Monday Musings: Too Busy To Cook?

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." -- Luciano Pavarotti

Friends, let’s talk about this article, published last week in The Washington Post.

Have you seen it? If not, let me summarize it for you here: cereal, the ultimate “I’m-too-lazy-to-eat-anything-else” food, is losing popularity with younger generations because it’s so inconvenient. You know, because you have to rinse out your bowl when you’re done eating it.

Obviously, people these days don’t have time for things like opening boxes, pouring things into a reusable, eco-friendly vessel, and then taking the five seconds required to rinse said vessel when they are done. Instead, they opt for fast food, or pre-packaged products with disposable containers that can be eaten with one hand, so they can spend those precious minutes focusing on… whatever it is that’s so important.

Forget what this means for the cereal industry, because frankly, I couldn’t care less if they make a few billion dollars less per year… just please tell me this isn’t so. Because if today’s generation is too busy for frosted flakes, I think it’s safe to assume they won’t be too keen on cooking, either.

Perhaps it’s because I’m surrounded with people who are self-proclaimed foodies, or who care about the sanctity of a sit down meal every once and a while, but somehow I thought this trend was reversing, not getting worse. I thought more people were caring about the foods they eat, and actually slowing down — even just a little bit — to enjoy them. We all know hashtags don’t lie, right? #slowliving

Baking | Will Cook For Friends

Last week I shared this interview, where I was asked “why do you write about food?” The gist of my answer was this: To inspire people to get in the kitchen and get cooking, no matter their skill level. Because I get it — when I first started cooking, I had no idea what I was doing, and the prospect of fast, easy, grab-and-go items was infinitely more appealing than dirtying dishes in the hopes of creating something palatable.

But, call me old fashioned, I believe there’s something to be said for slowing down, and savoring food. That there’s something to be gained besides calories from the cooking and eating of a meal. Or, as MFK Fisher put it, “there is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk.”

Am I sometimes too lazy, or too busy, to cook? You better believe it. Sometimes I eat cereal for dinner, or order pizza, or eat an entire bag of white cheddar popcorn and call it a meal… don’t worry, I’m not Martha Stuart, and I’m not trying to be. I don’t pretend it’s realistic to cook every single thing from scratch, or to never buy convenience foods. Let’s be real, here. But still, my goal is this: to inspire others to get in the kitchen and get cooking, no matter their skill level. To sit down from time to time, throughout their day, and savor what they’re putting into their mouths. Preferably with people they care about. (And if I can help make that a little easier, with recipes or tips or advice, all the better!)

I am all too guilty of getting caught up in the “busy busy busy!” mindset that we seem to have these days, but the more I see it, and recognize it for what it is, the more I believe this to be true: the over-glorification of “busy” is harmful to our health. And, in the words of Luciano Pavarotti: isn’t it nice that every once and a while, we must stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating?

I think so.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below. What do you think of the Washington Post article? Do you think we should ride the wave of convenience foods as far as we can, or do you think there’s something to be gained from slowing down, and savoring life?

I hope this Monday is treating you well, friends.


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8 Responses to Monday Musings: Too Busy To Cook?

  1. Allyson February 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    I absolutely love this, and I won’t call you old fashioned because it’s exactly the way I feel! The Art of Feeding One’s Self is definitely on the brim of extinction, and I find that very sad. It is easy to get wrapped up in busy schedules, but there is a reason we remember special meals for years and not the little errands and tasks that fill up our daily routines.

    • Willow Arlen February 29, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks for chiming in, Allyson! I really do think that as a society, we have become much “busier” than we once were, and it’s looked at as a good thing. The busier you are, the better — being crazy busy is almost something to brag about, and slowing down and enjoying something that isn’t directly productive is looked at as a waste of time. Being busy is great some of the time, but I really think that as a whole, we’ve lost touch with the value of slowing down and taking our time. So many other societies make time for, and value, “unproductive time” like siestas, meditation, or meals… and I may be biased, but I think meal time is a great way to slow down and savor life. Like you said, it saddens me to think we’ve lost touch with that.

  2. Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table March 1, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    Preach it sister! I’m so there with you – hurts my heart to think that people can’t be bothered to make their own food. What is better than preparing your own meal? And we don’t have to do it all the time, or make it fancy, or even fuss over it much, but we can all manage to tackle a few basic dishes in the kitchen. (I personally think it should be required learning for high school graduation.) There’s nothing more basic than preparing food that will give you sustenance and nothing that can connect you more to your family and community – and ancestors – than making and sharing homemade meals. Here’s to turning the tide and helping people get back in the kitchen!

    • Willow Arlen March 1, 2016 at 10:42 am #

      I agree, basic cooking skills should definitely be taught in school! I was so surprised when I learned that they weren’t. I totally get that not everyone likes to cook, and not everyone will cook, and if you can afford to have others cook for you by eating out or whatever, that’s great… but it’s still an incredibly valuable tool to have, and really not that difficult to learn. Although, I must say that if it isn’t taught in school, it still surprises me that kids aren’t learning it at home. The washington post article mentioned that one of the contributing factors might be that the majority of parents were made to do chores when they were little, but very few of them require their own kids to do chores, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons kids don’t want to dirty a dish in order to eat cereal, because it feels like too much work to them. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion, though!

  3. movita beaucoup March 2, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    There is a reason North Americans are so overweight and unhealthy: cheap convenience food is killing us, and companies are profiting from our deaths. Slowing down would be wonderful. Teaching our kids the skills needed to make healthy meals and choices would be amazing. And making those choices would be far easier for some families if cauliflower weren’t $7.99 a feakin’ head!!

    • Willow Arlen March 2, 2016 at 10:39 am #

      The price of quality ingredients certainly is a factor, but I fear another factor is that many people don’t rank eating well very high on their priority list… or maybe they do, but they aren’t smart about what “eating well” means, or they’re convinced they are too busy to eat well. I really think education about food is a big player, and that’s why we see so many studies about younger generations… perhaps it isn’t a trend in them, it’s a trend in parenting / educating. I don’t know what the solution is, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to make produce more affordable!

  4. Ellen March 3, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    What a wonderful topic. I consider myself truly blessed to have been raised by one of the best cooks ever (even my Mum’s maiden name was Cook!) Not only was she a great cook but encouraged the entire family to become involved. Washing up afterwards was considered all part of the meal; enjoy the food and help out the cook by cleaning up.
    I am amazed at the amount of reliance today’s working parents put on convenience foods and completely agree that they and their families will unfortunately be paying for it in poor health later in life. Refined sugar in particular has become an insidious drug most don’t even know they are addicted to. I’d love to pass my knowledge on to the next generation but no one seems to want to learn. Sad:(
    I love reading your blog and the inspired friends you have following you. It is a sheer delight (as I write this waiting for your Baked Sweet Potato & Egg Breakfast Boats to finish putting down anchor so I can eat!!) Thank you Willow.

    • Willow Arlen March 4, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      Thank you for chiming in, Ellen! Sounds like your mum had the right idea. And thank you so much for the kind words, I hope you enjoy the sweet potato recipe!

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