also influenced this trend. The rise of food media, including cooking shows, blogs, and social media influencers, has created a culture that celebrates food differently. Instead of emphasizing the everyday act of cooking, these platforms often highlight elaborate dishes and restaurant experiences. This can make home cooking seem mundane or unappealing by comparison. Moreover, portraying cooking as a complex and time-consuming activity can intimidate those with limited skills or experience, discouraging them from trying their hand in the kitchen.

Economic factors also play a crucial role in the decline of home cooking. The cost of fresh, high-quality ingredients can be prohibitive, particularly for low-income households. Fast food and processed meals are often cheaper and more accessible, making them a more attractive option for those on tight budgets. Additionally, the time cost associated with cooking—from shopping for ingredients to meal preparation and cleanup—can outweigh the perceived benefits, especially for individuals with limited leisure time.

Another important aspect is the change in family structures and dynamics. Traditional family meals, where everyone gathers around the dinner table, are less common today. With busy schedules and varying commitments, family members often eat at different times or on the go. This shift reduces the opportunity for shared cooking and eating experiences, diminishing the role of home-cooked meals in daily life.

The impact of this decline in home cooking is multifaceted. From a health perspective, reliance on processed foods and restaurant meals can contribute to poor dietary habits. These foods are often higher in calories, sodium, unhealthy toxic fats, and essential nutrients than home-cooked meals. This can lead to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health issues. On the other hand, cooking at home allows for greater control over ingredients and portion sizes, promoting healthier eating habits.

From a social perspective, the decline in home cooking can affect family cohesion and communication. Shared meals allow family members to connect, share their experiences, and strengthen their bonds. Families may miss out on valuable quality time together without this regular interaction.

From left to right: Natalie, Tom, Gary, and me lounging and snacking on fantastic appetizers in this comfy social room in their home in Eden Prairie.

Despite these trends, there is a growing movement to revive home cooking. Initiatives promoting culinary education, local food movements, and community cooking programs aim to make cooking more accessible and appealing. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily reversed some of the decline in home cooking, as lockdowns and social distancing measures forced people to prepare more meals at home. During this period, they highlighted the potential benefits of cooking, from improved health to cost savings and the joy of creating something from scratch.

Also, while Americans may be cooking less than previous generations, there is still hope for a resurgence in meal preparation. By addressing the barriers to cooking, such as time constraints, economic challenges, and skill gaps, society can encourage more people to rediscover the value and satisfaction of home-cooked meals.

This morning, I spent the better part of an hour chopping, dicing, and preparing a homemade cheese crust for keto pizza, mainly for Tom rather than me. Instead, I will have a lighter dinner—today’s effort results in making two meals, once for each of us. Tom’s pizza will be enjoyed for a few dinners while I’ll make mine fresh each day.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, dining out costs have exceeded our food budget. More home cooking may be the best solution, especially while we’re living in residence-type hotels.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 10, 2014:

Ten years ago today, we booked the villa in Sumbersari Bali for 2016. For more photos, please click here.
This is a view of the private infinity pool, cabanas, and ocean at the house we booked for Sumbersari, Bali, in 2016. For more photos, please click here.